A year of National Service.
A year has passed since I last entered army. I guess it’s about time I summarised all the events that had made my year so eventful.
I enlisted on 3rd February 2012 into Pasir Ris Camp aka Commando Training Institute. There, we were sorted out into our different platoons and detachments. I could say that I was pretty friendly, going around talking to people and stuff. The first weekend away from home was pretty horrible; I was missing my family and felt insecure in army. Nonetheless, my detachment mates made my life inside enjoyable, Caleb, Zi Onn, yunxun, Junjie, An song, Liwei, Jerrard. As time passed, I could always chat with my them, train with them, all hoping that we would get our berets soon. It was then when the huge desire to prove myself grew. An song and I were determined to make it to CSLC, commando small-unit leader course, and of course OCS afterwards. We trained hard together, often pacing and running together. It was then when I met fellow individuals who had the equal amount of passion we had, Desmond, Eugene, Sean fox, Douglas, Daniel. We pushed each other on during every pt session. Then came the dreaded field camp, unlike normal field camps in infantry, I could say ours was pretty bad. The tekan and turnout session while “mua-chee” session left a tell tale sign on what was to come in CSLC. Soon, BMT came to an end. We all made it to leaders course and we lived happily ever after, or so it seemed.
63rd Commando Small-Unit Leaders’ Course
When we first booked in, high expectations were thrown to us. It was among the leaders that the urge to prove oneself was the strongest. Meeting leaders from other platoons, I could say that both friendships and rivalries were formed. During the initiation turnout that week, it was much more than we could expect. Changing parades, followed with pt and then a 6km fast march after that. Moreover, in our FBO, we casevacted 80kg on a stretcher though the SOC route up a slope. It was then, in the sunrise that we received our SCT rank and jungle hat. The LEADER creed was then introduced to us. Every letter meant something that would inspire us in the time of need. Phrases like “leading by example”, “duty is my maxim”, “I will not fail”, “true to my responsibilities”. Time then flew. We were introduced to navigation and our combat load training started. Doing push-ups and pull-ups in FBO while walking around in FBO helped. We all knew it would help us in Taiwan as the load would be ridiculous and nothing less than 20kg per pax. Soon we did physically challenging events like our 5km SOC. Running 5km in SBO before attempting the obstacle course was no joke. Then came the 12km fast march. We ran and walked and ran and walked for that. I could say I performed beyond expectations for that. I managed to get the 4th place out of the entire course. Then the dreaded Taiwan came. It was our first overseas trip as NSFs and we were all equally fearful and homesick for this one. Many of us had heard rumours from our seniors about their past horror stories. In Heng chun, time passed extremely slowly. EXTREMELY. Then again, I was glad that my leader brothers were with me. An song, Song Wei, Qing Shan, Timothy, Leonard, Qiu Xin, Desmond, Leslie, Xavier, Samson. We made our time count, with us navigating through Taiwan on our own, eating hot noodles on a cold knoll in Heng Chun, bashing through thorns and dashing across roads and highways. Then, the Theodore series hit us hard. Theodore 1, a brief introduction to base camp and outfield planning was bad. There were times when we had to pull off incredible stunts. A good example would be a time when 7 casualties were declared instantly and we had to evacuate them in a minute. Some of us carried 2 Alice packs plus MG plus matador and ran up a hill to higher ground. Some of us fireman-lifted the casualty while grabbing on to their field pack as well. Another would be rolling in the mud, crawling to our patrol bases apexes through mud and doing caterpillar push-ups down a slope. When we thought the worst was over, Theodore 2 came. It’s pretty impossible to describe it in words. 15 consecutive missions, over 8 days, with 24/7 supervision from cadres, 2 hours of sleep everyday, little food etc. what’s worse, the constant change of appointments caused more chaos then we could ever imagine. One could be a demo man one day, then being a signaller the following and then the patrol leader. It was through those tough times that we saw the true nature of people. People who were unselfish and were willing to help with the planning while those that just slept and rested. Of course, I myself was guilty of not playing my part when I was on duty. Being the MG gunner at that time, my MG was stunned from me even though I was on duty. My whole det suffered in the end when everyone did rifle pt with FBO. Time flew. CSLC ended. I didn’t make it to OCS while most of my close buddies made it. Needless to say, I was extremely disappointed. I was confident that my fitness levels could bring me up to being an officer but I learnt that apart from pure fitness, unselfishness and being selfless was required. How could I lead my men as an officer if I weren’t willing to serve and help my men? I learnt there and then always to volunteer and help if any of my men needed anything. I graduated as a 3SG and moved on.
Our airborne course finally came! We were all looking forward to it as it was the pure essence of a commando to be a paratrooper. Moreover, the promised nights out everyday made us enjoy life after a hard day’s work doing drills. Soon the day of my first jump came, the anxiety and adrenaline built up within me when I took that leap of faith. The feeling was extraordinary. That moment of free fall made time stand still while we were suspended. Good things don’t last I have to say. Airborne course soon ended and we proceeded to the next phase of our commando heritage: Battalion.
1st Commando Battalion
1st commando battalion, a battalion with great prestige and legacy, winning 26 of the past 35 BCU competitions. It would up to us to maintain the guard of honour title for our predecessors and our successors. Our CSM and OC soon showed us that earning the coveted red beret was more than endurance, it was having the willpower to endure, whilst motivating those around you to grab with it you. This was the camaraderie that was built in every batch. We were then united as one alpha company during our trainee phase. Life then was just, wow. Sheer amounts of expectations from the leaders while the pressure to inspire and lead our own men was growing. It was already difficult enough to spur ourselves but to motivate one’s detachment was no simple feat. Our outfield, ex tall tree, big tree, all out, these were times when our morale were at an all time low. However, we persevered and pushed on. It was then when i got closer to the guys in my detachment. It was there when i made a new set of brothers: Vincent, Teck Keong, Sean Chng, Eugene, GUAI LAN, Darick, Derrick, Brendan, Aloy, Yilong, Luke, Leslie.
Brunei then arrived. This trip was not as bad as our Taiwan trip as we were already used to being overseas for lengthy periods. The terrain however, was no joke. Ex Nomad was ridiculously shag. Bashing through the jungle, up and down ravines was tiring. However, it was indeed a good experience, one that we would remember as you form great memories with your fellow commandos to be. Jorel, with his exceptional navigating skills, managed to get us out. Then came our swamp walk and company missions. Ex Malvina was crazy, as we scaled the fabled mt biang in less than 2 hours. Moving at breakneck speed, one would think that we were withdrawing instead of attacking. Moreover, the NIGHT navex in Brunei was a killer. 400m in 6 hours literally killed us. But like it did in Taiwan, time flew. Soon we were back in Singapore with only one obstacle left: 72km route march.
72 KM MARCH
Unlike any other batch, who had unlimited time and a load of 6-8 kg, we decided to set a target for ourselves. Full combat load with full vocation equipment under 20 hours. The pace of the march was incredibly fast. The 72km route march had become a fast march. The pain was excruciating and every step we took drove out nerves crazy. Still we pushed on, thinking only about that red hat that had eluded us for so long, until now. Like what our OC said, we earned our moment when we donned our beret in front of our loved ones on 1st November.
It was a day that many of us cried and felt sentimental. “Earned not given”. Our OC then told us that it was difficult to achieve it but even harder to maintain it. Living up to the standards of the red beret was a challenge itself. Alpha company then split it’s ways. 5th company, together with our seniors, were tasked to fight ATEC and bring the glory back once again to the formation. 6th coy was tasked to learn unconventional warfare that involved light strike vehicles.
Training for ATEC came. It was quite horrible as our falcon series came. Falcon 1A, falcon 1B and then the dreaded falcon 2. Moreover, ATEC stage 1 was also taking place. We managed to garner a redcon 1 in every sector possible, with stuff ranging from airborne to matadors. Moving ahead, I hope that the next year ahead would be a good one. There would be many challenges coming. But as commandos we are expected to move further, faster and fight harder than any other soldier. As what COL Kenny said, “commandos give enemies the greatest chance to die for their country”. The upcoming ATEC in Taiwan again would be remembered by us all once we ORD.
I’m pretty proud of what we have achieved so far. Keeping in mind that we had cleared the toughest course an NSF can hope to accomplish apart from RANGER as a 2 month soldier. It still amazes me on how we actually made it and survived CSLC. Moreover, our alpha batch is extremely strong and never fails to break records. UP THERE LA
Looking back, i would not have made it that far if not for all the support and love around me. My parents and family, for their unconditional love and support for me. My brothers outside, sam, roy, ethan, jason, ken, zong, weixuan, gw, junhoe. my bmt det mates, cslc mates, detachment in battalion. our instructors from SOTAC and 1 CDO, their tireless dedication to ensure that we maintained our standard no matter how shag or ill-disciplined we were.
For Honour and Glory!