Monday, April 21, 2014

MR loh!

I've recently finished the last leg of my national service, the much coveted MR (Mindef Reserve) parade. It has been a very long journey - 13 yrs to be exact - since I was enlisted as a recruit when I was just 18. Some of the people whom I've met when I was 18 was still with me when I went MR. Frightening thought, isn't it? How many 18 yrs do you have? I knew these people for half of my life! What's the feeling of MR? Is it like achieving financial independence or sending the last cheque to HDB because you're finally done with your housing loans?

It's a mix of feelings, actually. There's a tinge of sadness because I don't really mind reservist, especially when you get to enjoy a different pace of life. There's a certain simplicity in army life that I quite like, though I would never sign on as a career soldier because I don't think I'm suitable. There's also a feeling of accomplishment that I've finished this portion of life as a Singaporean male. This is something that not all the people can get to live through. I know how some people hated all things army, but it's still a sort of experience, isn't it? I'm glad I got to experience army life as a Singaporean male.

My unit is special - MR parade at marina floating platform

There's a few things that I'm grateful for in my 13 yrs of service to the nation:

1. Due to some changes in my unit that I'm posted to, I got to experience different sort of management under different commanding officers. I've been though one that is very pro micromanagement and information only flows one direction - from top to down. This is the unit that I've been with since NSF (national service full time) days and I don't really like them. Very rigid. Disciplined? Yes, but only when we need to show it when there are people around. I had a feeling that I always need to pretend that I'm busy so that I won't be 'arrowed' to do some nonsense work because I've finished my work faster than the rest.

Thankfully a small group of my friends got posted out when the former unit was disbanded. The management of this new unit is more hands off, preferring to let individual small groups take over command, while they follow a general orders from higher ups. Is it disciplined? Less so, but there's a great advantage to empowering people from bottoms up. The people in this unit is much more motivated. You see people volunteering to do shit jobs so that the majority can move on in their program schedule. You see people doing extra and giving feedback so that the unit can improve in future events. You even get unit pride so that you don't 'lose face' when doing unit's capability assessment test. Basically, I got a culture shock when I went in because nowhere in my army life had I seen such camaraderie and esprit de corp. This unit went on to get the best NS unit ever in Armour formation, and I'm proud to say that I'm one of their members.

There's life lessons to be learnt from this two opposing views from two different management teams, don't you think?

2. I'm extremely thankful that I have a group of friends that I've known for 18 yrs. When you knew someone that long, you no longer need any pretense. There's no need to talk about the weather and other trivial stuff because these kind of small talk had long gone stale in the first few years of knowing them. These are the people that I've gone through thick and thin with, both in terms of their waistline and also the kind of challenges faced when in service. You knew them so well that you know what they are going to do in the morning when they wake up (brush teeth first or change uniform first?), and who are the ones that will snore and the ones you can always count on for some chocolates or biscuits when you're outfield during exercise. They are perhaps the only group of people who have seen me in various state of undress. If I've not known them for 18 yrs, it would have been creepy. Very creepy.

They are the group of people that you would fight for. Never mind the lofty ideals of serving the nation - that's just pure propaganda. When you're deep in shit, you don't think about serving the nation. You think about not letting your buddies down.

It's great to know these guys.

3. I'm glad that I've been through NS. It's really an eye opening experience that I wish all people can get to experience. But you need to keep an open mind, otherwise everything that doesn't fit your 'normal' experiences will make you unhappy. Angry, even. My philosophy in life is to get as much experience as possible, and not necessarily the good ones only. Just as you need rain and sunshine to make a rainbow, you also need good and bad experience to enjoy life's rainbows. If you go through life like that, then everything is like an achievement waiting to be unlocked in the game of life.

Fired a real bullet from a real rifle - Achievement UNLOCKED.
Thrown a hand grenade without killing yourself - Achievement UNLOCKED.
Not having a proper shower for 14 days -Achievement UNLOCKED.
Shitted outfield? - LOCKED

It just adds on to the variety of experience that life offers. And no matter how much I complain when I'm actually in it, I'll miss those pesky mosquitoes in the jungle and peeing in the bushes, and eating combat rations. These are the things that you will remember in your life, because it's so different from routine.

The BMT recruits are marching out. We've finished out portion and are just watching the parade as a spectator. Kind of strange because this is the first I've watched it as a spectator. Usually just a participant marching.

As a great round up to the whole NSF to NS to MR experience, I've to participate in a big scale kind of MR parade where BMT (basic military training) newbie recruits are graduating to their next phase in their army life while older soldiers like us are graduating to a pure civilian life outside. Passing the honorable duty of defending the nation from one generation to another.

BMT recruits a celebrating their Passing Out Parade (POP). 12 more years to go, newbies.

Last parade of my life carrying a rifle, wearing skeleton battle order (SBO) and a beret and it had to rain. Heavily. Oh well...just take it and suck it up like a soldier.


Patty said...

Not bathing for 14 days I haven't achieved it. One of the unachievable perks for an arty man.

Shat outfield? Maxed level perk liao. Strangely, I can't let go at Jurong East MRT toilet or the shitter at Merdeka Parade Melaka. But when I am out in the field, it comes naturally, especially with a cigarette between my lips.

Unknown said...

Mind if I share it on Facebook?

la papillion said...

Hi Patty,

Alas, wrong class, so you can't achieve that perk. If you're not a thief, it's hard to achieve the "Pick 100 locks" achievement LOL

I've never shitted outfield, and I'm happy I didn't have to! It's a control of what you put in your mouth during the 7 days haha

la papillion said...

Hi Anthony,

Don't mind it at all. Do share :)

Derek said...

Hi LP,

Heartiest congratulations from 442SAR. I agree to everything you have said. I don't care what the naysayers say but NS was one of the most memorable days of my life.


Singapore Man of Leisure said...


I was wondering who is Mr Loh?

Oh! It's your end of the 13 year reservist cycle :)

Mine ended when I was 37.

I missed my reservist days. It's like a retreat to me where I don't have to use my brains for 1 to 2 weeks.

The moment I put on my uniform, I immediately gain the unique ability to sleep anywhere, anytime ;)


Anonymous said...

Hi LP,

Wow i find not bathing for 14 days much harder than not shitting outfield for 4 days! Not good for your bowel you know? Haha

Congrats to your MR. I had only completed halfway of my cycle... will enjoy it while it lasts hehe

Also interesting they combine BMT POP with NSmen MR parade! Make them envy/jealous or look forward to it?

la papillion said...

Hi Derek,

You're from armour too? Haha, indeed, NS is full of both happy and 'xiong' memories. Both are good experiences to have :)

la papillion said...


Hehe, me too! When I put on my uniform, it'll take me a few days to adjust to the slower pace in army. Once I'm 'in the zone', I can sleep anyway, and basically rest my brains for the duration of the training. That's what I like about reservist - a change of pace :)

la papillion said...

Hi aceirus,

Aiya, I really don't want to shit outfield, that's why must endure lol

Not showering, brushing your teeth and shaving for 2 weeks makes one highly irritable and aggressive...maybe that's the point haha

Yea, I heard every year from now on, they will combine one reservist unit that goes MR with the BMT graduating companies, to give a sense of passing down the duty of defending the nation from one generation to another. For my MR parade, there's a uncle in my unit with a nephew who is in the graduating BMT parade. These two are responsible for passing down the state flag from our unit to the BMT unit. I think they are trying to bring some meaning to the whole affair.

I thought it's quite interesting :)

Solace said...

Hi LP,

Dropping by to say hi.

MR is indeed wonderful. Army mates will be the ones i miss most from reservist.

I still got about 4 more cycle to go. looking forward the end.