Soldiering On

August 9, 2012 No Comments

Soldiering on

“Recruit J Y Chua! The Company Sergeant Major wants to see you! Its about your vocation in the military; you have been selected for something.”

This was news indeed. In the past month or so in Basic Military Training, I had reluctantly come to terms with the regimentation of a soldier. Our unique identities, in all its richness and distinction, reduced to our common surnames and indistinguishable Chinese initials. “J Y Chua” was far from the “Leonard” i knew myself to be. We shed our personality, repressed our individuality, and fell into files; each unique person now merely a constituent of so and so number of rows, the absentees acknowledged as blank files.

“20 rows and two blank files Platoon Sergeant!”

Given my experience thus far, this announcement was a welcome change. I had been singled out as an individual for anything other than a punishment was good news. I started to dream; what interesting vocations did they have for me? I recalled the cognitive tests i went through before entering the army; many people rushed through it so they could get on with their lives, but I utilised the full six hours we were given: double checking my answers, considering every option before deciding on one. So maybe I had excelled in that test and qualified to be a top secret agent! Yes I can see it now, i would be the Singaporean James Bond, travelling the world during my two years of National Service, meeting the most interesting people…

“Evening boys, I am your Company Sergeant Major. You have been chosen for a vocation which is very special. I wish I had the same vocation. If I got a choice like you, I would have been so happy. Y’all will be … Tank Operators.”

“Encik (Malay for Uncle), I also got selected for Military Police leh. Which should I choose?” Someone among us asked.

“Hmm, I guess just choose the one nearer your house lor, less travelling time…”

So much for special vocation huh? Like i said, I was only dreaming. Singapore probably doesn’t have any James Bond-type spies anyway…

So I worked with tanks. All 60 tons of them. Which turned out to be as close to a James Bond experience as the military offers. With 1500 horsepower driving the engines, firing rounds that weigh 20kg, it was something special. I was the gunner in my tank crew; this is what we do:

Enemy spotted. “Commander, tank!” Proceed to lay crosshairs on the target and follow.

Commander: “Gun FS Tank On!”

Fire laser at the tank to determine range. “Last echo 3600(m)!”

Commander: “Fire!”

“On the way!… Target!”
Sounds like quite the vocation huh? Its an elite occupation, brimming with machismo, quite the thing to impress ladies with ūüėČ Since our local firing range was too constricted – too far to the left and we destroy our university, to the right we start a war with Malaysia – we had upcoming¬†training trips to Australia and Germany. ¬†Maybe my James Bond dreams weren’t too far off after all!

Love for life

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