Wednesday, February 13, 2013

SAF Confessions: Citizen soldiers from the Singapore Armed Forces speak up

With more than 900,000 Singaporeans having served National Service (NS), it's natural to expect that someone, somewhere would have a terrific yarn or two to share.

The newly-launched Facebook (FB) site for netizens to share experiences in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), SAF Confessions (click here), gives traction to this point of view.

Since its launch last Sunday (10 Feb'13), SAF Confessions has exceeded even the expectations of the site's anonymous "Admin team". The 9,700+ "Likes" it pulled in as of this evening eclipses the team's modest target of 300 "Likes" by the end of this month.

Even if one factors in the likelihood that some stories are made up, the possibility that ample amounts of salt and pepper have been added to spice up an NS recollection, the story-telling from anonymous authors - bad grammar and all - are curiously seductive in their effect.

If you're a Singaporean NSman who has yet to visit the site, book yourself ample idle time before you do. You read one story and scroll down for more. Writing style, extent of expressiveness is all different except for the subject matter. It's hell of a hoot.

Perhaps this is why it has gone viral.

Mirror to Army days

In stories told of cocky SAF officers or sadistic superiors or monumental cockups in the SAF, Singaporeans see a type specimen of characters they themselves encountered during their NS days and identify with situations that are forever embedded in their memory.

With the Admin team's light touch, the (uncensored?) stories are tales told from the heart, one NSman to another.

We relate to these anecdotes because many of them are timeless: The real or perceived divide between full-time National Service (NSF) officers and Specialists. Tales by NSmen who dodged their way out of tough training. The SAF war games that never turned out right or equipment snafus you would never read about in Pioneer magazine or the mainstream media.

There are also heart-warming stories that showcase bright moments in NS that made an impact on the life of the story-teller.

These stories transcend time and space because many of the characters, situations or experiences described are recognisable by NSmen from the First, Second and Third Generation SAF ever since compulsory conscription was launched 45 years ago.

What's more, every one of the 900,000 Singaporeans quite possibily has their own story to share, just waiting for some trigger point to let their creative juices fly. So there appears ample room yet for SAF Confessions to continue on its explosive growth trajectory.

The watchers
There is a high possibility the site has given the Singaporean Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and SAF much food for thought. One can safely assume it's on the watch list of certain MINDEF departments, including the one at "I" Block 5 SIR.

To their credit, the SAF Confessions Admin team appear to have their heads screwed on tight. They are under no illusions that Internet forensics of some kind may be launched to uncover who they are.

In a note on their Facebook page, the team said:"Finally, to the friendly strangers who have given us countless of warnings about the MSD, don't worry! We have thankfully been blessed with common sense, and will definitely not post entries revealing military-confidential information, or containing racially-sensitive material. We understand that freedom of expression and speech should not override the social stability of our community, or compromise our country's ability to defend ourselves." [MSD refers to the Military Security Department.]

Time will tell whether SAF Confessions will be able to raise and sustain interest from netizens or whether the recent surge of confessional FB pages is just a passing fad.

Fast and furious

For now, the SAF Confessions creator(s) have hit a gusher. The Admin team said it was swamped with a new submission every three minutes or so at some points and is barely able to unwrap all the presents.

Alas, it is a matter of time before trolls - perhaps quasi officially sanctioned? - invade SAF Confessions by posting yarns so far-fetched they poison the credibility of the site or overtax the Admin team's ability to sift fact from fiction.

While it lasts, SAF Confessions gives SAF watchers an invaluable look inside the hearts and minds of Singapore's citizens army. What they glean from SAF Confessions will not tell them anything that Singaporeans familiar with the 45 year NS legacy don't already know.

However, in their excitement to tell a taller tale or in their desire to puff up their ego by seeing their anonymous contribution attract more "Likes", Singapore's citizen soldiers may send a wrong signal to foreign observers.

The tenor of NS stories sent to SAF Confessions may inadvertently lure foreign elements into concluding that the SAF is an army of city boys or out-of-shape NSmen who can't wait to Serve and Forget.

True or not, you decide.


Anonymous said...

Alot of angry Singaporean are now talking abt why not let those "PR"/New Citizen to go for NS too. Why only us(Singaporean) needed to ?

Well, maybe we should now sit back and think calmly. after throwing out all our anger rite now.

We should ask ourself this question, Are we really sure we want those ppls to do NS and defence Singapore ?....keep in mind, Once we agree to that, we will be opening up our "Military Tactics/Doctrine/Weapons/Base and even "Sensitive Documents". All this will be expose to them. Is that what we want ?

Dont get me wrong. I too dislike what this Gov did to all of us but as a singaporean, we should also keep in mind that this Country belong to us. We as a singaporean should be the one to defence our Nation security. NOT PR/New citizen.

We can't really put trust in them even they are "New citizen", cos we will never know one thing, Can all this ppls be trusted, are they really "Royal to this Country" or they are just using this as something else. Esp those foreigners who came fr Cxx/Pxx/Ixx.

As we all know, our ICA did not go through and scanned all individual foreigners background from A to Z. So, we must be very careful about all this.

Best way is, those New citizen who came from country like Axx/Uxx or even Mxx beening Totally scanned from A to Z may allow them to join and takepart. **Background totally checked before letting in*.

As for others, we can put them in SCDF. (ofcouse we cant put all in). But how about setting up a special Department,something like putting some in PUB/LTA or other sector and let them do a Two years of NS service there. And pay them NS salary* ofcouse. (this is just an idea by me and we can all think of something else if this cant work out).

Btw, after Two years of service in PUB/LTA ect.. Most will be ROD. Only those who show good performance can be then given a post there. And from there, they can slowly earn higher salary and pick up a higher post. *Singaporean NS can be included too.

I do have other idea, but it too long for me to type.

Anonymous said...

Ooo, i miss out one point. By doing this PUB/LTA and other GOV sector can "Cut Down Cost*** and at the same time, "increase Manpower shortage***.

Anonymous said...

This is one reason that SAF is truly worried about if PR/New Citizen cannot serves NS

Singaporeans got no balls, can get bullied. PR/New Citizens have balls.

If they serve, insubordination, assault on commanders and theft will go up 1,000%. Then the Singaporeans will be emboldened and not respect their commanders.

SAF does not treat is men with decency. That's why it is afraid to let former NSF WOSE serve as regular Officers unless they are urgently needed, eg as pilots and WSO. Discipline will break down if ex-NSF become equal or superior to those who bullied them.

Imagine if a PR/New Citizen refuse to take his tekan session and stands up to his PC in front of the whole platoon. Other PR/New Citizens will witness it and things will spread. The OC will privately tell the PC to be gentler to the PR/New Citizen. What will happen next? Singaporeans are already SECOND CLASS citizens in their own country who have to serve NS. Now they will become SECOND CLASS SOLDIERS! A new breed of WHITE HORSE will be created!

What if there is a shooting incident? Let us proclaim the word of the law, but do we dare to take the risk in the first place?

This is a real point. There is a big difference in the amount of civilization and patience in an Singaporean and a PR/New Citizen's head. Look at how even PR/New Citizen WOMEN handle public disputes. Look at the assaults, even the SMRT strike. Look at the blog postings. Even the Singapore Police does not dare to touch them.

Sure some of you can say let's throw the full weight of the law on them, but will it be done in practice? Or will we kiss their unwashed asses?

Anonymous said...

NS is irrelevant now that we have so many foreigners in our fold. Friend or foe? Where do you draw the line? I am sure morale amongst our NS boys and reservists is pretty low with the unfair treatment in studies and work. If Gurkhas can do the job for a select group, why not extend out to more. Money can solve all problems, if this is the mindset of our MIWs.

Anonymous said...

without saying, military personnel of nearby countries are also reading this new website.

Anonymous said...

Why do so many people feel the need to share their naive, simpletonistic political beliefs everywhere? Is it a coincidence that almost all of these people are lazy, entitled and have achieved nothing of note in their life? Do they really believe that the government is meant to solve all their problems in life, starting with deporting anyone not born in Singapore? Please, think for yourself instead of spewing whatever populist crap you read online yesterday.

I have served my time with pride and dignity. I was not born in Singapore, nor were my parents from here. I believe I have made a positive difference by serving. What about you, if you're thinking about criticizing people like me? Can you say the same for yourself, or were you one of those idle, unmotivated and irresponsible buggers whom nobody liked? I don't feel a need to apologize for not conforming to your worldview and act deferential. Singapore needs to keep up with the world, not the other way round. If you want to sit in your corner while sulking, folding your arms and complaining, don't blame me when you're deemed replaceable.

Anonymous said...

The best Defence is to exercise your vote carefully and for teh people of Singapore and not for what teh ST says.