It's been 30 years since SLTC (NS) Daniel Lim last participated in the exercise as an NSF. Now, he returns as an NSman with his son following in his footsteps.
When Senior Lieutenant Colonel (SLTC) (NS) Daniel Lim learnt that he would be deployed for this year's Exercise Wallaby (XWB), he had to keep the news from his son.
It was only after 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Dylan Lim found out that he would also be going with his unit, did they start discussing what to pack and prepare for the exercise.
"I already knew quite early last year. But I kind of had to keep it from him because he wasn't supposed to know yet," shared SLTC (NS) Lim, 49.
As Chief of Staff in 3rd Singapore Infantry Brigade, he is responsible for planning the missions carried out by 2nd Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (2 SIR) – his son's unit – at XWB.
The exercise marked the inaugural live firing of the Belrex Protected Combat Support Vehicle (PCSV) Mortar at Shoalwater Bay Training Area, in Queensland, Australia, where XWB is held.
"I was quite excited to know that my dad was coming with me. It's a very unique experience and I'm glad we can share it and have a common experience to talk about when we go home," said 3SG Lim.
The 20-year-old Full-Time National Serviceman (NSF) is the Mortar Ammo 2nd-in-Charge (2IC) for 2 SIR.
It was a "mixture of feelings" for the older Lim, who had been an NSF at his last XWB – some 30 years ago.
"Serving NS (National Service) is not just about the guys; the family is heavily involved as well. My wife took a lot of comfort in knowing that we are coming to XWB together. So I think that's important for her," added the father-of-three.
Then vs now
Though they both went for the exercise, the two flew one day apart. "We saw (Dylan) off first because he arrived in Australia one day earlier than me," said SLTC (NS) Lim.
"So, unfortunately, I was the one without a sending-off party," he added with a chuckle.
Advice he gave his son included asking 3SG Lim to cover his boots when he went to sleep – to avoid getting shocked by creepy crawlies when putting them on in the morning!
"I did have such intruders in my tent," chirped in 3SG Lim. "A bee flew into my friend's field pack and it caused quite a commotion."
On how the exercise has changed over the years, SLTC (NS) Lim said that safety was the biggest difference.
He rode a motorbike back in his exercise days. Dust clouds from the ride would get so bad that he had to navigate using just the tail light of the vehicle in front of him.
Safety protocols today are stronger, noted SLTC (NS) Lim. "There's a safety distance between vehicles to observe; and when dust clouds impede their visibility, they are asked to stop till the clouds settle."
Serving NS meaningfully
Outside of XWB, 3SG Lim said his dad helped guide him in his NS. For one, the older Lim encouraged his son to train up for his Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) before enlisting.
"It was challenging because prior to enlisting, I was not able to do a single push up," said 3SG Lim.
"But thanks to my dad's guidance, I learnt how to do it and then trained to do more and more. I can now do 60 push-ups in one minute for my IPPT," said 3SG Lim, who also achieved a Gold award for the overall test.
Ironically, 3SG Lim never understood the commander position his dad held when he was young.
"I had a vague idea that he was of a higher rank as we would occasionally get invited to his camp to celebrate something," he joked, referring to events like his dad's Change of Command Parade.
On why he continues to serve under the Reservist on Voluntary Extended Reserve Service (or ROVERS) scheme, SLTC (NS) Lim said that he made a commitment to give his best, rather than to just move along.
"So it's an attitude that I held when it comes to NS. As long as I'm still able to serve to the best of my ability, I'll carry on until I can, or until age catches up," said the primary school mathematics teacher.
It is an attitude that has rubbed off on his eldest.
3SG Lim said: "I would like to be like him in the sense that during or even after my NS cycles, I will put in my best."