The National Cadet Corps is a youth organization in Singapore with more than 20 000 members. It's affiliation to the Singapore Armed Forces enables youths to partake in the civil activities of Total Defence with rigor and discipline.
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A primitive prelude to NS
On the first day of secondary school, being the kiasu parent she is, my mum tried to influence me to choose NCC as a CCA. 'Ah boy ah, joining NCC is good you know, helps you prepare for NS!.'
Years on, I was glad I didn't make that choice. My perception of NCC is more of fun and adventure. While I concede there is plenty of regimentation and discipline, and cadets undergo tough physical training, there is a lot of room for fun and recreation. Which is far from the real deal.
As a guy serving NS, one thing that differentiates me from an NCC cadet would be the responsibility on my shoulders. Nobody expects NCC cadets to safeguard our homeland, but the onus is on us, day and night, to keep Singapore safe and protect the millions of lives that rely on us. In such scenarios, there is rarely time for fun and games during our trainings and exercises.
Moreover, leadership in the army is earned, not accolated when you reached a certain level. NCC cadets can expect to reach sergeant rank by Sec 3, but in the army, we have to go through the Specialist Cadet School (SCS) and undergo specialised training before being promtoed to be a sergeant.
NS is entirely a whole new ball game from NCC. While aspects of it such as regimentation and discipline does help, it should be considered as a fun and adventurous outdoor CCA instead of a crucial part of preparing for NS, as seen from the perceptions of many kiasu parents. Have fun while you are young, for when the time comes, you will have your turn of bearing the responsibility.
Go to NS boys for exciting stories instead
I was an Air Cadet, which is not exceedingly common for girls. To be honest, my existence there was by law of no choice. I do not doubt the capacity for building of real friendships through such adversity, however, for most of us, it was merely getting through one training at a time.
Today, I still see no clear objectives of NCC, since I am skeptical that it trained determination or resilience. Most learnt quickly enough that a parent’s letter was enough to get out of training, and a couple of wheezes was enough to get you out of physical training. Furthermore, I did not want to be the unreasonable senior scaring the daylights of my innocent juniors.
Being an air cadet supposedly offers you the benefits of learning how to fly a small aircraft if you join the flying club. However, your eyesight and height must meet certain criterion first, which effectively excludes a significant majority of people, including me.
Kids on a power trip
I did not join the NCC during my school days but as a Aikido Instructor, I was in charge of conducting martial arts workshops for NCC groups in various schools. What I saw in the NCC left me with very mixed feelings.
The kids seemed more disciplined than other kids which is to be expected in a uniform group. I believe that aside from good discipline it also instills good character and a healthy physical regime.
However, I was very disturbed to see the seniors more often than not abusing their "power". They would shout, scold, and insult the younger juniors in a manner even more demeaning than an actual army sergeant. The punishments they meted out were also usually unfair and not in keeping with the offence. In short, it was simply a power trip for them. Teenagers of 15/16 years old given the approval to lord it over their juniors usually do not have the maturity to show restraint and sound judgement.
For all its benefits, I would not let my daughter join them.
I joined NCC Sea during my secondary school. What I liked about this ECA was the fun sea activities that we can try for free. For the first few months, it was not so fun because we need to be trained in discipline first and that meant foot drills.
But the later part was fun all the way. I still remembered, almost every Saturday, we needed to report to Kallang Sea Centre as early as 7am. But I had no complaints because when we reported there, that means we were going for sea activities. We started with canoeing, after that, we did "pulling", basically rowing boats and finally there was also sailing.
My most fun time was volunteering to be a camp assistant. As a camp assistant, I helped with the logistics for the camp of seniors. I did tasks like collecting food, washing food containers and other odd jobs but that only occupied a small portion of the time. The camp assistants had a lot of free time and during our free time, we were able to take the canoes out and the camp even had crab traps that allowed us to catch crabs.
Nothing like NS.
I was a Land Cadet, and I'm really glad to have selected NCC as one of my CCAs in secondary sch. It has instill in me, a strong personality trait that I'm very thankful to have. A large part of my secondary school memories are surrounded around NCC, because they have always taken us to 'obscure' places such as the camps, and we get to fire live rounds and sit fighter jets! It's quite a big deal for a girl because she doesn't have to go through the mandatory 2 years of NS, this is definitely like an eye opener!
In fact, I wouldn't deny that NCC has made me feel like signing on with the army. But then again, my guys friends have told me that NCC is nothing like NS, so I guess my 'eye opener' ends then!
No real fond memories
I was an Air cadet from 1990 to 1993. Technically, up to 1992 when I stopped reporting to the HQ at Sembawang Airbase though I still continued serving at my school's unit in Victoria School.
Sembawang Airbase was really a nice place to go to, despite the distance we had to walk from Taranto Gate to the interior where the HQ was. What was disappointing was the lack of goals the training programme had. Most of the times, we were bumming around doing very little or endless footdrills.
In the end, I decided that going for Track and Field training would be more beneficial.
Good ole days
I was a member of the National Cadet Corps in my secondary school days. Being your typical lad, I was drawn towards guns and badges, and pretty much everything NS is but many years earlier. My mum complained - she didn't want to wash army fatigues for another five years. I could have given up, but I didn't.
It turned out to be one of the best decisions I've made so far in my life.
Not only did I get to fulfil my battle-crazed fantasies, I got to keep fit as well. Not only that, I met some of my real friends. They say that those who suffer together, become life-long buddies, and it is true. Even today, I maintain contact with some of my CCA mates. And oh, I obtained some basic knowledge of army life.
After all, being a soldier was pretty much the coolest thing a guy could do at that time other than underaged sex.