Sons, enjoy the NS journeyMrs Michelle Wong, a mediator, 52, shares how she supports and prepares her three sons – aged 22, 20 and 16 – in their National Service (NS) journey. She even took part in the Women’s Boot Camp 2019 to get a glimpse of the NS experience.
// Photos Chua Soon Lye & courtesy of Michelle Wong
I believe that one who is prepared has his battle half-fought. Since they were in primary school, I've ensured that each of my sons is equipped with three useful skills: cycling, swimming and unarmed combat.
My sons – Kyle, Ethan and Arthur – learnt to cycle on mountain bicycles; attained the "gold standard" in swimming and learnt water life-saving skills; and have achieved their first poom (first-degree black belt) in Taekwondo.
"Sufficient preparation, strong familial support and a learner mindset will be useful in NS. And one more thing: Enjoy the NS journey!"
In the lead-up to their enlistment, I encouraged them to prepare themselves physically and mentally, as well as to be equipped with basic first aid skills. Whenever I could, I kept them company when they went for runs or to exercise.
Being physically fit and mentally resilient have helped them in adjusting to military life, and I'm happy to say my two older sons have done well in their NS so far.
Kyle, the eldest, is a Specialist and was among the pioneer batch of Cyber NSFs (Full-Time National Servicemen) in 2018. He finished his full-time NS in July 2020 as a 3rd Sergeant, and continues to serve as a cybersecurity specialist.
Ethan, my second son, recently completed his Basic Military Training (BMT), and began his eight weeks of foundation training at Specialist Cadet School on 14 Dec 2020.
Stories about NS
Like most typical Singaporeans who love food, both my sons often talk about what's served in the cookhouse at Pulau Tekong.
Kyle shared that the cookhouse serves a lot of chicken in various permutations, while Ethan thought that the penultimate meal - "Strong Burger Meal" - before his 24km route march was by far the best meal (ever) while he was at Pulau Tekong.
They also told me about the quirks and idiosyncrasies of their section mates – from the recruit who could misplace anything anywhere anytime, the "concert" put up by the symphony orchestra in each bunk every night, to the funny nicknames given to some of their friends, like "Steamed Fish" (a literal translation of his name!).
Both my sons went through field camps with rain pouring down all four days and nights. They saw some of the contents of their field packs get washed away when the rain came fast and furious, and both have internalised what it is like to be bitten by insects as well as how cold it can be at night in a jungle.
It may have been tough, but they made it through.
Getting a taste of the NS experience at boot camp
Learning to handle the Singapore Assault Rifle (SAR) 21 and trying out the Standard Obstacle Course (SOC) may not be the same as going through the whole BMT experience.
However, I'm happy that I am now a little more familiar with and knowledgeable about some of the standard practices and training as well as common terms used in BMT.
Being able to speak the same "language" as my boys has definitely helped me to better understand what they experienced in NS.
All this is thanks to the Women's Boot Camp that I joined in 2019, where I tried my hand at various activities, from firing the SAR 21 to tackling the SOC. It's also helped me to appreciate that the defence of our nation is no mean feat.
Our national defence relies on software and hardware – it takes people who are aligned, trained and dutiful to ensure that the equipment and technology are maximised and enhanced.
Growing from boys to men
I have always been an advocate of NS and its purpose in protecting our nation, and that remains.
I want my sons to learn to be disciplined and responsible adults who manage their work and relationships with people well. To this end, NS has not disappointed me.
Beyond defence, I also see NS as a concrete representation of racial harmony. Singaporeans ought never take our racial harmony for granted, and should keep working at preserving our racial harmony.
I am looking forward to when my third son will enlist and meet his NS obligations come 2024.