deconstructing myself

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I am probably the most self-aware I’ve been my whole life. It’s sensational, as if I’m tuned into more aspects of my being. It all started with the series of dialogues I’ve been involved in. From deconstructing masculinity, to discussing topics on identity, to brainstorming where the IFC community is at right now, I’ve spent close to 6-8 hours a week simply discovering more about what it means to be me and how that relates to my community.

I’ll be honest, I walked into these dialogues not expecting anything too personal to happen. I expected knowledge to be gained, and perhaps some form of empathy to be formed, but to see myself change and be affected was a prediction I would not have bet on.

Two of the biggest realizations I’ve made have to do with fundamentally significant parts of my life. The first has to do with National Service. As most people know, I have had very little reservations of my time in the Armed Forces, in fact being proud of my achievements and time in the army. But I’m actually surprised how little coverage has been put into understanding the psychology and systemic entrenchment of normative ‘masculinity’ that national service perpetuates. What happens is that aside from the fact that every Singaporean son can defend his country after 2 years, every Singaporean son also is unfortunately fed with the wrong idea that being a man means fitting into a box that is defined by cultural norms. Perhaps being a soldier requires you to be strong, have a command of the situation etc. , but that isn’t connected to your masculinity.

I was a part of the oppression that created a hegemony of the ‘alpha-male’ over other men. I compared weakness to lower levels of masculinity; I used terms like ‘pussy’ and ‘bitch’ when people had struggles, and even motivated myself on the basis that I had to prove my ‘manliness’. It’s difficult realizing that in so many ways, my narrative isn’t just my own, but in fact shared by so many in the country. We have a population that feeds this dangerous idea that being a man requires a certain type of profile, and this could potentially lead to violence, be it physical or emotional, internally directed or externally directed.

There’s so much more to this system that I’m slowly realizing and I wonder how to decouple the two : masculinity and soldierliness. I’ve seen great soldiers, but their self-respect as a man is questionable. And vice versa, can someone who frankly isn’t a great soldier not be attacked for his masculinity?

I’m still processing this.

Another big aspect of my being that I’ve been questioning is my emotional intelligence. For the longest time, I thought I was emotionally resilient, because I was able to avoid letting my emotions affect my logic. That was how my family raised me, and how society nurtured me. In fact, the idea that there are good emotions and bad emotions was something that was fed to me too. Being sad or crying was not good. Being angry was allowed only if you were in a place of power. Force yourself to smile on the outside even if you’re not on the inside.

But I realized recently that I struggle to label emotions I feel beyond a certain point now, and because of that cannot identify how they affect my behaviors. Once I started introspecting more, I discovered that so much of my actions have been destructive in not just building my own emotional resilience, but even those of my siblings, who in the same way I was thought to, would be encouraged by me to stop feeling sad or angry.

I even remember asking myself many times – ‘Why am I not allowed to be angry?’ , or ‘Why is this emotion not allowed to me?’

Inside Out as a movie has great take away points, but I’m only starting to realize the gravitas of liberating one’s self from the idea that there are ‘bad emotions’ and ‘good emotions’. Sure, some have negative impacts on you, but to disallow yourself from feeling them or acknowledging them prevents you from even understanding what’s happening to you and how you can target your life to resolve conflict.

___

Personal Development is a never-ending process. There’s always more for someone to gain by understanding himself, his community and society. I’m glad I put myself out there and have been able to retroactively see how I need to change my lens on the world. I can only wish more would have the benefit of these sessions.

I’ll keep working on it.

hooah.

 

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two stories that defined my week

Let’s take it back today. I had a heavy week, starting on Wednesday , where I caught myself in a limbo of sorts. Every week thus far had been exciting, and every day had been filled with some level of fun and success. Yet, something was starting to feel absent. That’s probably why the dreams started : two dreams that I remembered not just vividly but emotionally. Here they are:

Dream 1 – The Loss of Vision

In this dream, I was seated at a table in a bar. It seemed like I was in one of the bars I had been in, in Wudaoku, Beijing . The lights were loud, and there was music that rang back to the 80s. There were people seated next to me and I was engaged in some form of casual communication.

Then all of a sudden, everything became blurry. What was once a clear sight was now pixelated and definitely evident of my myopia. What just happened, I asked myself. I was panicking – was I going blind?

Hold on, was I wearing contacts? I felt over my eyes and noticed the lack of spectacles. My contacts must have fallen out, I assumed. I conducted my regular vision check, covering one eye and confirming that I could see clearly. My left eye had lost its contact, I determined. I felt around the table I was at, to see if the contact had fallen.

I found it almost immediately, hardened as if it had dried up after being left out for a long period. Had my contact been missing for that long and I hadn’t noticed? What was going on, I asked myself, and immediately woke up.

Dream 2 – The Memory of Courage

Courage is a difficult word to claim. Even the declaration of someone being courageous has to be supported by consistent proof of his courage – a one time act does not validate a sustaining label. I cannot claim courage as a trait as often as I’d like to. I try my best and have had my fair share of courageous moments, but there are a sizeable number of times I wish I had stepped up to the plate and done what I could have.

This dream brought me back to the advanced training area in Tekong ’12 . I was in Basic Specialist training and it was our field-camp. We were being evaluated on a training package, and were at the last leg. We were exhausted, having been in the field for almost 4 hours on consistent battles and hammered with scenarios one after another.

‘The end is around the corner, gentlemen’ the section instructor told us.

We were keeping to pace, ensuring our movement was according to drill. All of a sudden out of nowhere, the sergeant shouted ‘ Arty, Arty’ indicating an Artillery Strike. We quickly dropped to prone position and echoed the words.

‘Goddamnit’ I remember thinking, ‘We were so close.’

‘Arty over’ he shouted, indicating the start of the sprint back to the safe zone. I was carrying section equipment, weighing a considerable weight. That on top of my load-bearing vest and rifle made the sprint one of the more difficult combat tasks of the day. On my sprint forward, I noticed one of my section mates on the floor not moving.

‘What happened?’ I asked him as multiple section mates ran past me and him.

‘I’ve been declared as injured’ he responded.

‘Fuck’ I remember thinking. I didn’t want to have to take on another load, I thought for half a second. But within the snap second, I remembered that if this was war, I couldn’t leave my brother in arms behind. I remembered he could very well be someone else’s sibling or son, and I could not wish the consequence of his ‘death’ on anyone.

‘Carry this!’ I shouted to another section mate who was running behind me, as I tossed him the bag with the section equipment. He got the cue and grabbed it from me.

‘Hold on’ I said, as I grabbed my section mate, and in one motion, threw him on my shoulders as part of the fireman lift and continued sprinting.

‘Are you okay?’ he asked me as I sprinted with him now loaded onto me.

I didn’t respond, focusing all my attention and energy on making the last 80m of the sprint. I was panting, breathing heavily and feeling my shoulders ache.

Almost there, I reminded myself.

I finally reached the safe zone, heaving myself into it. I put my section mate down and collapsed on the floor.

‘Good Job guys, you’re done with the package’ the Instructor commended us.

I continued to breathe heavily, as I reminded myself in that moment about the essential truth of struggle – the existence of peace and the continuation of a normal day requires more sacrifice than realized.

___

There was probably some psychological undertone to all of this. I had sent my laptop to repair and was absent of the usual distractions. I was at the gym a lot more and had more time to think to myself. I was somber pretty much most of the week, reluctant to engage in the regular frivolities. I committed to making every choice purposeful from Wednesday night, and saw some change in perspective.

I’m not sure where I’m at right now. I’m still confused at where I am, and where I’m meant to be heading. Having so much settled in your future, in a lot of ways unsettles you.

This is a new challenge I must face then.

geronimo.

understanding invariants

Maturity hurts. It’s a weapon you carry in your inventory, embellished with the pains of your past, that adds to its ferocity in battle. When you carry it, you become slower, but therefore more calculated. You become tired easily, but also calmer. The stronger your sword becomes, the less you have to use it. One day then, you’ll have to leave the sword, and the person who carries it from you will have to learn to handle its weight.

I’ve been called ‘mature’ since I was young, without ever understanding what that meant. I’d nod my head, and say ‘Thank you, sir’ . I never thought I was ever mature though. I was curious – that was probably the better word for me. ‘Curiosity killed the Cat’ right? Well, I let myself face death, danger and disgrace many times in my life.

My curiosity was derived from a dissatisfaction, a dissatisfaction that was fed by my environment’s challenge to always be better. It was initially academic, and once I discovered I had a handle on studying, I wanted to deepen my knowledge of more fields. I wanted to be a better adventurer, a better leader, a better social butterfly. As I entered into these fields, I faced my first big hurdle. Rejection. People told me I couldn’t do what I wanted to do – that I wasn’t good enough or that I wasn’t fit for it. I was distraught , disgraced even. Then I gained my first taste of maturity. My parents and friends presented me the sword. ‘You’re growing up’ , they said. ‘You’ll need this’. I wiped the blood of my wounds on it, and felt its strength. I walked forward, and claimed my place. People won’t define who I am, I said, and did what I knew was right.

The problem with carrying a sword as powerful as maturity though, is that you think you’re prepared for any battle. I walked into the military, thinking I could handle this without a stretch. I was brought down immediately. Hubris and physical toil hit me hard. I remember so many times being at the end of my limits, and having to dig deeper. I had to remember my family back home, so that I could continue on my mission. I had to remember my platoon mates had families too, so that I could help them build their shellscrapes. I had to remember my own mission to be better, and that helped me get a Gold in my fitness test. People yelled in my ear : ‘Is this how you want to go down, Rovik?’ , and I realised my sword was definitely in need of more embellishing. I wiped the blood of my wounds on it, and felt its strength. I became a better leader, and a better soldier. I saw my friends almost die, from all kinds of ailments and physical conditions, and realised how truly sacred life is, not to be meddled with.  I was going to take life and security a lot more seriously.

The moment when you decide to start teaching others how to wield a sword is an interesting one. I had the benefit of mentors since I was 18; people who invested in me as a person and gave me personalised advice. When I started The Hidden Good, I was put in a position to train people and envision the same future I was seeing. More than that, I wanted them to add to it – to share it with me. I realised I was building an army then. An army of mature, wise and passionate individuals who knew how to wield their own swords and carry on the good fight. While teaching them, I too learnt how to better wield my own sword. I had to be confident in my lessons, and uphold them , bettering myself as I went on.

Perhaps the most forgotten aspect of swords is that while they’re heavily offensive, they play defensive roles as well – protecting you from the vile forces of others. I’ve let down my sword too many times. I trusted people too many times or I was tired of the weight of the sword and wanted to forget it, lapsing into immaturity. I had to remember to carry my sword again, and I would be reminded why it was so heavy in the first place.

Why is this topic important now? Because I’m realising how fleeting almost anything I do in college can be. My maturity, in its limited capacity, has reminded me that there is no point stressing or worrying about aspects that honestly would be forgotten in a few years. I’m reminded to invest in things that last – relationships, lives and futures. Love more, live more, smile more.

And in all of it, carry your sword with pride.

geronimo.

i eat giants for breakfast

be absolutely ludicrous.

Somewhere in my life, a fire erupted …. no, an explosion occurred inside of me causing me to be always craving adventure. Nothing was ever going to be enough but I was not going to sit down and eat brunch every Sunday. I was not going to waste my breath on a life mediocre.

So I wrote, I built my adventures in my head. I explored made up worlds, with lives of characters that represented  ideals of mine. I was a mercenary, and then a old sage on the brink of death. I was death, and then I was life. I built the Last Saloon and recreated the Moment of Revelation.

And then I couldn’t just write. I had to see, I had to touch, I had to be. No one was going to tell me what I could or could  not do. I had enough of that in school, especially in an education system designed to “assign” people to the lives they are supposedly fulfilled to live. So I began eating giants for breakfast.

I began by saying yes to more things. I was kayaking on the Saturday, and training for a marathon on the Sunday. Is that for me? Yes? I’ll do it. No? Who says so? I’m still doing it.

And then I started dreaming. I started seeing friends explore lands I had only seen on the television. I saw friends championing causes; making the world better. I also saw people complaining about their lives, how they wonder how they got stuck where they were.

So I ate another giant and asked What If? I asked What If I made this a priority. What would I need to do? I put it on a piece of paper, stuck it behind my door and saw it every morning I woke up. I’d do push-ups while looking at it – I was getting mentally synced to achieve my goals. This was happening – this was not a wish, this was a desire and that’s something that’s derived deeper. A desire lives in the depths of your soul, it claws at you from the inside till it can be realised.

I broke away from the  people that said “Let’s stick to what we know” and started hanging out with the dreamers and believers. These were the people who said “We can build something”. I valued the people who kept me grounded, but I was not going to around the people who kept me floundered.

And one day, I started “winning” the game. Fruits of the seeds were starting to show. I was able to open doors to meetings with people of influence and convince them to support me. I was able to learn how to play the game of life; how to navigate some of the pitfalls that open themselves up to the wayfarers. I was able to build teams, share my vision and bring them on the journey with me. I was building on past successes to achieve more.

I failed many times too, but every fail was a fail forward. I stood up, dusted my knees and ran on (I imagine my marathon taught me a lot about that) .

My lifestyle changed. I was high-octane. Testosterone and adrenaline are concentrated in my blood stream. From the music I listen to, to the sports I participate in, I’m living a life of energy.

I stand here, a veteran of stories. I’m only 21. Let me say that again. I’m 21. In the past 3-4 years I’ve probably seen more than some people can afford.

I’m more privileged than most, and I recognise that privilege. But the money I spent was all money I earned. I used my stories to make money by adapting them. I made my life a story – a manuscript of a journey tirelessly threaded.

Having said that,  I have a lot of people to thank , my family especially, but I also want to recognise that a lot of this process was started from that explosion. That was something internal. One morning, I woke up and just decided to eat a giant.

Giants still roam this earth. Giants still intimidate people. But I want others to start waging battles against these giants. I want to ignite that explosion in others. I want people to travel, to start organisations and companies, to go on YouTube , to convince world leaders to take on a policy stance, to live extraordinarily.

Find your giant, look it straight in the eye and then begin to chew at it. It’ll wriggle, it’ll try to run away from you, but you know you’re stronger than it. Why?

Because now you’re larger than life.

geronimo.

my national service story – and why green goes well with everything (part 3)

the final part of this reflection series.

i started my time in Bravo Company, which was a training company. Life was good right off the bat. My PC was very flexible, my PS was objective-oriented. Four of us joined an existing batch of specs – meaning we had to adapt to their culture rather than define our own. The great thing was that it was pretty easy to get used to the culture; it was a “do what’s needed” culture which in all honestly is under-rated.

Too many times do we end up overworking, especially from all my experience in training school. The fact that they were all from poly gave me a lot more to learn. Some dear friends I made in the bunk.

The batch the ORD-ed way before me – PC Charles Bey, 1SG Tank, Jeff, Wenbin, AJ, Yonglin (the monster), Sherwin, Ryan, Yi Hao, Zhen Hao, Jay, Wei Jie, Jon, Rico, Victor, Wee Tong, Edward, Don, Yongli, Derek, Joshua, Wen Jian  and everyone else.  Lots of fun.

My RSM disrupted my regular NS routine very early and asked if I wanted to be a part of NDP, as part of the Colour Party. Usually, only regular WOSPEC are asked to take on this role, but they were extending the privilege to me. It was a tricky choice cos I had just started The Hidden Good. But with Leon’s agreement , I decided to expand my exposure. NDP is something everyone has to participate in at least once right?

It was one of the longest, most tiring journeys I ever took. Footdrills are not just monotonous and repetitive, there’s almost nothing to look forward to other than the final day. Every Saturday for four months were burned, and that disrupted my normal work schedule. It was easy for a lot of tongues to swag during this period.

But with good friends made on site, we grew closer. From my Ensign, Dickson, and my orderly Hongbin, to the people from other formations and services, not only did I learn a lot about the Army, I learnt a lot about MINDEF and about doing Tri-Service wide activities.

On the final day, I remember the strong sense of pride standing in front of the nation, and marching through the crowd. People pointed to you and said “look at that handsome man” . That was a day to remember. Four months of tireless training and we finally reached here.

Gerald, Jiarui, Meng Yuan, Elvis, Wen Jie, Chen Rong, Brandon, Kaisheng, All the Parade SMs and all the Support Personnel from Air Force – thanks for making the NDP journey a proud one.

___

Immediately once I came back, I only lingered around for a while before going off for my Platoon Sergeant Course. This time, it wasn’t so much about learning anything rigid – it was experiencing sharing back in ETI. Something like an MBA course. I learnt a lot about how other Engineer Units functioned and some best practices. Being a PS was somewhat more organisational, and required a good balance between being in the office and on the ground. We were neither one nor the other.

Small batches come together fast. We hitched up pretty well , and got friendly fast. It was a great 3 weeks. None of us wanted to go back.

Thanks to Boon, Ah Tu, Adrian,Yong Jie, Raymond, Alan, De Jun, Joshua, Qing Gui, Ardy, Zhenguang, Putra, Darren, Amos, Wai Hon, Yunus for the wonderful new experiences.  I’m glad we kept in touch.

___

When I came back, things had more or less shifted. The platoon was still there but I had new 3SGs, my new PC had settled in and the new command team was in place.

LTC Kenneth who I deeply respected and admired had been posted out, and MAJ Lim had posted in. Warrant Chew had taken over as BSM recently as well. My CSM had changed to Warrant Andrew  – basically this happens a lot in the army. Luckily my RSM , Warrant Chua was still there – he was the biggest enabler of my whole army career – someone I respected a lot.

My PC was an amazing person to work with. I came to deeply respect his thought process, but more importantly the amount of care and concern he gives to his soldiers. He is really a leader with a heart. LTA Lee Cheng Qian  , I will proudly salute you anyday. He honoured his word, and worked on what was necessary, rewarding fairly yet remaining strict in his principles.

My 3SGs are really last-mile leaders. I didn’t have to micromanage with them at all – they were incredibly capable and burgeoning with soft and hard leadership. Shawn (now a 2SG of course), Yao Chen, Kenneth, Chester, Colin, Nigel, Ming Zhe. The platoon is in good hands.

My platoon – I’m damn proud of them. I wasn’t there a lot – being pulled out for all kinds of activities, and when I was finally back it was time to ORD. In fact , as I type this I’m booking back in for the last time…

I can’t say I was a very good PS because I wasn’t there a lot – but I tried my best. I did hope to share with them the importance of leading a healthy life while in NS, to care about things, to live for a purpose. These lessons are probably the best I could impart. One year will pass by soon enough guys.

I must give special thanks to my OC, CPT Alastair , CSM Warrant Andrew, S1 CPT Derek, CPT Jerome, S2 CPT Wu, S3 MAJ David, SSG Qiu Guang, SSG Joon Hong, SSG BenMin, 2LT Wen Yang, 2LT Wenbin, 1SG KK, 1SG Vincent, Desmond, Damien, Kenneth, Eric, Gerard,  Clarkson, Wei Kwang, Marcus, Sam, Aaron  for giving a great working environment. Army is indeed a people organisation  – and these people made it survivable.

___

So there it is, my life in Army in 3 posts. There’s probably a lot more people I met, interacted with, befriended, fought with etc. but I’m sorry if my memory didn’t capture you now. It’s going to be refreshing living as a civilian from tomorrow onwards – to be free.

Reservist Cycles only starts in 5 years so I have little to worry about. Most important in this equation were God, my Family , my BS Group and Church, my Core Friends and my Online Community for taking this journey with me.

Someone like me doesn’t just connect with others easily, he remembers them. He is grateful for the volume of experiences he accumulates, and the treasure of friendship he has plundered. I can’t wait – it’s time to remove this green uniform.

geronimo

my national service story – and why green goes well with everything (part 2)

after getting the news I was going to SCS, I remember pulling out my wisdom tooth to get a good break before going in . Honestly, my extra teeth were starting to ache, so it was just very timely. I remember shaving my head to match the “freshly POP-ed” Privates that would form the bulk of my batch.

SCS was a new world. granted, karma was a bitch to me again , sending me to Lima where Guardsmen held the fort and the infamous Ranger PC kept domain. and of course, because I had the unique CBR badge, I was quickly singled out for the slaughter.

a part of me wished I could still cross over to OCS, but I was generally satisfied with where I was. leadership was self-determined – we were to decide for ourselves our fates. if we were honourable, we’d get through; but if we were to play around too much we’d get the axe. it was back to life as an infanteer, wearing the iLBV and learning about various weapons and tactics. my knowledge of the army continued to grow. my bunk was pretty fun, with its fair share of antics. there was no one excessively “wayang” in our section, everyone wanted to do their best and graduate. i made some of my dearest memories in the field camp on Tekong.

i remember feeling so suay that we were the lucky bunch being sent back to the treacherous island. i had so many memories left behind there, going back awoke them all again. i learnt that in the jungle, with the gear on, the soldier in me comes out ferociously. it’s do or die, fight or lose.

but we pulled through. the enciks were easier to talk through as well – they were fountains of wisdom, pouring out not just skills but stories that made a lot  of sense. the 8 weeks there flew quite fast, but SCS is truly the spiritual home of the WOSPEC Corp.

Thanks to Warrant Yuen, Warrant Chang, Staff David for your honest leadership. Created the best kind of memories.

My section – Kah Leong, Bobbi, Pak Ming, Jun Zhou, Kevin, Jon, Liang Jun, Jyh Harng, Edison, Joe, Daniel, Yuan Feng, Zi Xuan, Zhi Sheng,Ernest and Justin the Shark. 

Fucking amazing what we had.

___

My Engineer Training Phase was probably the defining part of my training year. This was where the skills that mattered most were taught, and the decisions I made that affected my path most were made.

the bunks here were phenomenal. life was abit more regimental but we didn’t mind. heck, I came from Kestrel. Regimental was nothing.

Again being singled out as someone who came out from unit was an advantage I played out fully. in ETI, i met some of my best friends in army. it was a smaller batch, so we grew our culture fast. we defined it and held it proudly.

we were that much closer to being a specialist.

Ervin, Frank, Li Xu, Jeremy, Ping Woo, Paesson, Deng Yang, Kah Fong, -Daniel, Aloysius – some smexy times we had.

Some of the better friends I made in my army life – Alex, Joshua Chee, Jervin(Who I met again after class), Brandon and actually a lot. There were so many people.

___

CBRD CC was where everything played out. here, it was home turf. I knew the game, and I had to play it well. there was added responsibility, because not only was I the resident laojio, CPT Alex who was my OC when I was in the unit as a pioneer was now the Course Commander. He had higher expectations of me, and rightly so. My ex-CSM was a Course Warrant as well. What were the chances right?

I had learned enough this whole journey to start applying the lessons I learnt.  Leadership is about applying yourself to the needs of others , it’s about being present, being available. Leadership in the army is about decisiveness. No one needs a political speaker, they need someone who can give specific direct decisions and instructions to lead to success. It’s about building an image of trust, of certainty. It’s about tough love, and soft touches – showing you care in the darkness but remaining the spirit of force in the light. Did I embody of all this? Probably not, but I tried my best.

Graduating out of the course with the Golden Bayonet was recognition that I had what it took. My blip as a pioneer was only temporary , that this was where I was to be. It was my underdog story – my clawing up the ladder.

So CPT Alex, CPT Zhifa, Warrant Kelvin, Warrant Ravi, Warrant Jack, Warrant Neo, LTA Jerome – thanks for your mentorship. Thanks for caring so much. Thanks for giving a damn.

My powerteam Half-Life that emerged victorious – Yong Kee, Alfred, Frank

The friends I made – Akio, Soon Kee, Dickson, Chea Hau, MSG Adrian, CPT Derek, Yong Jian, Darren, Raymond, Puvir, Meng How, De You, Terry, Vincent, Wei Chong, Min Ren, Shaun,  Dickson, Brian (who I met after so long in Kestrel) – all made the last leg of the course a power-packed one.

During SCGP , it was really another proud moment. I didn’t tell my parents I was the contingent commander again, and that gave them the bejeepers. My churchies (MY AWESOME CHURCHIES) came down to support me – love these people. Man , that was an amazing day. I love creating memories.

___

I’ll write Part 3 about unit life soon , and schedule the post for tomorrow! Talking about the Spec Culture, NDP 2013 , EPSC and finally my dear platoon.

it’s good to remember.

geronimo.

my national service story – and why green goes well with everything (part 1)

i’ve planned this for a while – my National Service post. i’m not doing it closer to the date, nor after I ORD mainly because I’ll be running the Standard Chartered Marathon and I want to thank everyone while I’m still enlisted.

___

i started my national service as the archetype “Wayang King” – I’ll admit that. I walked onto the epic parade square , jaw squared to face the next two months thinking whatever training I had from Scouts would prepare me for what was to happen. i remember getting the slot of paper saying “Company : K” and feeling my heart sink a little as I recalled the advice of my seniors “If you get N or K , you’re dead” .

there wasn’t much time for things to sink in. we were pushed towards the SAF pledge, and a loud appraisal of the “With My Life” caveat, in front of my parents. i remember walking away from them, telling myself I have to make them proud. it’s one of my key motivations in what I do – making sure my parents see their efforts in raising me weren’t wasted; that I was reaching, punching, fighting.

the next two months went by slowly. it’s by far the slowest two months I ever experienced. coupled with having the fiercest Encik on the island, and some of the craziest sergeants known to BMTC that year, my section was quickly forced to pull things through fast.

my fitness was god-awful. listen guys, whatever your parents or friends tell you, don’t binge before you go into army. it will destroy any possibility of an easy life in army.

i had pulled my MCL before coming into BMT, making running and jumping an absolute horror. i wasn’t at my peak exactly when I  should be. but i was still focussed on making sure we got things done – at all expenses. and that’s where things took a turn for the worst. putting my fitness aside, i think in retrospect i had made for a healthy candidate for command school. but when my fitness was clearly lacking, i had bouts of overcompensation , and rubbed off wrongly on a lot of people because I was fighting to prove my worth. i need to apologise for that. i was wrong, and was hard to get along with.

nevertheless, i remember my BMT section with amazing pride – there were a lot of tacit plans made and late night conversations that made me miss home a bit less. i remember the first time i came home, my mom bawled at how much i  had changed. my dad fed me like a king , and my sister was amazingly cushy with me. my brother was normal , but he was 16, he hid his emotions well.

every week back home was a precious airlock in time and space. it was as if things back in camp didn’t matter and i could focus on being myself. but time passed by too fast. without even thinking about it, i would be back in camp. and the week would roll.

there’s so much more i could write about BMT – in fact I think I did a post on it immediately after. hmm… here it is! http://ilovelifeinc.wordpress.com/2012/03/23/a-slight-resuscitation/

but this is a thanksgiving post so let me thank the following:

LTA Jeremy, my PC. It’s tough being a BMT PC, and there’s probably very little time to help every individual but you tried and I can appreciate that.

2SG Han Wen, 3SG Martien, 3SG Kit –  Our Specs. Man, this was my first exposure to the WOSPEC Corp and you shaped my leadership style from then on. tough love . there was a lot of things we learnt NOT to do as well, but I think we took a lot more things that we SHOULD do.

2SG Michael, 2SG Anson, 3SG Ali – I had a lot of fun with you guys , even as a recruit. When life becomes too killer, having specs who can poke some fun into anything makes things a lot better to handle. I was glad to be part of that.

And of course my amazing amazing section –  Zhen Qun, Yilong, Wei Xiong, Tenny, Phang (man’s man this guy) , Yun Han, Ming Zuo, Yi Hong, Chris, Tong Wei, Hanaffi, Sitoe, Wei Cong. Lots of amazing shit happened – good stuff. Thanks for bearing with me haha.

There was of course the platoon mates as well – the people that made the days interesting. Matthias, Shaun, Tyn Long, Brian, Timbo (my first friend on the Island) , Kian Chong, Joel , Wee Ern, Jason, Ronald, Jielong, Andrew, Lipkoon and the rest of the platoon.

BMT was where I made mistakes and learnt from them.

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After BMT, I went out for my vacation trip to Hong Kong and got the posting to CBR PNR in my hotel room. I inferred two things – I thought I was going to by in CyberPioneer (the media arm) and I knew I wasn’t going to command school. The latter point was coming – I had failed my BMT and couldn’t get in no matter what. The former was slightly exciting till I decided to use Google . That’s where I discovered that not only was I to be a “Man” but I was going to be wearing gas masks, working in high-risk environments and earning a $200 bonus. My parents immediately over-reacted and asked if I could revocate. They asked these kind of questions a few times in my whole army career.

I went in with an open-mind but a sunken heart. Seletar Camp had renovated 90% of the compound. My unit was in the un-renovated 10%. It was really a mental battle – having to stay motivated for the duration of the Pioneer Course, our 2 months of acclimatization into the operational requirements and technical backlog to be a Pioneer.

there was a big part of me that just wanted to do well enough to have a comfortable life, but a bigger part of me also wanted to be true to myself. my platoon mates were all over the place, and in fact they were some of the best bunk-mates I’ve ever had. when you’re a pioneer, you have a high level of self-respect . you know that despite having commanders, you still own what you do and therefore take pride in that. we worked hard, and came back to rest hard.

the course was a killer cos of my OC, one of the people I came to respect greatly over time. he had a no-holds barred approach, and was ruthless in his expectations. but he also ensured we had pride in what we did. so it was “those” kind of trainings that made us graduate with a strong sense of belonging to the seemingly lackluster compound we had. we gave our own color to the area.

life became a lot better this time – we could book in in civilian clothes, we had more flexibility in what we did. i had admin time for once (kestrel never gave us  the privilege). and the pay was amazingly better.

i graduated at the top of the cohort, giving me the blessed opportunity to go over to SCS. it was one of those flip moments because I learnt so much more about leadership as a Man than I think I ever did in my whole army career. i knew the impact of bad leadership, the frustrations of the men under your charge, and how to push people to the overall objectives from the ground. and this knowledge was only going to grow.

CBRD Pioneer Course was where I learnt I had it in me, and could grow.

this time , I’d like to thank my OC , CPT Alex,  2IC, CPT Shawn and CSM, 3WO Kelvin for running things. In the Unit, the make and break is really up to the command team and the direction they choose. This made it.

My PC, LTA Su Weijie – I realise all my PCs were about to ORD once I come in… but anyway, you were committed and cool. Things had to make sense, things had to matter and that made it easier for us.

My Specs- PS 1SG Francis, Ming Han, Zhen Jie, Ian, Chuan Heng, Kelvin, Nicholas,  the whole crew was really a unique bunch to be led under but it was a different experience being led to work together, rather than being led to move on fecklessly . Chuan Heng and Kelvin (my section’s personal Sec Coms) were particularly inspiring – I took a lot of contrast to my BMT Specs from them, and combined the best of both worlds for my own experience.

My batch-mates, and the people I truly truly wish I didn’t have to leave but did – thanks for making the best damn experience I had in a platoon. Justin, Sanjev, Arshvyn, Antarcus, Nicholas, Jerry, Bryan, Yi Cheng, Mon Thu, Shi Yang, Paul,  Yong Hao, Zhong Hao, Wen Xiang, YuHao, Darryl. I’m glad I still got to talk to you guys when I was in camp. Thanks for not making it weird.

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This is Part 1 – Part 2 will cover my Command School journey, NDP and my Unit life. I may have a Part 3, but there’s a lot I did while in army I realise. I’m glad I got to share the experience with so many people.

geronimo