Those Aha Moments You Get Halfway Though Your Reservist Cycle
Ahh, reservist. The Operationally Ready National Service (ORNS) phase that able-bodied male Singaporeans go through spanning a 10-year training cycle after their ORD (Operationally Ready Date).
It's always a reunion every year when we return to our army units for training. Whether it's catching up with old friends, re-learning and getting reacquainted with our weapons, or just easing back into camp life, there'll always be an opportunity to make a few interesting observations.
Having just completed five cycles myself, here are five things I've realised - and you might too - halfway through one's reservist journey.
1. Nothing fits
This is, well, self-explanatory. During National Service, our time was dedicated to training and exercise. You could say it was the fittest period in most of our lives.
But, alas, when civilian life has been (too) good to you or work/family gets in the way, keeping active might not be as high a priority as it once was. Trying to fit into your suddenly tight army uniform might be the most sobering feeling in the world. We feel you.
2. SAF forever upgrading their gear - macam Iron Man mark iterations
Not saying that the Singapore Army is funded by Tony Stark (how cool would that be) but you can count on them to be at the forefront when it comes to their warfighting capabilities. That also includes the equipment and outfits we wear. The No. 4 itself has gone through many changes over the years and you could probably tell how old someone is based on their uniform during reservist.
When it comes to a soldier's Personal Equipment, there are upgrades constantly. Most recently, the army launched a new helmet and Load-Bearing System (LBS) that allows for a better fit and weight distribution. It is also configurable for different missions.
Let's just say, every time you go back to camp, you'll most likely go "wait, they change this already, ah?"
3. You better QC your equipment
Speaking of new gear, you should make it a point of updating your exisiting ones. Who else is guilty of chucking away your field pack at the end of every reservist cycle, never to be seen again for a whole year? And when the time comes to prepare, you realise how mouldy those 10-pack items are. Totally not speaking from experience, just saying.
There is a hilarious story where a fellow reservist buddy of mine wore his old boots to a route march on the first day back for a previous cycle. Halfway through the exercise, the soles of his boots came off and he was forced to complete the march with the bottoms of his socks. Poor fella!
4. Everyone is on different journeys
Five years is a long time, let alone a decade. Most of my army buddies are married, have kids or are running their own businesses. I myself have completed university and am knee-deep into my editorial career. The point is, we are all at different stages of our lives, and have bigger responsibilities.
So, while I am a commander by rank, I will treat the men under me as the adults they are, and give them the due respect. So thankfully, we don't have to worry about getting commands like "whole lot, knock it down!".
5. We realise and are reminded why we serve
The most poignant of takeaways. I will argue that undergoing reservist at this stage of my life makes me appreciate the importance of national service a whole lot more than during my active days.
It's simply because being in the real world, with real adult responsbilities and loved ones crystalise what we have at stake and what we stand to lose if Singapore is not protected. And that I believe is the biggest takeaway of them all.