The National Day Parade (NDP) Fun Pack doesn't pack itself.
Singapore Army soldiers from the 30th Battalion, Singapore Combat Engineers (30 SCE), have been given the job of packing, sorting and distributing tens of thousands of these sought-after NDP momentoes to parade spectators for NDP 2011.
The job may seem simple. But the sheer volume of Fun Packs that need to be packed, the tight deadlines and the need to shoulder this NDP assignment even as 30 SCE primes itself as fighting fit Field Engineer battalion guarantees that logisticians in the battalion will have their mettle tested to the hilt.
That's because 30 SCE's combat engineers will have handled around 3.75 million individual items by the time NDP 2011 is over.
As these items come from different suppliers who provide keepsakes ranging from the national flag, to light sticks, noise makers and tissue packs, this seemingly simple task of packing bags has to be executed with, ermmm, military precision.
Miss just one item in one Fun Pack and this could ruin a spectator's NDP experience. Miscalculate the amount of time needed to pack the goodie bags and some spectators could go home empty handed; which is a smaller problem than handling the explanation that the Ministry of Defence will probably demand.
The tall order falls on the shoulders of Captain Benjamin Kang, 28, an OC from 30 SCE. He leads a team of around 80 packers from the battalion tasked to slot, drop and secure 25 individual items from books, to fans and snacks into each goodie bag.
When planning started, CPT Kang pencilled in a packing window of two weeks. But the battalion's training schedule and the reality that storing 25,000+ Fun Packs per rehearsal is no easy matter saw his packing window slashed by half.
The shortened packing time adds to the pressure CPT Kang and his team face every week since Fun Packs were first distributed from Combined Rehearsal 3 last Saturday (attended by family members of parade participants) as a fresh batch of Fun Packs have to be packed right after a rehearsal is over.
Fun Pack packer Third Sergeant Gan Yu Meng, 20, said 30 SCE personnel
"We have enough manpower and people have their own way to keep themselves motivated,'' said 3SG Gan, a full-time National Serviceman who is a Ngee Ann Polytechnic graduate. "Some of them are a very tight group, very bonded and can push each other on."
Fellow 30 SCE combat engineer, 3SG Adolphius Wong, received his first National Day Parade Fun Pack when he attended his first National Education show as a Primary Five student.
Today, the 20-year-old full-time National Serviceman cannot remember where he kept that pack.
But he is swamped with Fun Packs every week as the packing line pushes out one freshly-packed goodie bag in less than 60 seconds.
At this evening's first National Education show (NE 1), some 25,500 Primary Five students and their teachers enjoyed a sneak preview of NDP 2011, taking home a Fun Pack put together by the 30 SCE team.
The 30 SCE packers, whose job includes distributing the bags to parade spectators, were all gone by the time the screaming kids streamed out of the NDP venue.
Their work stations were all cleaned out and the combat engineers were probably headed back to camp for an after-action review and some rest before resuming their tight packing schedule.
They will have to repeat this routine, week after week for two more NE shows and one Parade Preview, plus the parade for Singapore's 46th National Day on 9 August.
3SG Adolphius may have lost the Fun Pack he bagged in P5, but one thing's for sure - after NDP 2011, the 30 SCE Fun Pack packers will never look at a NDP Fun Pack the same way for years to come as they have earned a healthy respect for the amount of planning and preparation taken to prepare the NDP keepsake.
(Note to School of Dance and Bendemeer Secondary participants, will push out your stories by NE2.)