National Service: Have no Fear

I recently went to visit one of my wife's cousins who lives in Bedok with his wife, two boys and his father-in-law.

His father-in-law is a worldly wise man with whom I enjoy discussing everything from astrology to current affairs.

In the course of the conversation, his daughter, who is married to my wife's cousin, echoed the fears of some Indian expatriates in Singapore.

She was afraid of her sons having to do National service in Singapore and wondered if her boys will not face discrimination during training.

My first point in reply to her fears was to tell her that my three brothers and I, as well as my elder son, are all for the training and exposure that we were subjected to in those few years of NS.

I recounted to her my days as an officer cadet trainee in the 5th SMC (Standard Military Course) where the officer commanding the company, a Captain William Koh, transferred a trainee to a different platoon on suspicion that he was being discriminated against by the trainee's section commander.

The section commander was no longer placed in control of the trainee thereafter.

The trainee went on to graduate as an officer served, with distinction, studied law at the university and to this day runs his own law firm.

My own Platoon Commander, I told her, was an officer who was educated in the chinese language stream of education, was an absolutely marvellous gentleman against whom none had any complaints whatsoever.

He was particularly understanding towards trainees who lacked fitness and gave them time to cope with the physical stress of training.

In the end, only one trainee did not make it as an officer.

The wide range of conversion courses that an officer or a specialist commander is exposed to, I impressed upon her, is a life long skill from which one can profit from.

Again, I could do no better than point to another of my friends who, though is a practising lawyer these days, was a Motor Transport Officer in his NS days.

He thrashes his Mercedes Benz around all because his training as a Motor Transport has taught him how to repair cars on his own.

He is never in need of having to send his car to the workshop for repairs. His house is fully equipped with the equipments necessary to raise the car and undertake under carriage repairs.

He runs a thriving legal firm but I am sure that if one day he loses the desire and indeed drive to carry on with the legal practice or just wants to get away with the stress of being a lawyer, he can run a an equally profitable car repair shop just as well.   

As for food she feared that as vegetarians her boys would be disadvantaged.

These days, the vegetarian fare and indeed the full range of the food served in army camps is equal to the best that one can get outside for there is a realisation amongst the authorities of the full force of Napoleon Bonaparte's famous saying that 'an army marches on its stomach', meaning of course that however hard you may train your soldiers their morale will not take a back seat if you take care of their welfare at the same time.

In fact, in the case of muslims observing the fasting hours in the month of Ramadan, breakfast is served early so that they can observe their religious rituals.

Needless to say, I assured the dear lady, the Muslim food and the vegetarian fare are served at different spots from where non vegetarian food is served.

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