So it’s that time of the year again. When you’ve received that dreaded letter from CMPB till now, you’ve been slowly counting down the days until you lose your freedom and luscious hair for the next two years. That’s right. It’s National Service (NS); it’s inevitable, and it’s back to get yet another Singaporean Male.
Most would usually grimace over the very mention of National Service, and you, unfortunately, cannot escape having to serve these two years; every Singaporean Male has done it before, and now it’s your turn. But what exactly do you have to prepare for it, and how can you better deal with having to serve?
Well, I am no different; My enlistment date is also coming up soon, and while I absolutely detest the idea of losing my hair, all I can do is suck my thumb, wear a cap after I go bald, and look forward to the day when I can finally leave. That’s that. So while I am not relishing the time when I finally go to Tekong, I have at least prepared myself for it.
Since you’re going in, make the best out of it
While this might seem like something everyone says, it’s not exactly the worst piece of advice to try and take up. No one really wants to have two years of their life taken away from them, but the more you negatively view serving National Service, the more miserable you might end up being while in camp.
After all, everyone else is stuck in the same situation as you. So, why not have a good time lamenting about your misfortunes together, and make some good friends and memories while inside the camp? With so many people from all walks of life, there is ample opportunity to get to know someone you can gel with.
For me, I’ve just simply accepted the fact that I have to go in, so for now, I’ve decided to make the most of my free time before I go in – Catching up with friends, spending more time with my loved ones, and doing whatever I might want to do now, and honestly, you should too.
When you are inside, take it as a period where your body becomes exceptionally fit and healthy, and at the same time, you also have more core memories to be unlocked while going through hell with your buddies.
As for all those NS horror stories you may have heard from parents, siblings, cousins, or friends, just know that as long as you don’t do anything stupid or out of character, everyone (yes, including you!) will be perfectly fine!
…Or not. Unfortunately, there will most DEFINITELY be people that might irritate you, be it for being too proud, or constantly causing trouble without even knowing that they are causing problems for others. Though things like this are out of your control, the best you can do is just be tolerant and patient with everyone because, after all, someone’s mistake is everyone’s mistake.
Keep your chin up and just power through it; we got this!
Pack your Bags
Included inside the letter that you would’ve received regarding your enlistment date is a list of things that you should bring into Pulau Tekong or any other places for that matter. Follow it, and generally, you should be fine while doing your BMT (Basic Military Training).
Things on the list include:
- Your NRIC
- A PDF of both a recent passport photo and your latest education certificate
- A dark-coloured digital watch
- Portable Chargers
- Basic Toiletries
- Washing powder/detergent
- Clothes Hangers
- Nail Clippers
- Swimming Goggles
Of course, you should bring more items, such as Portable Chargers. Can’t risk being unable to text your girlfriend when you finally have time to use your phone, right? Also, choose a good-looking passport picture of yourself, so you can reminisce about how less than 48 hours ago, you still had some hair on your head.
For the optional things to bring, you have slippers (so you don’t have to run around barefoot), an alarm clock (don’t you already have one built into your phone?), and spectacle hooks (in case your spectacles threaten to fly off your face).
One tip I found rather valuable was to bring ziplock bags and LABEL them. They also make packing a lot easier, and you know exactly what things are yours. I, of course, don’t want to have other people taking my items, or accidentally sharing a toothbrush with someone else. Yuck.
Listen to (not believe) whatever your Relatives/Family have to say
Well, to be fair, they have done NS before, so whatever they say would be great for you to know as a heads-up before you go in. Things like “Last time, our sergeant would punish us for the smallest mistakes”. But times change quickly, especially in Tekong. Discipline is still a major aspect of NS, but it is no longer to the point of exaggeration.
Similarly, they didn’t even have the option to indicate what vocations they wanted to be put in, which we could do even before we went for our medical checkups. They had to suck up whatever vocation they got and stick with it. Now, whether it is by illusion or not, there seems to be some amount of choice.
Chances are that you might’ve also read our previous article from back in 2018, and while some of the tips might be good to know, or take note of, the fact is that things might have also changed so much since then that the best way to prepare is to in fact, experience it for yourselves.
With that being said though, hearing previous experiences and all would be great for you to essentially preempt yourself for whatever you might have to deal with while in camp, so listen to them, sure, but don’t take whatever they say as concrete.
At the same time, stories about instructors from hell, funny anecdotes and the lot also make for great bonding time with not only your family, but also your bunkmates!
Cut your hair before going in
You should do this for two reasons: One; you get to let your friends have the pleasure of shaving off that hair you’ve been growing out of since you finished Secondary School. Two, you most probably wouldn’t have to deal with the in-camp barbers giving you bald patches everywhere — plus, you have to pay them.
Some may feel that shaving your head for Tekong is a momentous event, a rite of passage as if they’re sending you off to the Army to serve the nation, but in truth, its purpose is only to make the in-camp Aunties call them Shuai Ge (but you all look the same wearing black-coloured spectacles without any hair!)
I don’t know about you however, but I am most definitely cutting my hair outside of Tekong. Now I just have to make sure that it’s short enough, so I don’t have to pay a visit to the barber with a queue so long that I could probably finish writing this article in that period.
Train that little bit more before you go in
When inside, you will have to train quite a lot, so getting your body that more used to physical activity will definitely help you out, and (hopefully) prevent you from being overly tired after a day of strenuous training.
So, try to go out for a run every now and then, just to ensure that you maintain a certain level of fitness before you head in. After all, if you’ve passed your Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT), you would want to be able to pass it yet again when inside.
You will most definitely feel tired after doing physical work the whole day, but at the very least, you can make it that little bit more bearable for yourself!
So that’s the list of things you should do before going into NS that I, a Pre-enlistee, can think of. Maybe some of those things might not seem right to you, but in truth, you will learn more or less how to survive NS through experiencing it.
Here’s to hoping that your NS journey will be smooth, and who knows, maybe you’ll become just like your friends who constantly scream “WGT ORD LO” at you, or perhaps you’ll become a better version of yourself.
In truth, everyone’s experience, of course, will be different. It doesn’t take a genius to know that much. You will have great conversation starters when you’re done with it, however, and perhaps I might write another article when I finally finish National Service myself.
Good Luck to every Singaporean male that has to serve in National Service, and be sure to enjoy your civilian life as much as possible first. Because NS is inevitable, and it will catch up to you eventually.
Photo of the SAF Bag by Soloman Soh of the DANAMIC Team. Additional visuals courtesy of MINDEF.