NSmen saw many places that civilians probably did not even know existed, like the hills of the present Pasir Laba Camp with names like Peng Kang, Rambutan, and Elephant. Others are known just by numbers.
The first time I set foot on Hill 265 was during the Section Leaders Course when we had to "topo" from Bukit Panjang to Marsiling. After an arduous trek, we climbed a ridge and were met with the unforgettable sight of a valley of vegetable farms and hills in the distance. Standing on the same spot today, you will see Woodlands New Town and the SLE. Defence Camps were held on Hill 180 in Marsiling. One night, while on guard duty, I sat in my shellscrape and enjoyed the sight of the housing blocks at the foot of the hill. It was a time for reflection, of loneliness and feeling homesick. Today, Hill 180 is the Woodlands Town Park East. The flat-topped Hill 100, however, where we had mine-warfare training, has been totally levelled.
Our training also brought us to many rural areas like the villages in Hong Kah, Ulu Sembawang, Neo Tiew, and of course, Marsiling. One heartwarming memory from those days is of the encounters with villagers who sold us drinks and snacks. Some peddlers resorted to using their daughters to attract us SAF lads. I recall with great fondness what a welcome sight those girls were to us rain-soaked soldier boys appearing out of the cold night in Area D.
Speaking of civilians who benefited from our NS dollars, I am reminded of the pirate taxis that plied between Beauty World and SAFTI on Sunday evenings. There were so many soldiers returning to camp and so few buses. These pirate taxis actually did our nation a valuable service.
I can continue to reminisce about many other places of my NS days, such as the famous (reputedly) haunted magazine tower at SAFTI, the river obstacles at Sungei Poyan and the cemeteries in Bulim. Though we swore and griped at that time, we now treasure our memories of those places where we turned from "ah boys to men".