So here it is. I am almost at the end of the road.
For those of you who have been reading my army series post, I thank you. I started blogging the army series back in 2020. The early days of covid and circuit breaker when I was pretty much jobless as a non-essential artist. It was a very difficult period of time. The blog was meant to be consistent. Like maybe one post a week. But low traffic, low readership added to the downward spiral of motivation especially with the bloody covid making life difficult. I still posted whenever I had the slight motivation to. Most of it was because I want to document these experiences before my memory fails and also hoping that it can be a source of reference with the ever changing army system and lifestyle. Honestly I still think that it just keeps getting easier over the years. If you don’t think so, then it’s your point of view. I have mine, you have yours. We don’t share the same bunk.
So it has been more than 3 years of this series. You have read. The first post on enlistment and now the post on ORD. 3 years is actually longer than NS itself which was 2 and half years then. Not like 2 years now.
So here we are. The road to ORD. Back to civilisation. Back to being a civilian. Back to life.
I think I have mentioned somewhere before that people usually clear their leave before they ORD. Not including weekends, clearing leave can actually stretch to about 2 months. But I am still very salty about this. My unit didn’t give us much opportunities to clear leave. On the day I ORD, I still had like around 14 days of leave and 10 days off, thereabouts, uncleared. Burnt. It’s not fair. I hate it. That’s one of the sucky thing about my NS life that I will never forget.
If you see the last post where we were in Australia, there is a time stamp at the photo that showed the date. 21st of November 2002 was the date we left Australia and was heading back to Singapore. My ORD date is 12th December 2002. That is less than a month away. 24 days of leave not including Sundays means that I could clear my leave starting the 12th of November. But no. I was still in Australia.
And then we reached home. And guess what? We had to take turns to clear or leave. At least 2 sergeants per platoon have to be in camp while the others clear their leave. Not to mention we still had to do Company duties and Guard duties. I managed to clear some days off and leave and yet I still had 14 days leave and 10 days off. Can you imagine how much time we spent for the army during that 2.5 years depriving us from our entitled leaves and off. I’m sure it won’t be the case now. I’m sure nowadays people will be kicking up a fuss. I really wish I could. But it’s all in the past now.
And then, guess what again…. We had an ORD parade! Wow, so fun. So good to be recognised. So good to be properly sent off. But but but….. a parade means, you have to go through rehearsals. Days and days of ORD parade rehearsals meaning even more days where we couldn’t clear our leave. I am sighing as I typed this. It was really a test of patience.
And guess what again and again? Because some of us were required to stay in camp while others took leave, some were tasked to do duties as mentioned above, some others actually have nothing to do. We just slacked in the bunk. Yes. In camp but nothing to do. So, we were attached to some places just so we will not slack. I remember I was attached to NCC camp at Amoy Quee for a few days just because I didn’t have anything to do. It was me and someone else. I thought it was Nurizam. But when he visited me at home when I was sick, he said it wasn’t him. So obviously I cannot remember much about the attachment. Most probably I was pissed off that I couldn’t clear my leave and went on auto pilot mode throughout that period.
Anyway, the ORD parade happened. I cannot remember when but it was a few days before the actual ORD date. The parade was in the evening and at the end of the parade, we left the bunk and camp for good. From that day, everyone could leave the camp and clear whatever leave there was left. No one was needed to come back to camp. No more duties. I remember I left happily. Finally leaving everything behind. I am back home.
13th June 2000. I enlisted. Pulau Tekong.
12th December 2002. Exactly 2.5 years. I walked back alone to Bedok Camp. It was in the afternoon. Maybe about 2pm. I head to HQ company. Looked for the staff in charge. Looked for my name in the list. Found my name, struck it off the list, and he handed me my pink IC. A simple card that I haven’t seen for 2 and a half years.
Placed my card in my wallet, walked out of Bedok camp in the afternoon east coast heat.
ORD oh!! No more NS! Thank you everyone for reading this series from the beginning. From the post on enlistment, to the post where I ORD. It has been a long 3 years. Just like how it was a long 2.5 years in NS. I hope you have enjoyed this series as much as I have enjoyed reminiscing and documenting. Look through the table of contents to read them again or to check out posts that you might have missed.
One more time….. ORD OH!!!! No more NS!! Goodbye Cruel World!!!
Eh wait. What does ORD mean? It means, Operationally Ready Date. Meaning, before this date, we are technically still in training. Meaning, from this date onwards, we would be ready for any given operation in real life situations. Meaning…. we are still in the army? Of course! For 10 more cycles!! End of full time National Service, yes! But not the end of army life! Alamak! You mean there’s more????
Next Week : Post NS and Mobilisation
Categories : The Army Series
ATEC 2 completed. Done and dusted. We left Samuel Hill camp and head for civilisation. Off to Rockhampton City. I think I mentioned before that it was a nice city. I don’t know if it is still is. But at that time, it was nice. A city that I really wouldn’t mind migrating to. I don’t like living in a village. I really do not miss nor envy having to balik kampung. No. I really do not like the village. I am a city boy born and raised in the city. Rockhampton is not as bustling as Singapore and I like it that it was peaceful. I like that. A peaceful quiet city. Not as quiet as a village or as busy as Singapore. Rockhampton was just nice.
I honestly cannot remember much of our last R&R. My mind was already looking forward to ORD and back to live a normal civilian life. I just went through the motion for the last few weeks in service. I think we spent a night at Rockhampton City. I think. I don’t even have pictures of it. But I have quite a lot of pictures at the next destination thus I have vague memories of it.
After a night at Rockhampton City, we went to Capricorn Resort, on the coast of Queensland. A resort where we will stay for 2 days and a night before travelling back to Singapore. The first time we came to Australia, we only spent our R&R at Rockhampton. So this time, heading to holiday resort was quite fun. Like I said, I cannot remember anything other than having photographs to remind me that I was there. I cannot even remember the memories that came with the photos. Most probably I slept the days away. I don’t even remember taking part in any activities.
So yes, this is another photo filled blog entry.
So here it is. Capricorn Resort.
We then head back to Rockhampton and took a flight home. As I am typing this, I really am trying to remember but I cannot. My brain has deleted them or my brain didn’t even record them. It was just ORD ORD ORD.
Thank you Rockhampton. You were nice. I would like to migrate there some day. But me being a practical person, it will never happen and let it just be a part of life never to be repeated again.
Next Week : Road to ORD
Categories : The Army Series
OK! Here we go! 3rd Battalion Singapore Guards 10th Mono Intake ATEC 2. The one we have been training for. The O levels of National Service. The ultimate objective we have to conquer to get back our pink IC.
We were back at the Shoalwater Bay training area, Queensland Australia. As you would have known by now, I hate travelling. But I must say, the place is actually beautiful. Though it is just an arid sub tropical climate of endless sand dust and dried up trees.
Honestly I cannot remember much about our ATEC 2. So most probably it is just going to be a short post. Yes. The memories are inevitably disappearing. Of course, part of it is because, we don’t really want to remember it as we were going through it.
Same thing like before, it was just mission after mission. Walk after walk. Longer summer days. Cold Australian nights. The vegetation was sparse, making firefights quite easy. We were very fit but we were also very sleepy. I cannot remember how long was ATEC 2 but we didn’t care. Every day is another day closer to earn our freedom and back to our normal lives after ORD.
I will include more pictures here so you can see how beautiful the place is, though of course pictures can never do justice to the place compared to what your eyes can see. More pictures because less words.
I do remember some small things about it.
One. Gam’s coffee rush.
I was in the GPMG team. I had 2 men under me, Shahrizal and Gam. We had damn heavy loads to carry. I still cannot understand why they put me, a skinny fellar, to be in this team. I had good men. These 2 guys were as strong as an ox. But still, the toughness of the missions and the terrain can wear the fittest and strongest down.
I remember we were very sleepy. We were very tired too. Like all missions, we would have to walk to the objective. The walk would usually take the whole night. As we reached the objective, Gam was spamming coffee powder. He ate them all from the sachets. I understand because we were all extremely sleepy. But he spammed it right before we began our firefight at the objective and suddenly he had the coffee rush. Even with the load, he sprinted past us during the firefight. It was always me running first and they tagged behind me as they wait my assessment and my instructions. But for this mission, Gam just sprinted and “killed” the enemies as fast as he could while me and Shahrizal had to keep up with him. It was funny. After the mission, we laughed and he just said… “wow that was a rush.” Of course after that, we were tired again.
Two. We were fierce.
It was ATEC 2. We didn’t want to fail it. We wanted to get it done and get out of there. The umpires were doing their jobs but also tried to make life difficult for us by throwing challenges. Some time before this, we were told to always respect them and adhere to their instructions and their decisions. But this particular exercise, we didn’t care. We knew our stuff. We trained and fought together longer than the umpires knew us. We knew our drills like clockwork. The umpires had to run to keep up with us. Way back when we started our training 1.5 years ago, Lieutenant Jason told us that we must be like dogs, upon released into the battlefield, we have to sprint and hunt our enemies down before they could react. That was what we did. It was our last burst of fire. And sprinted we did. Some of the umpires were not happy because they could not see what we did and could not decide on the “kills”. But we barked at them, both the enemies and the umpires. It wasn’t our fault they couldn’t keep up. I remember seeing many of us ignoring the umpires, including myself and screaming back at them whenever they made “dubious” decisions and we fought until we got our way. It was fun.
Three. Fardlie challenging our CO.
Well he was just doing his job. I was nearby and I saw it. We were supposed to defend an area and if anybody were to approach, we would have to challenge the person with a password. If they get it wrong, it was our job to engage him. It was night, it was dark. CO and his entourage approached our area and Fardlie challenged him for the password. Of course he got it right, and passed through but what happened after that, his entourage laughed at us sarcastically, “waaaah you all dare challenge CO ah?” Sorry. We don’t angkat or tripod ranks. Doesn’t mean got high rank, we have to put flowers for him to pass. This is not the CC or grassroots event. This is ATEC. We mean business.
So yeah, that’s all I can remember. We ended ATEC like battle hardened soldiers. Went back to Samuel Hill Camp and enjoyed our rest.
ATEC 2 final result : High Redcon 2A
Bolehlah. As long no need to redo. As long as we can ORD in time and in peace.
Next Week : Exercise Wallaby Again (Part 3)
Categories : The Army Series
November 2002. Our second time travelling to Australia. Again I dread travelling overseas. But this time it felt ok because it is our second time and I kind of know what to expect. The flight duration, where we land, where we are going to stay and of course, what we will be doing.
This time around, it will be our ATEC 2. ATEC means Army Training Evaluation Centre. Every NS and reservist unit will have to go through this test organised by the centre. There will be 2 tests. Like an exam for the unit.
ATEC test 1, or what we call ATEC 1, will be a few months before ATEC 2. Like mid year exam like that. Then ATEC 2 will be year end exam. The scores for both tests will be combined and then you will get your overall score for the unit. I just realise I didn’t write a blog post about ATEC 1. By now we would have completed it.
So what happened in ATEC 1 is basically a test for a soldier’s readiness. We were tested individually for our technical handling skills with our weapons, meaning we can operate our weapons efficiently. Like, strip weapon and assemble weapon within a stipulated time, weapon malfunction contingency actions and also our marksmanship. There was also tests for the section in combat situations too I think. Every soldier will be tested and then the scores will be combined to reflect the unit’s overall score. For ATEC 1, we got the top score which was called Redcon 1. Basically like getting A1 for exams.
The gradings were something like:
High Redcon 2A
Low Redcon 2A
If your unit gets Redcon 3, you will have to do a retest, meaning you will take ATEC 1 all over again.
So we completed ATEC 1 with Redcon 1. Now we are going on to ATEC 2.
ATEC 2 is to test the combat effectiveness of the whole battalion. Meaning, how the whole battalion execute missions. No more tests on the individual or the section but for the battalion as a whole. Same thing, we try to avoid Redcon 3 so that we do not have to do a retest. Once all this are done, only then can the unit ORD. ORD actually means Operationally Ready Date. Meaning, when you pass both tests, then the unit is ready for operation.
So we are here at Rockhampton, Queensland Australia again for ATEC 2. For us, we just want to ORD and get our pink IC and our lives back. (At this point of writing, I found out that NSF now don’t have to surrender their pink IC to MINDEF anymore.) So the morale is quite high. Get this thing done and we ORD. But the shit thing was, we were supposed to ORD on the 12th of December 2002. We heard stories from those who completed their NS before us that they could clear their leave before their ORD. Sometimes up to a month plus. But we couldn’t because we had to do our ATEC 2 in November 2002. A month before we ORD. So we just had to say goodbye to our leave. For me personally, I had about 14 days of leave unused. And also numerous more days of unclaimed offs. I am still annoyed by that till today.
November 2002. Exercise Wallaby again. ATEC 2. No chance to clear leave and off. November means it is summer in the southern hemisphere. Meaning daylight is longer. And at that time it was the fasting month. Great. Graaaappeeeee!
It’s the same Rockhampton airport again. The same Vanilla Coke. The 40 sticks cigarette packs. The same 2 litre milk drinks.
The same ride to Shoalwater Bay training area. The same first checkpoint at Samuel Hill Camp before heading to Old Camp Growl.
Eh wait…. we reached Samuel Hill Camp and we were told that we will be settling there. Woohoo! No need to go Old Camp Growl! Samuel Hill have much better facilities. Our tentages will be on cement and not gravel. There’s a proper administration building made of concrete and most importantly, there is a proper toilet and shower! We still had to be butt naked with everyone to take a shower but at least it’s proper. Not some makeshift tents. I don’t have much photos. Like I said before, we didn’t have digital cameras. But I found a blog with photos which you can have a look.
So we settled down in our camp. We are already familiar with the routines by now and also the schedule.
1st week. Administration and practice exercises.
2nd week. ATEC 2
3rd Week. Administration and R&R
Yup another 3 weeks here in the Australian outback. Let’s get it done and then we can ORD! Make sure don’t get Redcon 3 la.
Next week : Exercise Wallaby Again (Part 2)
Categories : The Army Series
Web logs of art activities on a regular basis (hope).