By Celine Liu (15A01E)
They’re a staple of any gathering of National Service personnel – tall tales of physically arduous training and sadistic trainers, mixed in with anecdotes about brushes with the supernatural world. In many ways, they’re a more grown-up version of the stories told around campfires, and serve to reinforce a sense of fraternity and identity. We gathered up a few such stories from Rafflesian alums for your delectation, but make no claims whatsoever regarding their veracity. Reader, beware!
Deodatus Quek 13S06I
In BMT some of the recruits have guard duty over the weekends, and there’s this place deep in Tekong called the ammo dump. I had two friends doing guard duty before and they had the midnight shift. So it’s normal for tonners (the army trucks) to pass by the ammo dump. But what was scary was that at that late hour there weren’t supposed to be any going around. But there was one that went by every 10 minutes for about an hour. And when they tried to see the driver, they didn’t see anyone in the driver’s seat.
Anonymous, Class of 2012
During BMT I was in the Whiskey company and we were in Tekong, in a camp that’s famously haunted. Of course I didn’t believe any of it, and nothing happened for a few days. Then one night we started hearing loud banging sounds coming from the camp, when we went to look all the locker doors were opened, even though we had definitely locked them. At first we all just thought someone was playing a prank on us, but this went on throughout the night, and the next few nights too. Lockers just kept opening and closing by themselves. It was a little scary.
Anonymous, Class of 2010
I didn’t think NS was that terrible, honestly. It was pretty monotonous, sure, but I wouldn’t call it tough. The worst thing that can happen is if you get a weekend confinement, which can run for 21 days so you can’t go home for 3 weeks. And it happens a lot. Just forgetting a spoon, or being late for something can earn you a confinement if the commander’s in a bad mood. Once a recruit was confined for accidentally shooting his gun, which was empty of course, but that was quite justifiable I think.
Other than that, push-ups, jumping jacks with a rifle, and other physical punishments were the most common. And of course the commanders find a way to spice it up a bit, as life gets dull in the army. For example, there was one time we were late for something, and our punishment was to hold up our rifle with one arm, just straight out parallel to the ground until the commander finished telling his ‘story’. This doesn’t sound too bad until you consider that these rifles weighed about 4kg and the commander’s ‘story’ went: ‘Once upon a time, a bunch of stupid recruits were late so their commander brought them outside and told them a story. Once upon a time…’ and it just went on and on and on. It hurt like mad but I actually found it hilarious. They tend to do that a lot, although they’re not allowed to issue more than 20 push-ups in a row, they may ‘miscount’ and ‘recount’ till you’ve actually done 60!
Some punishments were honestly quite funny. We were out in the jungle once and the commanders very specifically told us not to bring anything back to camp with us. Not a leaf should be stuck to our boots. So of course one of the commanders just had to go and hide a frog in one of the recruit’s pockets. When we got back to camp we were all told to turn out our pockets and the frog was found. The commanders acted like they were really angry and told us that since we brought the frog back from the forest, we were now in charge of guarding its life and had to make sure it stayed alive. Well, we failed. The frog died within the day and we were ordered to hold a funeral for it, complete with eulogies and a full military salute. Everyone was trying not to laugh and to act all solemn, except for the commanders, who were just cracking up the whole time.
Anon, Class of 2011
It was about 1am. This guy and his friend were driving their 5-tonner back to the company line. Halfway through they ran out of gas, leaving them stranded in the middle of Tekong. Knowing that Tekong was all dark and that they were another 3km away from the company line, the driver told his friend to wait while he walked back to get help. This friend was sitting and waiting in the vehicle, when suddenly he hears this sound. It sounded like someone bouncing a ball, but it was really faint. He was a bit puzzled but he just figured it was nothing and stayed in the vehicle. The bouncing sound then kept getting louder and louder, but since he was supposed to be guarding the vehicle, he just stayed inside. Finally, after about an hour, help arrives. An officer was driving a jeep towards his vehicle, but his friend was nowhere to be seen. The officer gets out of the jeep and signalled to him to come over, when all of a sudden he froze. The officer whispered to him to come over quickly and not to turn around. But of course he’s curious, so he walked over to the officer and looked back.
And he saw a pontianak on the top of his vehicle, bouncing the head of the driver.
Ernest Yee 13SO6L
It’s rumoured there’s always someone bathing on the 4th floor toilet in the Ninja company, 3rd cubicle from the left. I didn’t believe it. One night, it was past midnight and I had to bathe. I went to the 4th floor because my floor was too crowded, and surprisingly, there was no one there… except for the 3rd cubicle from the left. Someone was showering. A cold wind blew and the door opened slowly. There was no one inside…