Wednesday, August 04, 2004

All stations one niner, this is one niner, rodeo now, over

iTunes' party shuffle is playing: (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding - Joe Louis Walker - Labour Of Love - The Music of Nick Lowe
As anyone who knows me can attest, I have enough Army stories to last several lifetimes. Cowboy Caleb's post is the perfect excuse to inflict another bout of sentimentality. It is now 15 years since they gave me five sets of number four (the tops I still wear, the pants I had to buy new ones). I am still at it, and proud of it, some say, for perverse reasons. But seriously folks, I wouldn't have traded this for anything in the world. My Army gave me some of the mental and physical shape I'm currently in. My Army showed me life, death, despair, hope, perseverance, friendship, loyalty, strength and compassion. I remember turning 20 while I was cleaning an Armoured Fighting Vehicle with my section mates, and our sergeant (Sgt S Nathan) stopped work for my mates to sing happy birthday to me, and Sgt S Nathan (Sarge, what does the S stand for? S stands for Sergeant, you mother cheebye fucker, don't ask me again) lit me a cigarette and told me to faster wake up my idea because I wasn't a teenager anymore. (I last saw Sgt S Nathan at the airport a few years ago as I was leaving on a business trip. He had quit the Army and was working as an airport policeman, one of those who stand outside the immigration counters checking passengers' passports and tickets. The other passengers were a little shocked to hear our exchange of greetings that went something to the effect of 'Cheebye, Sar'n Nathan, it's you! Cheebye what cheebye, kepala boootoh Buddha (my nickname), where you going, mother cheebye fucker?' And he still wouldn't tell me what the S stood for.) I remember doing guard duty at the Padang on my 21st birthday even if it was a Saturday because I signed three extra duties for fucking up on a mission - my buddies snuck out and bought me a cake and satay from the satay club across the road. I remember doodling the names of my girlfriends while we listened to long lectures on weapons and tactics. I remember falling asleep during lectures and being made to run and hug a tree because the lecturer said I looked like a sleeping koala. (Not as bad as the other trooper who was made to writhe like an upturned cockroach poisoned by Mortein). I don't pretend to be anywhere near a proficient professional soldier, and I could never be one. I'm still nervous around live ammunition and flinch at a gunshot or tank round explosion. I remember shitting bricks when my unit was mobilized as a stand-by perimeter security force for Changi Airport when SQ117 was hijacked, loading into my weapons and vehicles what I remembered was damned a lot of live ammo, enough to blow up several aircraft. We never left our camp compound thanks to the swift resolution of the crisis, but it was enough to let us know the stuff they trained us for, they expected us to be able to carry out. I lost a battalion mate to a training accident that I was involved in, and lost two more to suicide. And these things stay with you the rest of your life. I nearly copped it too, but was saved on several occasions by my buddies, and I, in turn, was given a chance to save their skins also. When I went abroad, I made it a point to try to put these things behind me, and purposefully avoided keeping in touch with the Army and my buddies. But my subconscious did not let me. When I returned to Singapore and was recalled into another unit (because my original unit had almost completed its 13 year cycle), I was mortified. I called up my buddies again. When we met up, we embarrassed ourselves crying at a Delifrance outlet. My buddies shared with me how they coped with the trauma, and how different reservist training is these days to when we were full time soldiers. They told me not to worry a bit because even after a 10 year hiatus, I'd remember everything I was trained to do. They also told me not to worry too much about anything else, because 'if you survived what we survived, you can do anything'. One-Niner & One-Eight crew and personnel, 'Attila' Combat Team, 46th Reconnaissance Battalion, Singapore Armoured Regiment, Kanchanaburi province, Thailand, 1989: top row L-R: OC's runner/MG gunner Pte S.C. Foong, APC commander Cpl Mak, reconnaissance motorcyclist Pte B.S.Y. Lee, Signaller Pte K.H. Tan, APC driver Pte H.Y. Teo; front: APC driver Pte Selvam, 2IC's runner/MG gunner Pte L. Sng. My buddy and me, Singapore, 1990: Reconnaissance motorcyclists Cpl T.K. Hoe (One Eight Charlie) & Cpl B.S.Y. Lee (One Niner Charlie). Till today, we call each other by our radio callsigns.


Blogger Cowboy Caleb said...

f87k so exciting!!!!

I wish I had gone for NS. Would have had a blast.

P.S - your hairstyle is very 80's Bros. Did you also have the shoes with the mirror stuck on the front?

8/04/2004 08:32:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today my teacher was asking the class what is the elite unit called. 2 of the male classmates proudly proclaimed,"The Police Dog Unit!". -evie

8/04/2004 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...

It was the 80s. What shoes with the mirror on the front??

8/04/2004 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger Cowboy Caleb said...

8/04/2004 09:08:00 PM  
Blogger aGent X said...

i had to defer my reservist twice this year because of injury and work, i hope i will be with the same chain gang. you are right, once u survive NS, anything also can do-lah!

8/04/2004 10:14:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...

You an Armour man too, Agent X?

8/05/2004 03:46:00 AM  
Blogger Woof! said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8/05/2004 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Woof! said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

8/05/2004 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Woof! said...

oh man.. just had to share my thoughts when I read ur post.. the army was truly a wonderful time for me man.. I was infantry, OC/PC's runner, and BMT instructor in my last 5 months..

There really is something about army-NS that just about everyone should go through.. if nothing else, being combat teaches you that life's "just like that" and it's hardly ever fair.. best generally and collectively described as "lan par par lan" or LPPL..

How come u had to change ur tops? grew some breasts? haha.. I had to change my pants instead from S to M... with some reluctance tho, cause I felt that my concertina wire tears on the pants were really garang..

I have my own Army birthday story too.. my buddies went to some Swensen's during a night's out, and brought back an ice cream cake.. slightly melted of course.. the idiot at the shop didnt give a knife, and I had to sneak into my OC's room to steal the 1-metre metal ruler that we used to cut "telt" and god knows that (maybe he used it to measure his instrument.. haha).. that seriously made me cry..

better than some others i guess.. the platoon idiot got a free hand-job from another guy who drew lots and lost.. he used a meal-bag though.. hahahaha...

what about those days when someone was crapping in the toilet cubicle (and mind you, all the cubicles were the squat type), and suddenly a pail of water comes crashing down! and best part, all ur toilet paper

8/05/2004 09:32:00 AM  
Blogger Woof! said...

[con't] becomes soaked and un-usable!

We had 2353535 at Nee Soon camp, where we'd run to the various lamposts numbered as such around the football field.. I never had the infamous Monkey God, but when I went back as an instructor, he was every recruit's best friend..

We'd paste masking tape over the top of the rufle magazine to ensure that none of the rounds drop off, and imagine if we really had to chamber the round.. we'd cock everything up literally, and live to be SAF's number 1 negative demonstration...

Ah well.. those days..

8/05/2004 09:35:00 AM  
Blogger aGent X said...

Mr Miyagi - the armour man, I am not in the army, but the closest enough in the police sense.

I was in what they used to call "Ang Chia" or 'Black Scorpion" in Hokkien dialect. Or its glamourous name now is "Special Operations Command' or "Police Task Force" - the para-military arm of our Police force...

Our NS tales are little different that the army sort :-)

8/06/2004 12:01:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Miyagi said...

OK, Agent X and Woof! I am inviting the both of youse to participate and contribute to my new blog, a collection of Singapore NS stories here. Please give me your email addresses so I can put you on the list of contributors.

8/06/2004 12:27:00 AM  

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