Once A Soldier, Always A Soldier

We may be small, but don’t mess with us.

By Alywin Chew      5 July 2021

I really don’t understand why so many Singaporeans are proud of the fact that we can walk the streets in the wee hours of the morning and not get mugged.

Yes, Singapore is a safe country. But come on lah, how often are you out on the streets at such weird hours?

Besides, even if you are, you’re most likely not walking around aimlessly in a dark secluded alley.

You’d be having supper.

And how dangerous can that be?? The most likely crime that’ll occur during these hours is someone ordering mee goreng mamak with luncheon meat. Or buying rum and raisin ice cream from 7-Eleven.

Do you know what we should truly be proud of? Our national defence.

I’m not just saying this because of SAF Day, which took place on July 1.

I’m saying this because it is downright astounding that a nation as tiny as ours has a military that puts others in the region to shame. It’s no secret that Singapore boasts a small but highly sophisticated military that packs one heck of a punch.

Yes, we may be small. Yes, we may be ultimately overwhelmed by a much larger force.

But this isn’t about winning wars. This is all about deterrence.

Singapore having a powerful military is like a small kid in a rough neighbourhood who knows kung-fu – the menacing bullies know that they won’t walk away from a fight without getting hurt by the super lethal Tiger Claw on Two Rambutans move.

From the viewpoint of potential enemies, it must be intimidating that most men on this island know how to operate an assault rifle. During my time in National Service, I learned how to operate not one or two but more than 10 types of weapons and explosive ordnances.

I’m practically John Rambo. But armed with Havaianas, FBT shorts and a beer belly.

Having a strong national defence is not only good for the country – it’s also beneficial for the people. I don’t think most people would argue that National Service is a life-changing experience. As much as I disliked Pulau Tekong, I must admit that the experience was enlightening.

For most of us, NS is the first time in life we get to leave our comfortable bubbles and echo chambers and experience the real world. This is the first time in life that we get to learn that a person is often more than meets the eye.

For example, the quiet bespectacled nerd in my platoon turned out to be the most garang of the lot, while the loudmouthed and seemingly fearless ah beng was shivering on all fours as he scaled the Apex Ladder.

I reckon National Service is good for the environment too. Can you recall how many times you helped fertilise the verdant jungles of Tekong?

Most importantly, you get to learn useful life lessons and skills such as being a stickler for punctuality, learning to work as a team, and stripping your wife in less than 30 seconds.

Apologies. Force of habit.

I meant your SAR 21 assault rifle. Phew, dodged a #metoo there.

Come to think of it, don’t you find it weird that we’ve always been told by our sergeants that our SAR 21s are like our wives?

I mean, it doesn’t really put them in a good light, does it?

Because they’re always trying to steal your woman during field camp!

LOL Mondays is an ongoing series of slice-of-life stories from freelance writer and NSman Alywin Chew. Look out for the humorous tales which will be posted every first Monday of the month, to help you drive away your Monday blues!

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


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