LOL Mondays: Join The Army, They Said. See The World, They Said.

A free trip that comes with unexpected company.

By Alywin Chew        15 April 2024

Let’s be honest, being in the military does allow you to see the world. 

Well, at least some parts of it. 

Many of us would’ve at some point in time, be it during our NSF days or during reservist, participated in training overseas. I don’t know about you, but getting to travel was one of the highlights of my NS experience. I mean, come on – it’s a free trip courtesy of the SAF!

I’m sure many of you guys would have, like me, undergone survival training in the jungles of Brunei. To be honest, that wasn’t my favourite overseas training experience. But it certainly was the most memorable.

For those of you who haven’t set foot in Bruneian jungles – that place is terok, especially when compared to what we have in Singapore. 

Think dense vegetation filled with annoyingly prickly plants, giant centipedes the length of your arm, crocodile-filled rivers, and swarms of cicadas.

Ah yes, the cicadas. They created so much noise it is impossible to forget the havoc they wreaked in camp. 

No, I’m not just referring to the extremely loud noise the insects make. I’m also talking about the many young men who screamed like little girls whenever they found a cicada on their bed or in their boots.

And then there’s the fact that the jungles of Brunei get pretty scary at night because the forest canopies are so dense they block out all light after sunset.

I must admit it was quite disconcerting when I realised I could not see anything come nightfall. Yes, it gets so dark you cannot even see your own hands.

In fact, I think I developed a phobia of the dark after that trip. For years, I slept with a night light switched on through the night.

But I recently stopped doing that. I think I’m more afraid of the electricity bill.

But it’s not all blood, sweat, and tears. The jungle became our classroom, teaching us the value of resilience, teamwork, and quick thinking – skills that will serve us well long after we’ve bid farewell to the wilderness.

So, the next time you encounter a Singaporean NSman who has braved the Brunei jungle, make sure to lend an ear to their tales of adventure. Behind every amusing anecdote lies a tale of resilience, personal growth, and the indomitable spirit of the Singaporean NSman.

Here’s to the jungle warriors past and future – may your spirits stay high, your ponchos stay dry, and your adventures continue to mould you into the heroes you are destined to be!

LOL Mondays is an ongoing series of slice-of-life stories from freelance writer and NSman Alywin Chew. 

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