I haven’t been feeling too good these past few days. My mouth is dry, my eyes are burning (slightly). I went to bed at around 7 or 8pm, and I woke up at 10pm- so I figured I’d write and publish something before going back to bed. And I’ve been meaning to get started on some memoir stuff forever, and I figure it’s best to do it in lots of baby steps. So here’s one.
I have two particular memories that really stand out for me during my National Service that have been lingering on my mind for some time. One was during my Basic Military Training at Pulau Tekong, and the other was during my Signal Operator course at Stagmont Camp. In both cases, the beautiful memory involved getting to sleep in, and unexpectedly so.
Tekong first. I believe this was after we were already done with field camp, which is I think the turning point of BMT- where you start feeling more “soldier-like”, instead of being merely a boy wearing a uniform. Survive field camp, and you know that you’re not in Kansas anymore.
So in one of the weeks following field camp, I think there was training for IPPT (Individual Physical Proficiency Test?). Some of us had already passed, and wouldn’t need to take the test again- the bulk of the training was for those who failed. (Actually, I can’t really remember the exact details anymore.)
Anyway, we woke up at 530am or so for breakfast, as usual- did our morning PT, had breakfast, and then went up to our bunks. We would typically have about half an hour or so before we’d have to fall in for the IPPT test. We went down- and it started raining thunderously. It was about 7am, and yet the sky was pitch black, and it was freezing cold. We waiting around for about 20 minutes or so before our sergeants told us to return to our bunks and wait for further instructions.
There were none. We’d be completely free until lunchtime. We smoked cigarettes in our bunk (oh wow, I’d almost forgot about that. I’m getting a little emotional just thinking about this…) I happily got back into my bed and enjoyed some of the most luxurious sleep I ever had during my NS life. I still remember how cold it was, I still remember the pouring sound of the rain, and how I huddled under my yellow blanket to keep warm.
The second time this happened was during my Signal Operator course. I was posted to a PES C platoon, so many of my platoon-mates had old injuries or pre-existing conditions that excused them (or us, collectively) from participating in particularly strenuous activities. I think there were two instances- both after particular exercises- where we had the entire day to ourselves. We’d have to wake up for breakfast, as usual- but the rest of the day was ours.
We went back to bed after breakfast, and I remember waking up again at around 10am or so- and it was just such a peaceful, blissful day. I saw some guys playing cards, some guys were reading, some were sitting around listening to music, some were talking and joking, some went to smoke. It was a beautiful lull. (I’d do something immeasurably stupid later on, though- I’d open up some newspapers and the edge of the paper went straight into my right eye, which would be red for practically a week afterwards.)
Lots of good memories. I suppose as I sit here now, 3 months after I’ve completed my BMT, I find myself trying to recreate those moments. They were blissful not merely because they were idle- but because they were much-needed moments of idleness in an otherwise stifling schedule. You only really enjoy sitting on your ass after you’ve been put through the grinder for a bit.