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Now v.s. Then May 17, 2006

Posted by The Truth in Im Allgemeinen.
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I was reading melvin's blog of late. His blog has more or less lent support to, if not fully confirming, what i sensed in conversation with my men:

24th Battalion, Singapore Artillery is a shambles.

It seems that in comparison to our time, everything is falling apart now. Lack of command. Fucked-up specs. Disappearing officers (although i don't think all of them are pulling a Houdini…just some black sheep – i mean, we had our own Houdini as well) but it looks like there's a lot of general discontent amongst the disgruntled masses. I wonder what's going to happen. Maybe one day there will be an uprising and all the officers will decide to pour cauldrons of boiling oil upon them. Haha.

I can't think of doing that. Not now, not ever. I mean, they're my men. I'd like to think that i trained them as best as i could.

So what's the problem?

I can't really place my finger on it, but maybe it's because there's a horrifying lack of a sense of belonging. Not just of the commanders to the men, but also vice versa. Let's put it this way. I think i'm one of the lucky batches to have had the opportunity to train my men. To plan and then execute their training…i think for them, it was just moving on from BMT to another BMT. The same hated 2nd lieutenants who acted like gods. The same 3rd Sergeants who could go about pumping them for the smallest infringements.

Thank Goodness we were different. We didn't train them like at BMT, just as if they were passing through a fucking gingerbread machine, but we trained them carefully, with an eye open as to who we wanted under us. We trained them with the knowledge that they were going to be our men, so we had better train them well. No fuck-ups. I mean, obviously we had our failings too, but i think we did our best. I'm not just referring to myself and melvyn (who has strangely disappeared into the Void of late) but for all officers and specialists in our batch.

I get the feeling that we were that much more give-a-fuck, that much more willing to be personal. That much more willing to exercise command and control, and that much more willing to be there. I bet most of us are willing to meet up with anyone we see from camp just because. I don't think i'll have to derive any profit or gain for me to meet someone – i do it just because. Maybe they don't feel that way. Maybe. I still remembered those talk cock sessions with the men, specs and others during FATEP – maybe it wasn't the most tactical of things, but it enabled me to keep an eye on lemuel while learning about the men.

I think i'm a more people person. But maybe things would've been different if i was fighting – no way i'd have time for my guys. Just look for me in THUNDER WARRIOR. In the shelter from 7 am to god-knows-what-time, only emerging for meals and fags. Yes, that was me in THUNDER WARRIOR. I didn't even have time to go and talk to my guys (except perhaps the day it rained.) because i was caught up with managing the shelter and those incessant phone calls over the comms set. But i DO think it's important to get to know your men. I made the mistake of not getting to know them at an earlier juncture. Perhaps we just appeared aloof and for me maybe a bit too regimental, a bit too strict.

As for the specs, i get the feeling that kuek, kenneth, silly, babycakes, size, yang wee, guilty marc and the sadly departed kim really treated them as their own men. They really tried to live up to the men's expectations and to the standards they set themselves. They truly knew the systems inside-out (unlike their sucessors) and likewise, they taught the men what they knew. The men claim to know the systems better than the specs now. I don't know if it's true, but i wouldn't be surprised.

Now? I don't know. Maybe it's because there really is a lack of ownership. The men came in before the officers. The specs came in after the officers. As officers, maybe they feel that these aren't their men because well…they didn't train them did they? And we can say even less for these specs. Perhaps they feel that their duties do not include PMCS, do not include being an example to the men, and are all about arrowing the maggots and fulfilling DS commitments. Maybe.

I can vouch that none of my specs would just leave any of the men and disappear for a cheery long breakfast while everyone was Action Fronting, or performing maintenance. The way i remember it, you could see the specs and the men at the Specialists' Mess together. Even those who would've felt compelled to stay behind because the others didn't go. And that's what i like about my batch. There was a sense of ownership.

As for my understudies, i do think they're good officers (well, most of them.) but they don't really know how to go about dealing with you all (men, if you guys read this.) i mean, you all come from a very different background from them, and y'all certainly have very different expectations, as compared to theirs. I mean, we saw you the very first day you set foot at battalion line. That's how far we saw you through. I don't know what the conditions now are like however.

I know that the men are mainly very silenced – note that i wrote silenced – because you guys don't have much of a voice and no one pays attention anyway. But it's not like that. It really depends on your commanders – i truly think the old specs gave a fuck…i know i did…that's why sometimes i'm so troubled because i have to change things, just that i don't know how to go about it. That's why i told you all to talk to derek or eric first…because i think BSM wouldn't really understand. I mean, he's from a gun battalion, and it'll take awhile before he understands that you all are not the average hokkien peng who are gunners

Perhaps i was living for lofty ideals, perhaps i believed that leadership by example was truly possible, not just in combat, but in admin – that's why i tried to come for 5 BX for, what, maybe a month or two? Yes…even if my friends thought i was crazy to drag my ass off the bed at 6 in the ante Meridiem. Perhaps i was living for that. Perhaps i just wanted to make sure that no one had an excuse for criticising me – that's why i always did my uniform properly before i even picked on yours.

Well, utopias vis-à-vis reality…i don't know. What i do know is that it's been one hell of a rewarding year serving as your commander. I'd do it again if i could.

Goodness. I miss those Army days. I'm staring at my epaulettes now feeling semi-emo. I can't believe it too.

Good night.

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