National service is no foreign term to Singaporeans. After all, all Singaporean Sons will have to go through it. Since young, I never liked the notion of having the hair on my head getting shaved away, never liked the notion of wearing green, never dared imagine myself to be a soldier one day. Still, that fateful letter came. And not long later, on the 10th of December 2014, I enlisted into Taurus coy PTP batch. It was hard to believe to be have my Pink IC taken away and replaced by an 11B, hard to believe that I will be transcending into a new foreign environment, and definitely hard to believe that I am now a soldier. Gone are the days where I lead a carefree civilian life; gone are the days when decisions can be dwelled on and pondered upon; gone are the days when time was abundant. Life began to change.
It encompasses several processes of metamorphosis. I guess the biggest one would have been my experience at Taurus Field Camp.
At first, I have this preconceive imagination that “Field Camp” comprises of recruits crawling through the mud, recruits consuming stale food rations, recruits getting punished by the commanders for the sloppy movements, recruits learning about jungle warfare and more. My divination was not too far off. But there is one problem with this self-crafted imagination. I failed to take into account the weather. I never expected it to have rained.
It occurred on the first day, after we had our 12km route march. By then, we were already frazzled. Body drenched in perspiration, legs swollen in subtle discomfort, and breathless. We were further instructed and dispatched to have our bashars set up. No one expected it. Because halfway through the process, I recall hearing the distant rumbling of the thunder, a few flashes of lightning and not long later, the rain fell.
To have that rain coming, inevitably meant a significant plunge in morale. My bashar area was located at the front, which happened to also be the base of a slope. Precisely because it was pouring, in mere moments, huge streams of muddy water flowed down towards my area. The result – our bashar got flooded and both my buddy and I were waist down drenched. We looked like flooded victims.
But it is also at this point, when I took a peek out of my bashar. I realised we were not alone. Everyone else was also suffering the same ordeal as we were, or perhaps even worst (ant’s nests). We were all cold, tired, demoralised and a little bit hungry. Yet amid those uncanny circumstances, we were all persevering on, silently tightening our jaws, bracing our guts for the worst that has yet to come. After all it was just Field Camp Day 1.
Perhaps it was because we were situated in close proximity to one another and that we had a clear view of our situation. And precisely because of it, we seemed to have subconsciously made a unanimous agreement that we were all in these together. Because the next thing I remembered was, somehow, in the pouring rain and in the absence of the commanders, we smiled at one another. Such revelation was more than just pure motivation, it was warmth, a mutual warmth. Our mutual presences kept us going. It was a touching scene and I will not forget it.
They say the extra two months in a PTP batch is a waste of time. People in there could have accomplished so much more in the two months if they were to be enlisted in an enhanced batch. I disagree. Because in those two months, my platoon and I have bonded so much, and such strong ties should not be underestimated. Till now, the army continues to enrich my life. And I wonder what the future holds for me, as I continue to transform. For all that you have done for me, thank you, Taurus coy. Thank you, Platoon One. Hoo-Hah!
P.S. I know this post is slightly late and I apologise for posting this late. Still sulking at the fact that I didn’t get nominated for best essay. I guess the format in which this was written is to be blamed; I should have gone for the mundane “oh-this-is-what-I-learnt-in-army” kind of writing. Nonetheless, enjoy.