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12 Unwritten Rules Of NS For Every Singaporean Recruit To “Win” At BMT

BMT guide for NSFs

BMT can be a confusing rite of passage for “Every Singaporean Son”. I mean, we all know the basics – meet all your timings, make sure your uniforms are super neat, and don’t get caught using your handphone after lights out.

But beyond the obvious, there are some unspoken rules that newbie soldiers might not be familiar with. Don’t worry, we’ve got your back with a handy list of rules that probably aren’t in any official guidebook.

What you need to know before going for BMT

BMT – or Basic Military Training – typically lasts for 9 weeks and marks the start of your 2-year NS journey. This is dependent on your Physical Employment Standard (PES), your Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) scores, and your Body Mass Index (BMI).

Those slotted into PES A or B1 must score 61 points or more from 3 IPPT stations in order to qualify for 8 weeks off their entire duration of NS. Otherwise, you’ll need to attend another 8 weeks of enlistment called the Physical Training Phase (PTP). If you’re in other PES B, C, or E, there’s no need to take the pre-enlistee IPPT. You’re also not qualified for the 8-week reduction.

Most enlistees will already know that the first 2 weeks of BMT will be done in confinement. So don’t expect to go home to see your parents or bae once the sun goes down. Don’t worry – the 2 weeks will pass by quicker than expected. After which, you’ll get to book out for the weekend.

Post-BMT is when you’ll find out which vocation you’ll be posted to. Whether or not you get posted to the air force, navy, or armed forces depends on many factors, such as manpower needs, your fitness level, and performance during BMT itself.

1. ALWAYS sign within the box when drawing your rifle

A strange rule in the army is the very, very specific requirement that you “sign within the box” on the form when you draw your weapon from the armoury. All it takes is for one recruit to mess up his signature, and everyone has to line up again to draw their rifles and sign again.

It might seem like a needlessly specific rule, but there’s a solid reason – signing within the box ensures that signatures can be identified by computers when scanned.

2. Mark your names on everything 

Image credit: The Spruce

There are 25 people in a platoon and 4 platoons in a section, meaning there are at least 99 other recruits donning the same uniform, socks, and shoes. You don’t want to be that blur sotong who drags your whole platoon down by losing your stuff.

To prevent that, mark all your belongings with a permanent marker. That way, you’ll instantly know if someone took your stuff by accident.

3. Make sure your ziplock bags are completely airtight & not damp with condensation

Airtight packing so they don't get damp from condensation

If you’ve yet to go through BMT, chances are you’ve never really had to worry about waterproofing everything in your backpack – after all, there’s always shelter nearby.

In BMT, specifically field camp, that’s not the case. Here, keeping your ziplocked bags of clothes and equipment waterproof is essential. Your sergeants might be strict about it, but believe me, you’ll be thankful you have dry clothes to change into during field camp.

4. Never say “huh/what/ya”

This might happen if you say those words.
Image credit: YouTube

“Huh?” is what you might reply when your sergeant asks if you remembered to set your rifle’s gas regulator to the number 2 setting. Sure, you’ve no idea what a gas regulator is, but the proper answer is always “Yes sergeant” or “What is a gas regulator sergeant?”

Remember, you’re not a civilian anymore. When speaking to higher-ranking soldiers, end any statement or question with “sergeant” or “sir” (if an officer).

Highly recommended if you want to avoid unnecessary push-ups or sit-ups.

5. Don’t let your section down by reporting “sick” when you’re not

No matter how on the ball you are, there are times when you’ll be tempted to report “sick” with a stomach ache, cold, or the dubiously named “Tekong Cough”.

It’s an easy way out, but remember that your buddy will probably be left to fend for himself during your absence. And frequently bailing on your buddies won’t make you Mr Popular.

6. No matter how tired you are, don’t lean on the wall

Not so cool in army.

No matter how tired you are after a route march or trip to the range, you should never be caught leaning on a wall in BMT. It might be a natural thing to do as a civilian, but it looks sloppy when you’re in uniform.

Get caught leaning on a wall and you’re in for the dreaded “The Wall is Falling” exercise. Basically, your sergeant will gently inform you that the wall is “about to fall”, and you’ll be forced to spend the next few minutes pushing the wall to make sure it doesn’t “collapse”.

So yeah, stand up straight and don’t lean on anything – hey, it’s good for your posture too!

7. Make sure you always have “7 hours of uninterrupted rest”

Image credit: Giphy

To ensure recruits are well-rested, it’s mandatory that your sergeants ensure you’ve had “7 hours of uninterrupted rest” before any activity. With lights out at 10.30pm and First Parade at 5.45am, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for tossing and turning.

Thankfully, there’s usually an hour or so of “admin time” before lights out. This extra time is great for bonding with your fellow recruits and doing area cleaning, but you can also take it as extra sleep time – something that all recruits could definitely use.

8. Help other recruits when you’re done with your tasks

Everyone must pull their weight, if you don't the team will lose
One for all, all for one!
Image credit: BMTC

The second thing you’ll learn about the army is that you’re rewarded and punished as a team. If your section fails to get to First Parade on time because that guy is still half asleep and brushing his teeth, the whole section takes responsibility for it.

This extends to everything in BMT, from digging shell-scrapes to making sure your entire bunk is tidy (not just your bed). So, if you’re that model soldier who has everything in order, make sure to help your section mates if they are having difficulty.

9. Don’t drag your feet

BMTC is not the place to shuffle your feet, especially when marching.
Image credit: BMTC

An important part of BMT is your personal appearance – keeping your boots polished, your uniform folded neatly, and your hair nice and short.

In addition to your appearance, it’s also about how you carry yourself. Dragging your feet while walking around during BMT is a sure way to get a talking to.

While it might seem like one of those nitty gritty things, making this a habit will mean that your shoes last way longer – yet another rule that’ll benefit you in post-NS life.

10. Don’t be that guy who sets multiple alarms but never wakes up

2 days into your BMT experience and you might find yourself a little paranoid about waking up on time. The natural thing to do is to set 2,874 alarms way before wake-up time, which is fine unless…

You end up sleeping through all them and depriving your bunkmates of precious minutes of sleep. Our tip? Relax. If your section mates are reading this article, they’ll follow rule 8 and make sure you’re up on time as well.

11. Cut your hair before enlistment day

Image credit: DeepCuts Facebook

Everyone knows you’ll have to get a haircut on enlistment day, but because of the sheer number of recruits, the barbers at Pulau Tekong tend to be quite haphazard with the clippers. It’s not unusual for recruits to get nicked during the process. Ouch.

Save yourself from getting cut by getting your hair done beforehand. Ask for the “0” haircut at any gentlemen’s barber and they’ll know to shave it to a buzz cut good enough for enlistment.

12. Bring extra coins

coins will come in handy
Image credit: @kimokomasada via Instagram 

After a long day of training, you’d die for a cool drink or even a snack for a treat. Although almost everything is cashless nowadays, you won’t have the luxury to use PayNow or your cards at the vending machine. That’s where having some loose change will come in handy. It can also be used to help your buddy or platoon mates out. Win-win situation.

Save As You Serve with POSB

Image credit: POSB

Now that you’re familiar with these ever-so-important unspoken rules, we’re sure your mandatory Tekong vacation will be that much easier.

But if you aspire for something greater than “winning” at BMT, make sure you’re a champ at life beyond NS too. Instead of splurging on McSpicies, LAN sessions, and movie tickets, set up a savings plan with POSB Save As You Serve (SAYS) and build up all that allowance while you train in NS.

This specially-for-NSFs savings plan will get you an extra 3.5% per annum interest rate on your monthly savings contribution for your 2 years in NS – and you can start by saving as little as $50 a month!

Calculator shows how much you can save
Find out how much savings you can accumulate with this nifty calculator here!

Plus, spending with the SAFRA DBS Debit Card or the HomeTeamNS-PAssion-POSB Debit Card will give you a 2% cash rebate on all contactless MasterCard® transactions.

Image credit: POSB

Keep working on your savings with POSB, and you’ll find that when you’re done winning at BMT (and the rest of National Service), you’ll be able to win at life outside of NS as well!

Find out more about POSB SAYS here

This post was brought to you by POSB.
*This article is not endorsed by the Ministry of Defence, Singapore.
Cover Image adapted from: BMTC Facebook
Originally published on 8 November 2017. Last updated by Syahiran Sean on 3rd May 2024.