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Sunday, January 22, 2006 

Army Memories

I meant to write more about my army experiences in my earlier post about enlistment. Suffice to say, it could probably go on and on and on. So, I will stick to talking about BMT.

Yes, Basic Military Training. This is the most familiar part of National Service as it is the lowest common denominator. Whether you become an officer or a specialist, whether you become a signaller or a driver, whether you end up building bridges or demolishing things, you will have gone through BMT*.

I had the fortune of doing BMT for 5 months because I was obese. All in all, BMT was a wonderful experience. First of all, we were a very heterogeneous company with only one thing in common: a wide girth. A-level holders, diploma holders, ITE graduates tended to be - I qualify that this is my perception - put together as a cohort.

Not us. Hawk Company (and our 'sister' company, Gryphon) represented the socio-economic diversity of Singaporeans. We had a university graduate. We had primary school leavers. We had Chinese, Malays, Indians and one Eurasian. You name it, we probably had it. We even had someone who lived on Pulau Bukom. It said so on his ID card.

The programme was designed for us to lose weight. That meant a few modifications to the training programme. Every Monday morning, we'd be weighed in at the Medical Centre. Those whose weight had not decreased from the previous week were prime candidates to burn their long weekend.

(Long before the implementation of the five-day week, Pulau Tekong was a five-day week camp. If you were in camp on Saturday morning, you were being punished.)

We had extra weight training sessions and... aerobics. Those were fun and effective. There was once, Dr Tony Tan came to visit Pulau Tekong. He was supposed to inspect Hawk company as we were put through out aerobics paces.

Unfortunately, he was delayed. The Physical Training Instructor (PTI) decided to keep us warmed up, so we continued doing what we were doing. And continued. And continued. And continued.

Dr Tan arrived to watch us. I was in the front row as I had already lost quite a bit of weight then. That weekend, I was told by relatives that I was on the news. Doing aerobics. Anyway, the PTI complimented us after the session. We had been going on for much longer than usual. He admitted that he was knackered and that he was amazed that we kept on going.

You see, the obese guys are actually very strong. Some enlisted being fit, or nearly fit enough, to pass IPPT. Who's stronger? A 85kg guy who can do 12 pull-ups or a 70kg guy who can do the same? Who's got more stamina? The overweight guy finishing the 2.4km run ins 12m20s or the much lighter guy who finished it in the same time?

And we proved it to some extent. The 2nd Brigade - BMT was conducted by the Brigades back then - decided to send their strongest and bulkiest soldiers for an intra-Army tug-of-war competition. We'd won the Tekong tug-of-war competition between the BMT companies, so they sent Hawk Company to represent the brigade.

We maxed out the weight limit, putting in the heaviest and strongest guys on the team. So, the profile of the team was: about 80kg on average and could pull 10 or more chin-ups. The guys pulled against the heaviest guys in the company for training. Our Company Seargent Major (CSM) even made them pull a Land Rover that was in gear.

Hawk Company beat them all. Commandoes included.

I have more stories, of course. But I leave it here for now.

* There are exceptions, since there is modified BMT for non-combat fit personnel.


I think these days, they are more understanding towards those who are over-weight. My time some of my overweight comrades really suffered. Every run was torture and kena tekan like mad. Consequently, I resolved to make sure my son is physically fit. Thank god he is good in sports so I don't have to worry about that part.

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