As mentioned in the previous post, the only thing i can takeaway from the army is “experience”. Experiences that I can never get as a civilian. Experiences that are story topics during meet ups with other Singaporeans who served in the army.
Today I am going to share the experiences I had that I can never have experienced if I wasn't in the army. The experience of being able to step foot on and see the views of locations within Singapore that are not accessible for the general public. The experience of being at the various army training area in Singapore. Not including Pulau Tekong.
Sorry not much photos. They are restricted areas. But, you can always google them.
THE WESTERN CATCHMENT AREA
When I was in primary school, I enjoyed looking at the old street directory books and was always looking forward to the new edition every year. I still use street directory until today. You can download them on your phone. It is still to me much better than google maps. I don't understand why people rely on google maps to navigate when street directory is so much better.
So because I love reading the maps so much, at that time I memorised all the reservoirs in Singapore. We all know the common reservoirs but there are 4 reservoirs in the Western Catchment Area and they are not accessible to the public. Sarimbun, Murai, Poyan and Tengah. So I kind of wished that I can see them one day. And I did. When I was in the army.
I felt truly lucky to be there to see the views. The western catchment area is beautiful. So beautiful that it hides the suffering of the soldiers camouflaged between the trees.
The hills are beautiful. The views from on top of the hills are scenic. The reservoirs look like natural lakes. You would never imagine that such views are found in Singapore. Unfortunately I do not have pictures of them. They are just in my memories. But I think you can google them. Maybe there are some pictures. Actually I tried googling as I typed this. There are not many photos and even if you found them, and you've never been there, you wouldn't know that the pictures are of those places. I guess, the closest you can go is to fly there via Google Earth. Make sure you turn on 3D images. From the southernmost part of Pasir Laba and Raffles Country Club to the north tip of Sarimbun. All I can say, the view is beautiful. But if you ask me to go there again on a mission exercise, heck no. The place is huge. I am not walking there again with my full combat and GPMG load. No. No. But if I have an opportunity to visit the place as a civilian and take pictures, I would gladly go.
The Ama Keng area has a training area that faces the Kranji Reservoir. I remember sitting there in a defence position looking at the Kranji river. Though nice, it was depressing. Seeing how near you are to civilisation but so far away from a book out day.
There is also an abandoned HDB estate there. Now it is used for urban operations training. It was quite fun playing in real life HDB estate rather than mock up ones. And also playing in a building rather than in the jungle for a change.
Anyway, recently they've made an urban operational training area just across the main road called the Murai Urban Training Facility. I still prefer the Ama Keng HDB. It was fun choosing the units and rooms to sleep in. You can see this area in the first movie of Ah Boys To Men.
Finally somewhere nearer to home. Every time we hear that our next mission exercise would be in Marsiling, we would be very happy. Simply because the area is small. It's only about 4 square kilometres. It is has 2 very steep hills. Point 62 and Point 77. From the top of the almost botak Point 62, you can see Woodlands housing estate across the expressway with the skyscrapers of Johor Bahru looming in the background. I remember my PC giving us a pep talk about the importance of our service from on top of Point 62 overlooking the view.
We didn't always come here. But when we did, it was always a very short trip. The training area were not big so I guess, there was not much thing we could do. During that time, it was bigger than now though. Some of the areas has already been developed. The area between Yishun Avenue 6 and 8 are now housing blocks. The Yishun Dam area has also been developed for more traffic.
It was fun to come here. It is even more depressing than what I mentioned at Kranji. Simply because it is so much closer to home.
Some of the areas that we went to were, Yishun Avenue 6, Yishun Dam, Simpang and Seletar.
I remember that the forested areas across Yishun Avenue 6 had an illegal prostitution den. When we were there one day, in the day, we walked through the area. Funny dinghy area. It was filled with trash and mosquitoes. There were huts and canvas sheets hung around to form partitions with mattresses in every “room”. It would be funny if we had walked there at night while the den was in service.
There was also a mission that we did and after capturing the objective, my platoon was tasked to secure the Yishun Dam. Hard for you to imagine now that the dam is full of traffic. But at that time it was deserted but was still an accessible road for the public. I remember we got a scolding for falling asleep while securing a public road.
I am now left with other smaller areas as most training was held either in Pulau Tekong or the Western Catchment Area.
Pulau Sudong was fun. I will explain what we did there in another post. Maybe next week.
The island is pretty but I guess it looks like another southern island such as St John's or Sisters or Kusu. Still, a civilian will not be able to go there so I was lucky.
This one you can google how it looks like.
Way before Punggol became a housing estate, we were there for reasons I cannot remember. I remember it was still forested. Most probably for mission exercises but I cannot remember why we were there and not in other mentioned areas.
What I can remember and I can share now is that, we were there for an airlift. I remember sitting beside the river, exactly where the Sumang blocks are now. We sat there from afternoon till evening and I remember seeing the place turned dark while waiting for our helicopter to arrive and brought us somewhere. I cannot remember much. I only remember sitting there and flying off. Obviously it was one of the training exercises where we were zombified.
CENTRAL CATCHMENT AREA
I had only been here twice. Once during active NS and once during reservists. Since it is a public area, we didn't have assault exercises in the area. We only did topography training here. Back then it wasn't as popular as now. Though the trails existed, you don't see the public cycling or walking there.
I remember bashing through the forest and then suddenly I disappeared. My section mates said I just suddenly disappeared as I was leading them through the navigation exercise. Actually I fell into a hole. It was about 2 metres deep and circular, like a well. Luckily it wasn't a boar trap with spikes or something.
Another cool experience was during reservist. I was attached as an umpire for another unit. They had to walk through the area in the evening. So it was all forest with the BKE on our left. Then their section commander told us that we can have a break under a bridge. More accurately the Gali Batu Flyover. Ok, it was a decent and safe place to take a break especially since it was already night. Funny thing was, below the bridge and behind a pillar, were 2 black trash bags. One was filled with packets of chicken rice and another bag was filled with packed ice and canned drinks. Apparently the section had those delivered at precisely that time as the ice packs were still cold and the food warm. They even ordered a pack of rice and canned drink for me. That was cool.
These images are just in my head now and maybe I will forget them one day. I am a bit disappointed that I don't have photos of these areas and you cannot find much online. But that is understandable. Nevertheless, all I can say is... the views are beautiful.
NEXT WEEK : Our Vehicles
Categories : The Army Series
Web logs of art activities on a regular basis (hope).