From unfamiliar faces to firm friends

Actions
https://www.mindef.gov.sg/web/wcm/connect/pioneer/2350a619-1191-499e-af80-c332ae52d96f/29jan21_news1_photo1.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE.Z18_1QK41482LG0G10Q8NM8IUA1051-2350a619-1191-499e-af80-c332ae52d96f-ntcpaoo /web/wcm/connect/pioneer/2350a619-1191-499e-af80-c332ae52d96f/29jan21_news1_photo1.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE.Z18_1QK41482LG0G10Q8NM8IUA1051-2350a619-1191-499e-af80-c332ae52d96f-ntcpaoo /web/portal/pioneer/article/regular-article-detail/people/2021-Q1/29jan21_news1
/web/portal/pioneer/article/regular-article-detail/people/2021-Q1/29jan21_news1
29jan21_news1
29 Jan 2021 | PEOPLE

From unfamiliar faces to firm friends

// Story Benita Teo

// Photos courtesy of the Singapore Army & PTE Md Hadi

Returning to serve NS after spending six years abroad, Private (PTE) Muhammad Hadi Bin Abdul Hairy used to wake up in his BMT bunk feeling like he was surrounded by strangers. Now, he counts them as some of his closest friends. Find out how he adapted to military life in the third of PIONEER's "Back to Serve" series.

1-UP-B-caption

"I was used to waking up at home and seeing my family's faces every morning, but now I had to stay in camp, and the people I was seeing were strangers," said PTE Md Hadi, 18.

His parents are still in New Zealand, where the family had been based for the last six years.

The self-professed introvert had a hard time at the beginning of his Basic Military Training (BMT) adapting to a new environment and meeting new people. But it was with them that he learnt about teamwork and found true friendship.

PTE Md Hadi (seated, in black) with his family. He returned to Singapore with his elder brothers Md Afiq (standing, in black) and CPL Md Matin (in blue) to serve their NS.

Rising to the challenge

Last January, he had come back to Singapore with his two elder brothers to stay with their grandmother while the three of them served their National Service (NS).

His eldest brother, Muhammad Afiq Bin Abdul Hairy, completed his NS as a Police Coast Guard last year while second brother Corporal (CPL) Muhammad Matin Bin Abdul Hairy is currently a Transport Operator at Sembawang Camp.

Adjusting to military life after being abroad for several years wasn't easy, but PTE Md Hadi is not one to back down from a challenge.

For instance, when his father told him that training would be tough, he took it as a challenge and was determined to do his best in NS and see how far he could go. His father had served his NS as a combat medic.

PTE Md Hadi also knew he had to come out of his shell: "To survive the four months of BMT, I needed to step out of my comfort zone and talk to these people who would later train and suffer together with me and help me throughout my BMT."

PTE Hadi (second from right) with his BMT buddies. From total strangers on enlistment day, they have become some of his closest friends.

Building bonds in BMT

He and his buddies began bonding over shared interests like playing computer games together during their free time. They would also meet up for meals or to hang out.

His BMT buddies turned out to be a very "steady" bunch. PTE Md Hadi fondly recalled an incident at the end of their BMT.

They had been tasked by their platoon and section in-charge to clean the bunks and staircase areas in preparation for their graduation the next day. However, time was short and they were worried that they wouldn't be able to complete the task in time.

"We got everyone in the platoon to help out, so that it could be done on time, and those who had to fall in early would not be late. That taught me the importance of teamwork."

Serving during a pandemic

PTE Md Hadi enlisted on 11 Aug last year, in the middle of the Circuit Breaker period. Due to the strict safety measures in place, adjustments had to be made to his training.

For instance, his batch was not able to do the route march to The Float @ Marina Bay for their graduation on 5 Dec 2020. Although they were disappointed, PTE Md Hadi and his platoon mates were glad to have formed strong bonds throughout their training.

"Our commanders always made sure to remind us to keep our masks on and to maintain safe distancing. These helped to lessen my worries. We were also able to continue with our activities and our learning wasn't compromised," he reflected.

PTE Md Hadi setting up wireless communication radio equipment as part of his training as a Supply Assistant at the Army Logistics Training Institute.

Defending what's important

PTE Md Hadi is currently in the Army Logistics Training Institute, where he is training to become a Supply Assistant.

He has no regrets about coming back to Singapore to serve his NS. "I have learned and experienced new things that I wouldn't have if I wasn't in NS – things like grenade throwing, live firing and close quarter battles. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said.

"I came back to serve NS because I wanted to play my part, and learn how to be a soldier so that I can defend my loved ones and the place that holds many of my childhood memories."

Suggested Reading
Commando training changed his life Feature
Commando training changed his life
PEOPLE
22-Feb-21

Commando-turned-medical officer Captain (CPT) (NS) (Dr) Ramesh Wijaya shares the life lessons he learnt from being part of this elite force.

Despite Tourette's, he hopes to lead and inspire others
Despite Tourette's, he hopes to lead and inspire others
PEOPLE
17-Feb-21

The uncontrollable twitches first started for 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Dexter Choo at the age of 14. Back then, he did not understand what it was – and neither did his family and friends.

Discovering a new purpose in life
Discovering a new purpose in life
PEOPLE
05-Feb-21

3SG Shane Lim, who returned from Australia to Singapore to do his NS, thinks he may have found a new calling in life as a life-saver after serving as a combat medic. Learn more about his experience in the second of PIONEER’s "Back to Serve" series.

Sons, enjoy the NS journey
Cover story
Sons, enjoy the NS journey
COMMUNITY
01-Feb-21

Mrs 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.

Tough as steel: 40 SAR gears up for first Battalion Mission Exercise
Cover story
Tough as steel: 40 SAR gears up for first Battalion Mission Exercise
OPS & TRAINING
25-Jan-21

What does victory smell like? Hot metal burning in the sun, sweat, rain, wet mud. This is 40th Battalion, Singapore Armoured Regiment's (40 SAR's) Battalion Mission Exercise.

Writing his own NS stories
Writing his own NS stories
PEOPLE
22-Jan-21

In the first of PIONEER's "Back to Serve" series, meet India-born 3SG Thirunavukkarasu Karthikeyan who used to listen to his father’s stories about National Service (NS). Now, he is living out his own unique NS story.

S'pore artist creates nostalgic miniature soldier models out of cardboard
Cover story
S'pore artist creates nostalgic miniature soldier models out of cardboard
PEOPLE
11-Jan-21

The defiant filmmaker
The defiant filmmaker
PEOPLE
08-Jan-21

You’d think going to film school would be a no-brainer for Corporal (CPL) (NS) Edward Khoo, the eldest son of renowned Singapore filmmaker Eric Khoo. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

NSF of the Year extends NS twice, to defend S'pore skies
NSF of the Year extends NS twice, to defend S'pore skies
PEOPLE
14-Dec-20

This Air Warfare Officer extended his full-time National Service (NS) not once, but twice. In total, he served for nine months after his original ORD (Operationally Ready Date).