Yesterday, on 1 July 2014, it was SAF Day – The annual celebration of the Singapore Armed Forces that also acknowledges National Servicemen (those on active duty, on reservist duty, and those who have completed their entire tour of duty) as well as the Regular Personnel in Singapore.
Funny, I didn’t feel acknowledged or appreciated, because I feel like I’ve only been punished by this system.
Let’s put it this way, I’m pretty pudgy around the edges and I’ve had problems passing my annual physical fitness test since I left active duty in 2003, and for the past 7 years as a reserve in the army since I started my annual obligations in 2007 after completing university.
This means that since 2007, I’ve been fulfilling my National Service commitment on all fronts. I attend the annual in-camp training that is usually 3 weeks long, I fulfill all my duties with no disciplinary problems and work with my teammates and unit. I also take my physical fitness test every year, I just don’t pass it. And because of that I’m punished.
For the physically fit (if you pass the annual test), they lose 3 weeks of their civilian life. For me, I lose up to an additional 12 weeks doing remedial training. Add that up, and I spend close to 4 out of 12 calendar months being involved with the army in some way.
I find that unacceptable because the military system is severely disrupting my personal and professional obligations in the civilian sectors of society. But for the last 7 years of my life, a quarter of it belongs to the army and all their rules that come with it.
It’s unacceptable because I don’t cause any problems to my teammates nor my superiors. In the grand scheme of National Service, I’m just another statistic. Someone who did not pass the physical fitness test. A percentage of failure that gets taken into consideration by some Colonel or General whose metric of career success is % of National Servicemen who pass their annual physical fitness test, so that they receive their bonus (with my tax paying dollars) and move on to the next stage in their career, and be happy with their professional superiors and comfortably provide for their families.
The point I’m trying to make is that the National Service system severely disrupts the lives of civilians who fail an annual physical fitness test, by increasing their obligation to National Service by almost 4 times! That’s harsh and I would argue unjust. It does not take into account the record of service or the original expectation of our supposed duty to the country. I’ve probably spent more time trying to pass this damn test than actually being a military reserve for the SAF.
So I ask, is that fair? Is this how you acknowledge your supposed “Sons of Singapore”? Those of us who fail the annual physical fitness test might be a minority, but we’ve also fulfilled the SAME obligations as every body else, and anything more is a punishment.
Scrap the remedial training program altogether. As a deterrent it is unacceptable to my rights as a citizen.