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I had a great time doing my national service in the Republic of Singapore Navy. Here I am having just completed the Basic Shipboard Firefighting Course in 2017. Photos: Ng Kai

Note To Pre-Enlistees: How To Enjoy NS Like I Did

“Wa bro, I can’t wait to ORD sia.”

Let’s be honest, for most of us, that’s the first thought that comes to mind the day we receive the letter for enlistment. You may have also heard some common terms from the many “horror stories" passed down from those who have completed their national service (NS): BMT confinement, sai kang, kena arrowed, book in book out, sign extra, etc.

Nobody can say for sure what your NS journey will be like, but one thing’s certain: every able-bodied Singaporean son will have to serve these two years. And you can either emerge with "horror stories" or you can have a fruitful and memorable time like I did.

Here are several ways I enjoyed those two years. (Psst! These tips are also applicable to many areas of your life as well!)


1. Keep an open mind

Take it from me: You might listen to what others have gone through and expect the worst, but ultimately, it’s up you to make the best of your NS journey. Keeping an open mind allows you to look at things from a different perspective e.g. when you kena arrowed to do things, it could mean your commander trusts you. No need to be a wayang king and volunteer for everything, but don’t chao keng also.


2. Give your 100%

Take it from me: The SAF keeps on emphasising how no role is insignificant and every person or task contributes to the overall effort. While some tasks might seem mundane and routine, they are still important. Don’t stand around eye power. Just try your best when tasks are handed to you, and not be a bobo king. Giving your all as often as you can results in a chain effect; if everyone puts in 100%, the end result would likely be near perfection as well. It’s simple: quality effort equates quality work. Won’t you feel proud looking at the fruits of your labour? Also, it might inspire others to contribute more - who would want to slack off when everyone is working hard? Sia suay sia!


3. Have mutual respect for one another

Take it from me: You have to remember the SAF is a military organization, so while your superiors may only be 1-2 years older, they still outrank you. They have every right to punish you accordingly should you step out of line. Respect the rank they have trained hard to earn – you might be in their shoes (or boots) in the future. I’m sure you would want your subordinates to respect you and operate in an environment where the respect is mutual.

Also, there is something called the “chain of command”. This means you report to your direct superior first and he/she will follow up accordingly with their superior. If you disrupt the chain of command, it is lowkey implying your direct superior is incapable of handling your issue. Mutual respect also means it is best not to sidestep this chain of command unless in an emergency.


4. Help out when you can

Take it from me: You’ve probably heard of “act blur, live longer” but that’s often not the case. Don’t siam extra work if you have the time and means to help out. You never know when you might need a favour from others. After all, what goes around comes around. And most of the time you would be working in a team so the faster everyone finishes, the earlier y’all can pang kang. Sometimes your commanders might acknowledge the hard work by everyone and give days off or let everyone book out earlier. #welfareboleh!


5. Don’t be afraid to speak out

Take it from me: While you need to respect the experience and rank of others, you have the right to sound them out if they place you in an uncomfortable situation. Your personal safety is of the utmost importance and you know your limits the best. Don’t be a chiong sua warrior until you collapse from exhaustion. This means looking out for your peers as well and if you spot any irregularities or potential hazards, sound out immediately. Safety is the one thing you should be kiasu about. As my commander always said: “You can always postpone or hold another training, but you cannot take back an injury caused”.


6. Don’t be a know-it-all

Take it from me: Don’t be a smartass. If you don’t know, just say you don’t know. Nobody is perfect and we all make mistakes. While you may be better than others in a certain field and it is good to capitalise on your strengths, it is absolutely fine to admit your shortcomings as well. More often than not when you pretend to know, you might end up making a bigger mess than before. Keep in mind your actions will affect other people and trust me, you don’t want to be the person everyone arrows the blame at when things go wrong. Kiang jiu ho, mai kay kiang!

Here's wishing you a great experience in NS, guys!

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