To all the National Service (NS) pre-enlistees, you’re in for a treat!

In the latest episode of #SpillTheTeh, we interviewed NSFs and NSMen across different stages of life to hear their experiences in NS, the challenges they faced, memorable encounters and biggest takeaways:

  • Jeremy Lum (22)
  • Samuel Law (24)
  • Matthew Lee (26)
  • Deleon Foo (31)

What we were concerned about before enlistment 

Current NSF Jeremy shared that before enlistment, he was worried that NS was going to be super tough and that he would be sian about it.

“I thought that when I go into army, I’ll be very tired most of the time. I imagined that every weekend when I book out, I will just toh (collapse) on the bed.”

His first impression of NS was that he would be alone by himself a lot of the time. But after experiencing NS, he shared that it’s not what he imagined it to be.

“The commanders are people that you can actually talk with. There are people who care about you if you have adjustment issues and are open to talk about it,” said Jeremy.

“It was quite shocking because I thought everything would be very rough and rigid but actually there’s a lot of support in NS.” 

Samuel was very stressed before his enlistment. It didn’t help when he heard people share how NS was really tough for them and how they were scolded and kena tekan (put under pressure) to do a lot of push-ups.

“I was really not fit before I entered the army. I cannot really run and exercise so I was very scared that I would have to do a lot of exercise. One of the biggest fears was leaving my family.”

I thought everything would be very rough and rigid but actually there’s a lot of support in NS.

On the other hand, Matthew had no concerns when he enlisted into NS. In fact, he even prayed to get into the Commandos!

For Deleon, his main concern was adapting to the regimentation in the army such as waking up at a certain time and following a certain schedule. 

Their best memory in NS

“I think one of the best memories for me was Airborne. I mean, you get to jump off the plane for free right?” Matthew joked.

For Deleon, his best memory was when his unit got to go to Taiwan” “There was one night where we were camping on top of a hill and we had an unobstructed view of the night sky — so we could see the stars. I will consider that as the best memory of NS.”

One of the best memories for Jeremy was when he got to march past his friends from his previous company.

It’s one of his best memories because he knows that he has friends throughout the whole battalion who are going through NS together and he is not alone.

“Before we get posted in a unit, all of us will join the same company. So we will do two months of common phase together. We’ll make friends with people in the same batch together and then after these two months we will split out into our specialisation company,” he shared.

“So whenever we march past each other, we will purposely sing super loud and compete to see who has the loudest volume!”

Their worst memory in NS

Some of Samuel’s worst memories include being randomly turned out in BMT: “They just rang an alarm and they made you rush down to do things. It was quite stressful because if you forgot to bring things, you would get scolded.

“After that I started having this fear of hearing the alarm ringing!”

But despite all the tough training, Samuel shared that at the end of the training programmes, there was something precious that had been forged together with his fellow soldiers.

“We did it together. We made it out together and that is something we treasure a lot and will never forget.”

Jeremy had a very bad experience when he went outfield.

“Before we went outfield, it rained. When we went to the campsite, it was super muddy. Our boots were stuck and we could not walk properly,” he recalled.

But that was still not the worst part of outfield; Jeremy explained how he had to squeeze with two other guys to sleep in the basha tent.

“It’s already quite squeezy for two people and there was not enough space. Our legs were hanging out from the side. I felt super uncomfortable.”

What do you want to do most when you book out?

When asked what they wanted to do most when they book out, the majority of them have the same answer — to sleep!

That said, the guys also look forward to spending time with their family, church friends and loved ones.

“Definitely spend more time with my family and friends,” said Deleon. “Sometimes you kind of subconsciously take for granted the time you spend with your family because you see them every day. But when you’re away for so many days, you realise that you actually miss them a lot.”

Samuel shared the same sentiment. One thing he really looked forward was going to church on the weekend.

“To just be with the community again, I think that was very important for me,” he shared. “Because I think the army can be a very isolating place. Without a community, it is really challenging because you feel like you’re fighting this battle alone.” 

What are some misconceptions about NS?

“Actually NS is not as bad as you think it is, it’s actually quite a safe space. The commanders will look out for you and make sure you’re okay,” said Jeremy.

“I had this impression in my head that we’re not allowed to fail and fall out but if you’re not feeling well, you can just fall out.”

Deleon shared that even after NS, when he goes back for reservist, he still talks about the NS days with his section mates.

“The general misconception is that people go in thinking that the two years will pass very slow. But actually it passes very fast because you’re so preoccupied with trainings,” said the 31-year-old.

“Those two years, you’re not going to get it back… but you will always be thinking about it and talking about it.”

What are some valuable takeaways from NS?

For Matthew, one of the things that he takes away after NS is that it’s okay to fail and make mistakes.

“It’s okay to fail. Learn to talk, learn to ask for help, learn to go out and talk to the people you trust,” he encouraged. “Even if they don’t fully understand what you went through, at least there’s someone to talk to and share the pain with.”

One thing that Jeremy learnt to appreciate is to protect his time with God and to guard his heart amidst his circumstances: “In NS, you have a lot of things happening around you and you spend an extended period with people you don’t really know.

“Sometimes NS can also be quite toxic with people gossiping about one another. It happens so often that it becomes a normal thing there.

“When you enter into this new environment, know that you want to honour God with your best.”

Any words of advice for those who are enlisting?

“I think when I enlisted, I also had a lot of concerns and some misconceptions as well,” said Deleon. “When I allowed myself to involve myself in the culture and also just give my best, I realised that actually there’s a lot of things to learn in the army and there are a lot of experiences that you won’t be able to get outside.

“When you go in, it’s okay to have worries and uncertainties but I think that you should just give it a shot and make the best out of it.” 

Samuel stressed that it’s important to mentally prepare yourself for the army.

“I didn’t process what NS would look like before I went in and I really had a really horrible first week, just being so upset and hopeless over the whole army thing,” he recalled.

“I think processing with either your family or leaders is very important to just prepare yourself for what’s going to come. Find a community, if you don’t already have one, to journey with through all of this.”

Jeremy closed with the reassurance that NS is not as scary as we may think: “Don’t worry too much, NS is actually quite a fun place. You’ll make great memories with your friends and will definitely become fitter.

“Just enjoy the time there and don’t feel too sian about it because you know that you have your friends going through this together.

“Do your best and do it together with your friends and your section, then you guys will get things done!”