New-found appreciation for national service after women's weekend boot camp

Journalists Bridget Tan and Farzanah Friday team up to take on the Women's Boot Camp 2018 at Maju Camp. They got to smear camouflage paint on their faces, sample combat rations, tackle the Standard Obstacle Course, and fire the SAR21 rifle.
Journalists Farzanah Friday (left) and Bridget Tan experience what it is like carrying a load bearing vest and a loaded field pack.
Journalists Farzanah Friday (left) and Bridget Tan experience what it is like carrying a load bearing vest and a loaded field pack.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Journalists Farzanah Friday (third from right) and Bridget Tan (fourth from right), as well as other participants, taking part in the inaugural Women's Boot Camp 2018 held at Maju Camp, on Sept 1, 2018.
Journalists Farzanah Friday (third from right) and Bridget Tan (fourth from right), as well as other participants, taking part in the inaugural Women's Boot Camp 2018 held at Maju Camp, on Sept 1, 2018.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Journalist Farzanah Friday (in red) practices the fireman lift, a way of evacuating a casualty, with fellow journalist Bridget Tan.
Journalist Farzanah Friday (in red) practices the fireman lift, a way of evacuating a casualty, with fellow journalist Bridget Tan.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Patsy Chong, one of the oldest participants in the Women's Boot Camp 2018, practices aiming through the scope of a SAR21 rifle as an instructor looks on.
Patsy Chong, one of the oldest participants in the Women's Boot Camp 2018, practices aiming through the scope of a SAR21 rifle as an instructor looks on.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Journalists Farzanah Friday (right) and Bridget Tan (second from right) learning how to operate the SAR21 rifle with the help of an instructor.
Journalists Farzanah Friday (right) and Bridget Tan (second from right) learning how to operate the SAR21 rifle with the help of an instructor.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Participants learning how to operate the SAR21 rifle. Athi Ramesh Athirah (second from right), is the youngest participant at 13 years old.
Participants learning how to operate the SAR21 rifle. Athi Ramesh Athirah (second from right), is the youngest participant at 13 years old.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Participants learning how to operate the SAR21 rifle with the help of an instructor.
Participants learning how to operate the SAR21 rifle with the help of an instructor.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Participants about to sample combat rations, which have been apportioned into cups.
Participants about to sample combat rations, which have been apportioned into cups.ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - The SAR 21.

Before Sept 1, 2018, I thought it was a kind of virus that I would want to stay clear of.

But over the past two days, I learnt that the Singapore Assault Rifle 21 (SAR 21) is not only a rifle but one designed and manufactured in Singapore, and used by national servicemen.

I also learnt how to load bullets, eject the weapon's magazine (the kind without glossy pages), and pull the rifle's trigger.

Unfortunately, aiming is still in the works.

This was just one of many experiences at the Women's Boot Camp held at Maju Camp over the weekend. Other activities included trying my hand - and face - at camouflaging, sampling combat rations and,of course, taking on the Standard Obstacle Course (SOC).

Camouflaging turned out to be quite a surprise as the trainer, in demonstrating to us, smeared green paint onto her face without a trace of hesitation and swiped three stripes across with ease. For me, taking the first leap to look like the Grinch took a bit of courage.

The combat rations were a treat, especially one marked cheese potato stew with sausage, which was savoury and tasted like the bright orange cheese snacks I used to have as a child. I can't imagine eating it every day, but a dish like that in the middle of the forest after a long day of trekking would definitely be appreciated.

Mention of the 12-obstacle SOC raised many groans from men I spoke to prior to my boot camp experience, along with cautionary tales of the famed low wall.

However, women at the camp were exempt from the wall, along with two other stations: the apex ladder and balancing bridge.


Journalists Farzanah Friday (left) and Bridget Tan experience what it is like to apply camouflage cream on their faces. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

It turns out the one I should have been warned about was the humble window obstacle, where I tripped and fell while going through the frame intended to simulate a window.

Nothing was bruised more than my ego.

 

At the end of the weekend, the thought that this was merely a fraction of what regular national servicemen do made me realise the magnitude of their efforts, and gain a new level of respect for our men and women in green.