Sunday, March 15, 2009

In-Camp Training

I just had my first Army In-Camp Training 12 years after completing my conscription duties. I was expecting the worst because I guess I am so out of touch with military life. Fortunately though, it was quite a pleasant experience (all things considered) despite the 2 weeks of hassle and disruption it has on my work and life in general. 

I think generally speaking, Singaporeans do sacrifice quite a bit when it comes to National Service. The maximum number of days that the military can ask people to drop whatever they are doing and to go back for military training (after being given months of advanced notice) is 40 days, which is really a lot of time. I couldn't believe it when I found out this figure recently; I thought it was a typo! Naturally, the support from family and colleagues and work is crucial for this to work out.  

During the time I did my 28-months conscript obligations, I served in various places including Infantry, Air Force, and Armour units local and overseas. I didn't get reassigned until 2 years ago when I was posted to 2 People Defence's Force and a unit called Armour Support Unit (ASU), which is under HQ32SIB according to here.

It turns out that ASU is a pretty cool unit to be in because its main vehicle is the V200 which is used to transport infantry troops. The vehicle has big wheels that look impressive and it does travel rather quickly on the roads. More information can be found here , here, here, here, here and here. According to this MINDEF website , it's built by Cadillac Gage and also known as the Commando. A 3-person crew mans the V200: driver, gunner and vehicle commander.

I had the oppotunity to learn how to be the gunner and vehicle commander. During in-camp training, there'll be a mix of people whom you'll get to meet. This is especially true in 2PDF where "we take NSmen from different non-functional units and group them together during their first three In-Camp Training (ICT) stints... In their NSF (conscript) days, they might have been drivers, storemen or instructors of training institutions, but we put them together and slowly mould them into a battalion..." according to a MINDEF writeup. This makes the unit more interesting than usual because of varying military experiences of the makeup of your colleagues. 

Another interesting this is the 'leveler effect' of the uniform. Normally we might perceive people by the civilian jobs they do but when everyone is wearing the same thing, people just treat each other the same way whether it's cleaning the vehicle or mounting an 80kg big gun (in their disassembled parts) onto the turrent. People have generally no airs about themselves when it comes to this sort of thing (at least that was my experience this time.)

I was also interested in morale. What sort of attitudes do NSMen (working adults who need to come back for 'reservist' training) have about the whole thing? I'm happy to report that, most of the guys were quite serious about training. They knew that this was a necessary hassle but they also understood that they needed to get the job done. We're all in this together so we might as well enjoy the ride.  

How about leadership? Do we feel that our commanders are committed and can be relied in operations? There is a difference between the commanders I encountered during my conscript days and what I see now. It seems that as folks grow older, they also become more understanding and will do the right things, and not just do things right. (Probably the 'thinking soldiers' mantra is starting to have an effect.) The officers and warrant officers all seemed to be very reasonable. They are not overly bureaucratic and they try to help make the best use of our time in camp. So overall, it was quite a good experience and I met many interesting people. I have another ICT in 2 months time(!) and I'm most probably going to revert to my previous job: a logistics/storeman sergeant. This one will last 20 days! If they can only make the training a little shorter...

Update (!): Here's a picture of the last day of my second ICT.


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