Work behind the funpacks

Military training is back breaking work, but so is packing the fun packs for the National Day Parade 2016. Fortunately for these soldiers, they get a chance to bond over the production line.
The 2016 National Day Parade (NDP) funpacks and their contents.
The 2016 National Day Parade (NDP) funpacks and their contents. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER

Unglamorous job of packing 300,000 NDP funpacks falls to 280 SAF soldiers, but this gives them a chance to bond and exercise problem solving skills

A stream of red and white bags moves down a neat line, as a team of soldiers fills them with items that include LED wristbands, scarves and snacks.

This has been going on for the past week at Kranji Camp 3, where 280 soldiers from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) have been working to get this year's National Day Parade (NDP) funpacks ready.

Since June 20, they have clocked 12 hours a day to ensure that the 300,000 funpacks needed for five upcoming parade shows will be ready in about two weeks.

When The Straits Times visited recently, spirits were high among the soldiers of the 5th Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment (5SIR), which was split into nine teams.

Each is led by a platoon sergeant and three section commanders. The soldiers, together with their leaders, ensure that each funpack has the 18 items chosen for this year's NDP.

The leaders also do the first round of quality control checks to replace damaged bags and items. The bags are later checked by 15 other soldiers a second time.

This year, the teams have been organised at the platoon level to boost spirits among the soldiers, according to 5SIR Commanding Officer Derrick Yeaw Guan Sim.

"We are a young battalion, currently six months into our training," he said. "This is a good opportunity for the men to do this with their commanders and build cohesion within the platoons."

To motivate the soldiers to hit the daily target of 27,000 funpacks, they were asked to suggest ways to improve the packing process. Ideas that came up included changing the order of items being packed for a smoother flow and playing music to alleviate the monotony of the task.

For full-time national serviceman Leong En Yi, working on the funpacks may not seem as "glamorous" as marching in the parades, but it remains an important contribution to the nation's birthday bash.

"When I was watching the NDP in Primary 5, getting the funpacks and discovering what was inside was very exciting," the 19-year-old recalled. "If I can bring this joy to the kids this year and to those going for the NDP, it is meaningful for me."

Their involvement has also given the soldiers, who come from different backgrounds, a chance to get to know one another better, said full-time national serviceman Abdul Haziq Adzhari, 19.

And while he often feels tired in the day from fasting during Ramadan, he added: "I feel blessed to have friends who are understanding, such that they avoid drinking or eating in front of us."

Parade-goers will find their funpacks at their seats this year, instead of having to get them at collection points.

About 320 soldiers will be roped in to transfer the funpacks from Kranji Camp 3 to the National Stadium at least two days before a show.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 04, 2016, with the headline 'Work behind the funpacks'. Print Edition | Subscribe