NS Life: Before, During And After!

National Service (NS) plays an important part in the lives of every Singaporean men as it provides an opportunity for them not only to learn about themselves, but to also work with the new people around them. In this article, one of our graduates, Toh Zheng Han from 05S32, shares with us ideas on how to prepare for National Service, what we can expect during our stay in camp and the lessons he learnt from the experience.


The following are details of an e-mail interview by TPJCian magazine, sent on 9/11/08. Some of the questions have been edited for brevity and clarity, and extraneous material omitted.


1) How should we prepare ourselves for National Service?
Exercise, exercise and more exercise. Running and chin-ups are especially important. Both of these exercises take time to build up so it would be wise to start early. After hitting your gold or silver results for NAPFA, challenge yourself to the standard of IPPT (Individual Physical Proficiency Test). Other than exercising, stay fit by eating healthy food. If you are a heavy sleeper, perhaps you would like to practise sleeping at 2230 sharp and waking up at 0530.

2) How different are the types of BMT available? Are there any differences in training? If so, how different?
There are many forms of BMT. It would be wise to go to www.ns.sg to read up more. For Enhanced Leadership batch which I was in, the schedule was very tight as we only had a mere ten weeks together and you had to complete a wide range of activities like combat shooting, field camping, Sit-tests, BCCT (Basic Close Combat Training), grenade throws, road marches and many more.

As I came from a Enhanced Leadership company (Bronco company 01/07), my group did not have any obese people. All of us had at least a silver for NAPFA.

3) What can we expect in the first week of our National Service?
For the first week of your NS life, do expect a lot of lectures, similar to what you have in TPJC, as your OC, 2IC, CSM, PC, PS and 3SG guide you through your soldier conversion course.

The key to making your NS transition smoother is to make more friends, less enemies and getting into the good book of your commander. The point is not to make yourself stand out in a way that make yourself look bad in front of your superiors and your friends. Cooperate and help one another and life will certainly be easier.


OC(Office Commanding)- Head of a company

2IC(Second In Charge)- 2nd to the OC

CSM(Company Sergeant Major)- In charge of disciplinary matter, drills etc

PC(Platoon Commander)- Head of your platoon

PS(Platoon Sergeant)- 2nd to your PC

SGT(Sergeants)- Your immediate superior

4) What kind of food and drinks can we expect in camp?
You can expect rather good food in army especially in BMT(at least that was what I thought). There are a wide range of food (Muslim, non-Muslims and Vegetarian). Cutlery are provided and you do not have to wash them but do remember to return the plates and cutlery for washing after eating. When packing your stuffs for enlistment, remember to bring a coin box for you to buy canned drinks should your commanders allow you to do so.

5) How do you guys clean yourselves and your clothes after intense training?
We wash our own clothes in army in the basin and hang them out to dry. You and your friends can help one another by using both of your "hand power" to squeeze dry the clothes so that they dry faster.

Your sergeants will assign each of you a role in which you must clean the dry yard and toilets, sweep the floors and corridors, empty the dustbins and many more. Whatever it is, cooperate and you will get your job done faster.

6) Do you find it hard to be accept authority initially? What kind of punishments can we expect if anything goes wrong?
They will give you time to slowly adjust in army so don't worry about not being able to adjust to life there. There is a two weeks grace period (or 1 week for some) whereby they would normally not mete out physical punishments or other form of disciplinary punishments if you commit minor offences.

The worse form of punishment I ever got was this night when all of us had to "empty our cupboard" before falling in the parade square, laying everything out, keeping them again, running to "that thing over there", running back, running again to "another thing over there", push-ups, sit ups...I think you should be able to get an idea of what I am talking about.

7) What is the pay like for the different ranks?
I am not sure what the pay is like for different ranks but of course the higher your rank the better your pay is. The amount of your pay is also determined by other factors such as the unit you are in, combat or non-combat vocations and whether you have risk pay and other allowances.

8) Is it true that NS buddies are the best buddies? What do you guys do during your leisure time?
Quite true. You 'chiong sua' (literally run-forest or battle/fight in a forest) and go through all the s*** together. So yes, there is bound to be this bond between you and your army friends. Till now, I still go out with my BMT friends. We make it a point to meet up at least twice per year; one our enlistment day itself and our ORD despite our hectic schedules. I just met them on 111108.

9) Name two qualities that you learnt from your NS life.
1) Cooperation. As I had mentioned many times, cooperate with one another and do not have that mentality that you do not need help. Having many friends in NS will certainly do more good than harm to you.

2) Dealing and engaging with people tactfully. The people you will be meeting in BMT will come from a wide range of backgrounds. Do not expect things to always turn out the way you want to as everyone of you has a different way of thinking. So do be mindful of your words and actions.

10) Share with us any funny or scary experiences in camp.
I do not exactly have any funny experiences in camp. Waking up in the middle of the toilet to go to the toilet alone (when in company line) or when you are your buddy are walking to the designated toilet area in the jungle can be scary. You will also meet all kinds of people that will spice up your NS life.

11) Any last words for people entering NS soon?
Keep a positive mind-set to prepare yourself for the challenges that you will soon be facing. It is up to you whether you want your two years(1 year 10 months for me and others that get at least a silver for their NAPFA) to be a pleasant or dreadful one. Two years will pass very fast (at least when you are looking back). I have already finished serving my NS on 111108 and I assure you that two years down the road, some of you might be looking back and thinking about the time when you were still preparing for your NS and looking at this article.

12) Do you miss TPJC? Any shout-outs to teachers and/or friends?
Probably a little. I miss teachers such as Mr Simon Reynolds and Mr Remedios. Both GP teachers are now gone. I also miss Mrs Foong Lee Har, my Mathematics tutor. Study hard and treasure your time in TPJC and do the college proud. Aim and achieve!


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