Anyway, my point is that NS has changed alot since my full-time service days between 1993 and 1996. More than 10 years have passed and (I think) I just completed my 5th in-camp training (ICT). Between my active days and now, here is a list of changes I've had the opportunity to experience:
- Cookhouse food is no longer dished out by SAF cooks, but by aunties and uncles employed by Singapore Food Industries (SFI). Gone are the days of bouncing rice balls and tasteless kangkong with roots and rubberbands still tied to them. Where I used to dread bringing my personal steel foodtray to the cookhouse, I now actually look forward to being served by aunties and uncles on proper melamine dinnerware. Heck, someone's even employed y the SAF to clean my dishes!
- Ali Baba bags. My olive green ali baba duffel bag has been replaced by a black duffel bag with wheels! Whatever happened to "ALI BABA OVERHEAD!"? Where it was a common practice to run while we carry our fully-laden duffels overhead, the boys now roll their bags like flight attendants?
- My trusty bar of FAB laundry soap will no longer be needed. In its place is perhaps the powdered version. No need to handwash in the basin anymore coz there are washing machines and dryers in camp.
- Wait! I don't think I even saw any soldier brandishing brooms and dustpans for area cleaning! Instead I saw quite a number of cleaners (outsourced workers) doing the menial task.
- I'm labeled as a CUSTOMER?!?! A full colonel and a master warrant officer (both beasts of the camp) actually addressed us NSmen as 'customers'. Whatever happened to that 'I'm lowly and not worthy because my rank small small' feeling?
- The camp had an unusually quiet atmosphere and I understand why now. Last time, we would holler and shout for a person from ground floor to upper floors. It was common for the duty orderly to run out of the ground floor office, look up, and shout for a particular person to come down. Now, the use of personal handphones has 'tactically' made the job much easier and less embarrasing.
- Personal effects. It's all about comfort and ease. Dig these: flat-soled black 'taichi' canvas PT shoes versus New Balance cushioned running shoes. Steel-pot helmets versus kevlar helmets. Stiff and heavy boots with dimples as big as pimples (kiwi like hell) versus easy-to-slip-on comfortable combat boots. Velcro-ed nametags that make ripping sounds and used for 'degrading' purposes versus sewn-on nametags.
The list goes on. I shall not mention that the quality and firepower capabilities of the SAF has also improved with the 3G emphasis. Be afraid. Be very afraid! haha....
Having said that, there are also a few things that will NEVER change, and I'll mention 2 things here. I'm sure many NSmen will agree with me:
- Regardless of civilian lifestyle and culture, stature or wealth, once donning the No.4 uniform, all NSmen will somehow morph into 'fighting machines' replete of all other responsibilities except taking orders from higher military ranks. No orders means that we'll just sit down, relax, and wait and wait and wait and wait. The lower your rank, the easier it is for the NSman to squat and chit-chat. And somehow, the hokkien language proficiency is automatically upgraded to entire spoken conversations. The hokkien clan need not fear the loss of the beautiful language.
- Bubble-trouble and Street Fighter 2! haha.......
Next reservist: November 2007 High-key.... YEAH BABY!!!