One of my many gripes of being posted to an army unit is that, on a superficial level, the knowledge gained there are not applicable to civilian life, as compared to be posted into a police or a civil defence unit. I tried asking to be posted to a driver unit and a medical unit so that I could gain some knowledge that I can use once I am out of NS but of course they were rejected. I don't want to talk about discipline and regimentation of the army and how it helps us in our civilian life. That is very generic as NS discipline is learnt in other units and vocations too. Heck! I hear that they have cleaners in camp now and the NSFs don't have to do area cleaning and clean toilets anymore.They have no idea how many times we had to book out later then planned just because there were dusts at the corner of a window frame or a polishing brush bristle at the corridor.
Well I guess, the only main takeaway I have from the army is just.... experience.
So today I am going to share my experiences with things that I cannot get anywhere in my civilian life. “Call of Duty” is not counted. Our cool weapons.
I am not going to share information about the weapons as you can always google them. I am going to share with you experiences that I had with them.
Our first wife. Being the last batch of the 2nd generation army, I still managed to get to use the M16 rifle. I still think that it is beautiful. I still prefer it to the SAR21 even though the SAR is a much better weapon. Why? Because army is wayang. And the M16 looks good to be in a wayang. It gave me the war feels. I felt like I was in some Hollywood war movie in Vietnam. The SAR21 has the modern feels. It made me feel like I am in a video game. So M16 is the weapon of choice for me. Especially when you get to hold it and ride a helicopter.
Another important reason. You can fix a bayonet in front of the M16. A brutal war feel. Ask all 2nd generation soldiers, what does a bayonet remind you of? We would say, “bayonet fighting”. Could have been super fun but with the use of SAR21 now, those training has become obsolete.
I am going to share an experience that will make you all jealous.
Since I am the last few batches of the 2nd generation army, there was a time of transition to 3rd generation. Some time during my NS days at Bedok Camp, we were told that we will transition from M16 to SAR21. So we said goodbye to our used and reused and I don't know how many batch has used, our M16 weapon. For your info, we were all officially assigned to our weapons, so that particular rifle was ours for months.
One day, we were told to collect our SAR21. So in batches, we went to the collection point. We all had a new rifle each. It was given in an unopened box, sealed, and had our names on it. Imagine going to the collection point and they gave you a bow with your name on it like a parcel. We went back to our company line and opened it like a new toy. It was really new. It was a very cool experience. At that time we didn't have online shopping so these kind of unboxing things were special. Imagine a new SAR21 delivered especially for you. How cool is that.
SECTION AUTOMATIC WEAPON (SAW)
A mini machine gun. Cool right? Yes it looks cool. It's specifications sounds cool too. But when you use it to fire blank rounds, it becomes a sniper rifle. 1 cock 1 shot. When you hear someone shouting “IA!” (Immediate Action) during a firefight, it is most definitely the SAW gunner.
M203 GRENADE LAUNCHER
Attached below the barrel of an M16 or a SAR21, this thing is powerful. On paper. It can propel a grenade to an intended target. How powerful is that. But since we are all training to be soldiers, we hardly got to use it. I think in my whole army life, I only experienced an M203 live firing twice. So the soldier who was assigned to be an M203 gunner only had the experience of firing it twice while the rest of his army life, he had to carry that extra weight in his hands. Those things get heavier the further we walk. Sometimes we are told to simulate the use of an M203 during our mission exercises. But most times, they are not feasible because we would be walking in thick forests. The “simulated grenades” would not have enough foliage clearance to propel anyway.
GENERAL PURPOSE MACHINE GUN (GPMG)
Unlike the SAW, this one works. It is a fun weapon. On paper. In real life, it is a trouble. This gun needs a 3 men team to operate. Well actually, the idea of a 3 men team is fun. 1 commander, 1 assistant to carry the rounds and 1 gunner to carry the gun. Sounds good, if you're an infantry unit. There are other items that are associated with the team. For an infantry unit, these items would be placed in a “combat train”, a truck that will rendezvous with you upon reaching your objective. But for a Guards unit that is inserted behind enemy lines, we had to carry the items ourselves. So what are the items?
Extra box of rounds. Spare barrel. Cleaning kit. Camouflage net. Tripod with Anti Aircraft attachment. Night vision binoculars with spare batteries. Normal binoculars.
It was terrible I tell you. The tripod is a nightmare. I have permanent back damage because of this load and still experience pains till today.
For most guns, we use the 5.56mm ball. For the GPMG we use the 7.62mm. There are the live rounds and also the blank rounds for training. For night shoots, we would also use a “Tracer” round. 1 tracer after every 4 normal rounds. We all really enjoyed looking at tracers leaving red trails during these night live range. You can google to see how these tracer rounds look like when they are fired.
And how can we forget the “Universal Rounds”. Magic bullets that can kill any enemy. All you had to do was shout “Bang! Bang!” as you charged towards your enemies.
ANTI TANK WEAPONS
We had the Armbrust Light Anti Tank (LAW) weapon. But again, just like the M203, I think we only fired it twice. Quite fun because when we watch movies, these “bazookas” pack explosions when fired. But these LAW weapons are recoilless. There was no explosion when fired too. Only a cool air splitting sound... like “shiiiuuuuuuuu.....”. The explosion only happens when then round hits the target.
Pretty much similar for the heavier 84mm Recoilless Rifle. Urrghh... these things are heavier. I cannot complain when I was assigned to be in a GPMG team because it was still luckier than being assigned to an 84mm team.
These are my personal favourites. Pen flare, rocket flare and trip flare. The closest I could get to fireworks.
There was once when we had rocket flare training, one guy had a faulty flare. Instead of firing forward, it got stuck a while and exploded backwards. Luckily it was just a flare so we just had to put the fire out.
One interesting experience I had with a trip flare was in Thailand. So I set up a trip flare around or platoon defence area. The point of a trip flare is, when the enemy accidentally step on a cable, the flare will burst and burn for 40 seconds for us to see and locate the enemy. Of course these things are for enemies that try to creep to our area at night.
But it was in the day and suddenly the flare tripped and exploded. At that time I was just assigned to platoon 9 from platoon 8. It was my first overseas mission with them. One of the funny thing for platoon 9 is that there is this guy named “Foo”. Every time something goes wrong, the other guys will say, “Must be Foo!” even on times that he wasn't involved. So it was a joke and it was rather funny. I never saw anything wrong that he did. But on that day (yes in the day) when the trip flared, the guys around me immediately shouted “Must be Foo!”. And you would have guessed it by now, he meekly appeared from behind the bushes and said, “sorry sorry.....” It was really him! I still remember that moment and how I laughed so hard seeing this “Must be Foo!” thing actually happened.
Just like the LAW and M203. We only got to experience these explosive devices maybe twice or thrice in our life. The rest of the time, we had to carry the dummies of these things. Nevertheless those few moments of using the real thing were pretty fun.
When we didn't have enough stocks for dummy grenades, we were told to create a few for ourselves. And also so that it won't be expensive for us to replace them if we lose them. So we filled empty yakult bottles with sand and taped them up using blue gaffer tapes.
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