NSmen Share: Their First Day of Enlistment

The first day is always the hardest.

By Sean Yee        3 May 2023

Every Singaporean male knows that eventually, he will have to serve his patriotic duty in reinforcing the defence of our nation. However, that knowledge and mental preparation alone can never prepare him enough for his first day. National servicemen are often intimidated by this sudden transition, especially while being so far away from home.

While the assimilation may be an overwhelming process, it is also a reminder for many of the importance of family and home. Here, we ask NSmen to recall and share their experiences from their first day of enlistment – and for many, the first time they are away from their family. 


“I recall being part of the leadership batch upon my first day of enlistment. Despite the abrupt detachment from my parents (who were there as well), I relished the notion of true independence. I embraced the challenge of adapting to a new environment. It goes without saying that I loved my parents tremendously, but the concepts of self-reliance and self-support were refreshing. 

Admittedly, I did miss my mother occasionally, as I spent a lot of time with her prior to my enlistment. We would cook together, go about our household chores and even at times, catch a movie at the cinema together. Being in camp made me appreciate these moments even more.” – 2SG (NS) Mohammed Ramlee Samsudin, Infantry

More of our NSmen share about their mums and other female heroes in their lives who inspired them on their NS journey.

“Like any enlistee, I was filled with a strange mix of worry and excitement. 

No one can prepare you for the realities of National Service, no matter the number of stories you hear. Life took a different turn for me, as I was not sent to basic military training. Instead, I was posted to a unit directly as a result of my medical condition. While I did get to book out every day, that did not necessarily mean that I did not miss my family members. The experience was new and daunting, and there is comfort to just being around a familiar environment.

Ironically, it made going home even more exciting than it used to be. Every day I would look forward to a hot meal made with love.” – CPL Jacki Tan, Guards  

NSmen share about their funniest experiences on outfield training.

“My first day was incredibly overwhelming.

I remembered being on a 5-ton truck on its way to CMPB, as clueless and anxious as the next recruit. At CMPB were my parents and my brother, and while they toured the area, I was tossed from one station to another in quick succession. It did not help that none of the officers and sergeants told us exactly what was going on. We collected our barang barang (Malay slang for military equipment) and were immediately sent to the barber. 

It was difficult to think about anything else during my first day; I was constantly trying to make sense of the situation and assimilating to the unusual environment as best I could. Only later at night did the feeling of absence set in, as I realised I was all alone here. The army is really where boys become men.

While I was in camp, I definitely missed my mother’s fried chicken the most! No one can make chicken as crispy but juicy as my mother can.” – CPT Max Lee, Armour 

Read more about some of our NSmen’s most memorable in-camp meals.

“My first day was in 1995 and it was at Bukit Merah, at Depot Road. Unfortunately, my parents could not accompany me on my first day, so it was really demoralising. It didn’t help that the training was incredibly gruelling, and I wasn’t the most athletic. I just remembered being tired all the time, but as a result, time passed incredibly quickly. Every day was just a continuous flurry of activities, and I did not have much time to ponder or contemplate on the moment. 

I do recall the infamous 10 cent pay phones installed in camp, and a seemingly endless queue that would form right after our days’ events had concluded. We yearned to speak to our loved ones, to hear a familiar voice after a strenuous day.” – CPL Anthony Tan, Signal, HQ Signals

Share your favourite NS memories with us at magnsman@sph.com.sg!

NSmen, sign up for your complimentary 1-year SAFRA membership and enjoy discounts on dining and shopping purchases at over 2,000 merchant outlets islandwide, as well as members’ rates at more than 45 sports facilities at SAFRA clubs! 

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Photos: SPH Media Trust