How is National Service in Singapore like? - Singapore's Conscription System
National Service(NS) in Singapore is mandated by the enlistment act for all able-bodied males of 18 year-old. Conscription is paramount in Singapore as we have a small population and hence little amount of people to defend our nation. Once they enlisted into either the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Singapore Police Force (SPF) or the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), they will serve one year and 10 months to two years depending on your physical and medical fitness* as a Full Time National Serviceman (NSF) before turning operationally ready.
As mentioned in my profile, I am a 19 year-old Singaporean youngster, currently serving NS. Therefore I am going to share more in-depth information about NS and you are going to hear it from a person who is experiencing it first hand. Since I am enlisted into the army, my stories are going to be more about the SAF.
Prior to enlistment, one would undergo medical checkup and aptitude test at the Central Manpower Base(CMPB) and determine your PES status(physical and medical fitness level). Those with PES A and B1L1 are considered combat fit. (for more info about PES status, pls visit the link below) For most of us, we will set foot onto Pulau Tekong, where the Basic Military Training Centre is. On the first day of your enlistment, you will meet people from different social backgrounds, races and religion. All sorts of people. All turning green. (pun intended) I remember the day where my parents sent me to the parade square and bade goodbye to me before I am confined on the island for the next 17 days for the so called "adjustment period". I was having mixed feelings, fearing the harsh treatment by the sergeants yet anticipating the cameraderie forged between my platoon mates. On that note, I embarked on my Basic Military Training (BMT).
One of the most prominent feature of a recruit would definitely be his haircut. Upon entering the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC), recruits would be brought to the various training sheds where the barbers will be stationed there to give them the uniform haircut. Following which, their respective sergeants and officers will inculcate the army culture to the recruits and help them in adjusting better to the military lifestyle.
For all who are combat fit, we all go there the standard military training like long distance route march (from 4 kilometres to 16 kilometres), target shooting practice, live grenade throwing, progressive physical training, drill sessions and many more military-related activities. One of the most memorable event during my BMT would definitely be the 5 days field camp. It is truly a great learning experience as you are required to survive out in the field while carrying on with the fire movement training. No bed, no cooked food for 5 days. All you sleep on is just a basha tent* (a small tent built with groundsheet and poles) and the shellscrape that you dug. During the 5 days, you are only provided with combat ration like dry biscuits which are designed to stop your the urge to defecate during the field camp. Imagine all the sweat on your body after the combat training but no one is allowed to shower. Ewwww... Nonetheless, you really learn how to better take care of yourself and become more independent.
Upon completion of BMT, there will be a graduation parade for all graduates to symbolise the evolution of the recruits from boys to men. What so special about the parade is that all recruits have to take the ferry ride back to Singapore mainland and route march for 24km until they reach the Marina Bay floating platform where the graduation parade is held at. Also, all family members of the graduates are cordially invited to witness the significant moment for the recruits. By the time the parade starts, you'll be worn out due to the route march but the pride of seeing your family at the end of parade keeps everyone going. At the end of the parade, the recruits would toss their jockey caps to mark the end of their BMT, yet the start of another new chapter in NS. The feeling of tossing the cap is simply exhilarating. I feel like my soul has been liberated, I was so happy, so glad that I finally ended the 'hell' training at BMTC.
BMT Passing Out Parade (POP)
After graduating from BMT, you'll be posted to active units to serve as a combatant or one of the command schools to be trained as specialists or officers at the respective training institutes. One may be sent to other services like Airforce and Navy to serve their NS there too. Officers' training lasts for 9 months before they commission while specialists' training lasts for 6 months before passing out as sergeants. I would say no training is easy, and the only easy day is yesterday; everyone is to undergo tough training to become well trained and operational ready.