Choosing an NS vocation - with help from dad and uncles

It may have been two to three decades since many dads did their stint, and many things may have changed since, but the general consensus is that their experiences will still be useful for their sons who are to be enlisted.
It may have been two to three decades since many dads did their stint, and many things may have changed since, but the general consensus is that their experiences will still be useful for their sons who are to be enlisted.ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

New enlistment initiative provides new way for dads to share experiences with their sons

Fathers have found an unprecedented role in the new initiative to let future national servicemen indicate their vocational interests, as the move gives fresh impetus to share their knowledge and experiences with their sons.

Starting November, pre-enlistees can make their vocational interests known during their medical check-up - choosing from 33 vocations.

On Sunday, the Central Manpower Base (CMPB) released on its website 19 videos and a handbook with detailed write-ups on these vocations.

The initiative presents "an opportunity" for more conversation about NS between fathers and sons, said defence analyst Ho Shu Huang from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

"While it does come down to each family's dynamics, there might be more to talk about as vocational choices now need to be indicated and decisions therefore made."

FATHERS AND SONS

All sons look up to their dads, and I look up to mine, too. My dad was in Guards. I heard it is quite tough.

JORDAN LOW, first-year Anderson Junior College student.

While a father's NS vocation experience might be different and outdated, such a conversation might lead to others about NS in general, he said.

Some sons are looking to their fathers in other ways to make the decision about vocations.

First-year Anderson Junior College student Jordan Low, 17, who will be going for his medical screening on Nov 11, hopes to follow in his father's footsteps.

"All sons look up to their dads, and I look up to mine, too. My dad was in Guards. I heard it is quite tough."

While he says he does not have much knowledge about the various vocations, he intends to go online to find out.

"I'll ask my seniors who are already in the army, as their information will be the most raw and current.

" But I'll also speak to my dad and uncles for advice."

His father Thomas Low, 47, said that while he tells his son about his own NS days, he does not know what has changed since.

The regional service director, who did his 21/2-year stint from 1990, said: "I can share my experiences with him, and it could have an impact on his vocational choices."

Real estate salesman Bernard Wu, 45, also believes the new initiative is "worth exploring".

He entered NS in 1993 and tells his son, first-year Hwa Chong Junior College student Brandon, about his experiences.

Seventeen-year-old Brandon said: "I would prefer to go to a vocation which is more physical. I don't want to be a clerk."

Puay Sam Yu, 17, a first-year student at Hwa Chong Junior College, knows what he wants to avoid choosing for his NS stint.

"Just steer clear of the waters can already," he said with a laugh.

He would prefer either the air force, or the infantry, which he has heard is where most people go.

"I will ask my dad and uncles for their opinion. But I think it would have changed quite a bit from their time. Nonetheless, it's good to have their advice."

His father, regional sales director Puay Eng Chuan, 49, thinks NS was very different in his days.

"It is different now with more welfare and professional training."

Mr Puay, who entered NS in 1986 and later became an infantry officer, agreed that sharing his experiences with his son is a bonding opportunity.

His son, who has not yet received the call-up letter for his medical screening, said: "His stories would affect my decision, as the general job scope for most vocations shouldn't have changed too much."

The videos and the handbook on the CMPB website can be found at www.cmpb.gov.sg/ns-vocations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2016, with the headline 'Choosing an NS vocation - with help from dad and uncles'. Print Edition | Subscribe