Every male (Singapore) citizen of age is conscripted into National Service, that is to serve in the Singapore Armed Forces for 2 to 2.5 years. The first three months of Basic Military Training (BMT) was probably the most difficult period of the whole service. On the one hand, there was the sudden adjustment from a civilian lifestyle to a military lifestyle; On the other hand, the physically training was somewhat demanding too, especially since I wasn’t terribly sporty back then.
After BMT, I went to the School of Military Medicine (SMM) to be trained as a combat medic. My batch of trainees was combined with those from the Commando unit. The commando folks having been in the army longer than post-BMT people like me were able to share many interesting experiences. We learnt “important lessons”: how to wake up late, how to not march with the platoon, how to self-declare canteen breaks, etc. My three months in SMM was quite enjoyable because we were able to make life enjoyable and we really had quite a lot of fun.
I was briefly posted to an infantry unit after passing out from SMM, then subsequently went to RSAF Tengah Air Base (TAB). Inspite of the perception many people have of medics and RSAF personnel, our life is not ‘idle’ nor is it a bed of roses. Very few SAF units see a level of operational readiness like that in an air base such as TAB. Our work is for real. Every aircraft that takes off is serious business. While medics in other units go for exercises and training, we are dealing with serious real life casualties day in and day out. While activations in other units are usually exercises initiated by the duty-officer “for fun”, every activation in TAB is for real.
Well, I probably shouldn’t talk too much about this because of all the secrecy and confidentiality etc. The annoying thing, though, is that you are told this and that is “secret”, and then you find out that not only is it commonly/publicly known… sometimes it is even published in the newspapers.
Overall, my experience in TAB was fulfilling. I’ve made many friends and met all sorts of interesting people. I’ve also gained much medical knowledge and, surprisingly, actually taken a liking to medicine. Would you believe that doctors have asked me, “So, er, how would you manage this condition?”