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.
"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.
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."
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.
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."