Thursday, May 20, 2004

Wow, what a day! Must be grateful to all our students who were cooperative and well-behaved while visiting Tekong. As it turned out, the trip proved most popular as I had to turn a few hopefuls away. I could only take on those who came in direct replacement of their fellows who for one reason or another could not make the trip. As it turned out, I had a total of 130 pax, including Mark who stood in as a last minute replacement for Vince.

It was quite an experience for me, whose Basic Training was on mainland Nee Soon so many donkey years ago. The only time I went to Tekong was for my Marksmanship Test. We stayed almost a week on the island in an old abandoned school, sleeping on concrete and shivering every night because it was so cold. The wet towel we used as a blanket didn't help much. The mornings were so different, hot, humid, sweaty and did I mention hot? Of course, with the new computerized marksmanship training facility, such old fashioned training programmes are now things of the past. It's now like a realistic, yet boring video game that trains a soldier in the firing of his weapon without having to actually use any 'live' rounds. Looking back, I ought to be jealous, but I can't be. There's nothing like sleeping on the cold, hard floor for a week that makes a man out of you.

Was very interested to view the contents of the combat rations package, 'cos although I've been issued with such things before during training, I never opened up the green packages to eat the mess inside. I'd always preferred to survive the day on the biscuits, hard-tack, flavoured either butter or chocolate. The supplementary package also used to contain a chocolate bar and a fruit bar and an assortment of Horlicks tablets and Ovaltine biscuits and these would usually keep me going all day. Not doctor-approved, but in the field, you'd want to minimize the number of times you'd have to go potty too. Er... in the literal not figurative sense, I mean. The mysterious green packages come in non-muslim, muslim and vegetarian varieties and they are either a rice-based or pasta-based food. Even after sampling the stuff, I can't say much about how it tastes other than "palatable." Biscuits still taste as good as I remember, perhaps even slightly better because of the buttery and chocolatey flavours where in the past it was simply flavoured "bland."

Personal equipment also seems improved -- a bit lighter. The helmet, Gore-Tex jacket and combat boots have a fibre mesh built into them to make them lighter and more airy. Saw the recruits' bunks and rec room; we really know how to take care of our NSFs these days. Tough training, with an eye for safety. Good attitude to take.

A trip is successful, I think, if there are no bored faces and there weren't any that I could see today. The instruction delivered by the Army trainers was so clear, practiced and the pedagogy is designed to convey the most meaning in as efficient a manner as possible. Instruction is designed to be understood by everyone regardless of intelligence quotient. With a closed curriculum and lots of repetition, the trainers are competent and confident in their jobs. Our students are most likely to have learned something today. Or otherwise, they at least had a good time. One or the other.

No comments: