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Most Singaporean Sons serve as combatants. For those curious about what life is like for non-combatants, I shall share my NSF clerk experience (one of members in the Guidesify Team).
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Clerks, or a nicer official term – Admin Support Assistants, are rumoured to have a comfortable NS life?
Forenote: Some points are vague to avoid classified information. I served at a Brigade HQ. The experience of clerks in another level of the army may differ. My PES status was because of a legitimate body condition, but if you still want to be salty, I do not mind 🙂
I was given a PES E status due to childhood reasons and my BMT was at Kranji Camp 3. Instead of taking ferries, we took the indented bus from Yew Tee MRT daily. Yup, it is the famous stay out BMT. No confinement hehe. No physical training, no “wife” and no outfield. BMT lasts for four weeks. Three weeks of lectures about army related topics (e.g., pay, ranks, some basic army rules) and one week of vocational training. There are tonnes of admin time for my batch which will usually be spent watching movies. Honestly, PES E BMT is not value adding.
No facial hair and a kempt appearance are required too. We address the regulars as sirs and enciks. For NSF specs and officers, they are fine with being called just by their names.
The regulars are mostly friendly towards us. It is easier to work with someone when you are on good terms with them, right?
Punishments are there but never physical. No push-ups or sit-ups. Extras will be ‘awarded’ most of the times. However, during times like this, you would wish you are allowed to be given 20 push-ups than giving up a Saturday. We want to do so, but the directive says no.
NSF Stay out so good…
I boasted to my friends about my stay out life. However, karma stroke and I was posted to a stay in unit, unlike most of my BMT mates. My excuse was not good enough to be granted stay out.
I did not detest the idea of staying in. Free food and no transport which means saving money. Moreover, hey, I get to experience a little of what a combatant does.
I woke up from my delusion after a few months though… but it was too late to do anything.
Compared to combatants, no one would come to disturb us at night. No turnout. Lights outs are never enforced. Zero of all those annoying things. It is 100% free time, and we can do whatever we want
without getting caught.
Roles and responsibilities
”Everyday 8 to 5, anyone also can do your job” Most clerks might have heard something similar.
Technically, not every day is 8 to 5; we have to work OT when there are things need to be done. I know compared to the amount of night/delayed/weekend training combatants have, it is considered a lot less.
Our jobs may not be hard, but it can get tedious and require skills such as planning and coordination. Given enough time and training, anyone should be able to do my job. At the end of the day, you should never be stuck with the mindset of “I cannot be replaced because I am too good/valuable/an asset” because people like that always get replaced.
Training and bookouts will be delayed if we fail our tasks. From a bigger picture, though rare, our screw ups may cause other units to be affected too. One unit leads to another; it is a snowball effect.
To me, both combatants and non-combatants are necessary. Combatants are the ones at the front while we are the ones supporting them from behind the scenes.
We only receive the base allowance and no risk pay. No additional income from IPPT, ATP, and CS too since we cannot do that. Yes, directive again…
We often joke about our workplace safety. Tables and chairs breaking, roofs falling, computer exploding, etc. I got to admit combatants do face real danger that may cause injury or even threaten their life in their training. That is why the risk pay is there.
We do have duties too. It is called orderly duty, and it is indoors. As the operations of my brigade do link directly to Singapore’s peacetime security, things can get stressful. Miscommunication may result in the snowball effect mentioned above. Extras will be awarded even if nothing serious happens from our mistakes. Heads will roll if major incidents happen because of it.
Minimum of 2 nights out day weekly. This is a brigade stand though. The battalions under us enjoy this too.
The benefit you enjoy depends mostly on your superior. Expect little offs for those unlucky enough to be working under a strict superior. I enjoyed a lot of benefits (free food, offs, leniency) Life in NS is better with such superiors and when your performance is good.Usage of I-NET is allowed when we have no work to do.
Another benefit which combatants do not enjoy: we can eat at the mess daily. You just need the money.
I will be answering some myths about PES E servicemen.
1. PES E do not have reservist
Yes, we do need to serve our reservist. It is ten years, not five years. I have seen lots of PES E NSMen. Those clerks who are not called up are the lucky minority? Or are those who called up the unlucky minority? Not sure…
2. PES E is full of chao keng people.
I observed four main type of people here.
- Chao Keng
- Serious Medical Condition (real reason why someone is PES E)
- Individuals who have no idea how they end up here but doesn’t mind it anyway
- People who somehow want to Up PES (We usually label these people with those in point 2)
I agree I do have a better life as an NSF. I received better welfare and officers do treat me better than combatants. However, there are many things that I will never be able to experience: comradeship built from tough training, firing a gun, throwing a grenade and outfields. These things suck, and I know they do, but they are still experiences. I always feel disconnected when my friends start to talk about their army life and this is the only minor complaint I have.
Every vocation plays an essential role in the army. Without clerks, operations will become a mess, and you might not even be getting your Pink IC when you ORD. (IMPORTANT!!). Without storeman and CQ, you will not have any food to eat and equipment for your training will not be there. Without drivers, you will be marching every outfield. Without medics, no one will be there to perform first aid when you are injured. Without you, there will be no deterrence on the ground, sea or in the air. I cannot list out the importance of every vocation, or this article will be at least another ten pages long.
We have writers from many different vocations and ranks. Share and let us know if you want to learn more.
Navigation to NS Articles and Guides
• My Life As An NSF Clerk In Singapore – You are reading this now
• A PES E Case Study (National Service in SG)
• Real Survive National Service (NS) Guide for BMT
• 50 Bad Habits during National Service (NS) in Singapore
• 101 Bad Habits during National Service (NS) in Singapore Part 2
• Acing the Civilian Conversion Course – The Military Transition