National Service is integral of every Singaporean son’s life to serve and protect our nation. After my enlistment last year November to the Singapore Army, I realised many things I learned from my friends about NS were wrong. Some of these information were shared among new National Service Full-Time personnel (NSFs) through word of mouth or internet forums such as HardwareZone’s NS Knowledge Base. Here’s some frequently asked questions (FAQs) by many prior to enlistment with their corresponding answers.
Q: My relative/friend shared with me his NS experience during Chinese New Year. Will I get the same experience?
A: No. There are countless vocations and vacancies across 3 forces: Singapore Police Force, Singapore Civil Defence Force and Singapore Armed Forces; across 3 services: The Singapore Army, Republic of Singapore Navy and Republic of Singapore Air Force. Everyone meets different people as NSFs come and go, and regulars go up the rank ladder and rotate between appointments and units. Experiences will definitely be unique.
Q: Do I need to cut hair prior to enlistment? How much does the barber inside charge?
A: No. The barber charges from about $2 – $4. I enlisted to Kranji Camp 3, where the barber charged us $3. If you cut your hair to Number 1 before enlistment, the barber may check again by running the shaver over your head. If hair falls off, you will need to pay the barber for “cutting” your hair. Sounds unfair? Welcome to life of an enlistee.
Q: What exactly is Mono-intake?
A: Mono-intake refers to enlistment directly to unit and bypassing the BMT at Pulau Tekong Camp Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC). Direct enlistment to units such as Commando, Naval Diving Unit (NDU), Infantry, Armour, Artillery, etc. are considered as Mono-intake. Wherever you go, you will attend modified BMT in your posted unit. In some cases, such as Infantry, there is less chance of going Command Schools (Specialist Cadet School / Officer Cadet School) and you will end up staying in the same unit for entire 2 years. (Driel pointed out more in his comments below)
Q: I need to make a new set of spectacles that fits the directives, i.e. black and nothing fancy. Can I make any claims?
A: Yes. For the first time, you can make a spectacle claim of up to $40. A replacement claim, i.e. claiming for the second time, is only up to $20. My recommendation is to make the spectacles 1 – 2 weeks before enlistment and keep the receipt.
Q: I am supposed to enlist this year and it’s already June. My PES status is still D. What to do?
A: RUSH EVERYTHING! PES D stands for temporary. They do not allow PES D to enlist directly. Based on my personal experience, the earlier you settle your PES status, the earlier you might enlist. I had a PES D until October and because they still cannot determine my status, they put me to Temporary PES E and I had to enlist in November to PES E BMT. Disruption for further studies will become hairy situation later on because of late enlistment.
Q: Does BMT means going to Tekong only?
A: No. As shared earlier, Mono-intakes go units directly. There are BMT programmes all over Singapore, not only Tekong. Some BMTs such as PES C BMT attend two different BMTs from different camps.
Q: How many days of leave are we as NSFs entitled to?
A: All NSFs are entitled to 14 leave days per year prorated. You can take half-days if you want and it will deduct 0.5 days. Now leave application can be easily applied through the NS Portal. However when during training phase, we are not allowed to take leave. Do note that if you are from Tekong BMTC, there’s a 5 days mandatory block leave after you pass out (POP). The 5 days block leave is deducted from your annual leave. Only leave and weekends can be used to go overseas.
Note: Prorated leave means that your actual number of leave days is based on how long you are serving in that year. For example if you become Operationally Ready (ORD) in early April, your leave for that year will be calculated accordingly, i.e. 4/12 months x 14 days = 4.66 actual leave days (but it’ll probably be rounded up, depends).
Q: What are Off days vs Leave days?
A: Off days are given by your superiors to go off from work. Some overnight duties or efforts in running events may earn you some off days. Off days are like Leave, with the exception that if you are needed back in your unit, you might have to postpone your off. Also, off days do not permit us to leave our country and go overseas. Remember, this is a privilege not a right, so use off days wisely.
Q: I’m a Singaporean, so what is the food like in NS?
A: This differs between camps and units. In BMT, we hardly got the chance to eat anywhere else other than cookhouse. Cookhouse is the place where you tap your card and collect your food. However after posting out to unit, there’s a little more freedom of choice and that is to go canteen. Canteen is the other place where you can use real money to buy food – usually at a cheaper price. In my camp’s canteen, one large piece of Murtabak costs about $3.50 and can fill your stomach for the entire day. Food quality differs camp to camp, so don’t expect the same across. There is an unconfirmed belief that food is always better at places where there are more senior officers.
Q: I am enlisting and I want to continue to be socially connected via Facebook. What Camera phones can I bring into camp?
A: Camera Phones are only allowed into 29* Green Zones. The key places you need to take note of is CMPB where you do your pre-enlistment check up and BMTC if you’re going Tekong. However, it is best you get a non-camera phone on standby all the time with you, in case you need to enter red zones that do not permit you to enter with a camera phone. Otherwise you can get your telco to remove your camera from your existing camera phone and provide you a certification. There are also Android or Blackberry handsets available without camera. During training phases, use of phones is also limited and restricted. Be sure to take note that a maximum screen size of 4.3 inches is still observed in Red Zones.
* In 2012, 14 camps were set with Green Zones. With effect from 1 Sep 2013, 15 more camps are set with Green Zones as well. Read more at http://www.todayonline.com/singapore/camera-phones-allowed-15-more-saf-camps
I hope these answers help you understand your days in NS better. Enjoy your days in NS and stay out of trouble.
After some time in NS, you will find that it is pointless to compare ranks, vocations and appointments. Your fate will be entirely random as it is decided by layers and layers of people. No matter where you go, we are all soldiers and the most fundamental thing is to help each other get over these two years and over with it.
It seems like this blog post has helped many new enlistees and hence I’ve decided to answer some questions that are popularly asked on Google Search.
Q: What do I need to bring on my enlistment day to PES E BMT?
A: PES E BMT is a stay out training course. All you need to bring on that day is probably just your enlistment letter and your pink NRIC. Bring along $3-5 for your hair cut. You will be given your equipment and uniform on the day of enlistment. Don’t worry too much.
Q: What are my chances of going specialist school / officer school / NDU / infantry / armour / artillery / clerk / medic etc.?
A: All I can say is all the best. We will never know how our posting is like until we receive the letter. Some can be super random, some based on your records (when you write all the things at CMPB) and others based on performance in BMT.
Q: Do NSFs in SPF have block leave after basic training programme?
A: According to a friend of mine who just passed out, no. Well, that’s good freedom for you because you get to plan your leave well. After passing out, he is back in Home Team Academy for course.