Shawn Ng

National Services (NS)


National Service is a term that describes the national policy in Singapore that requires all male Singaporean citizens and second-generation permanent residents to serve a period of compulsory service in the uniformed services when they reach the age of majority, although women may also volunteer.


I came across an NS-related article today, It has been 10 years since I enlisted in NS.

It stirred up my long-forgotten memories and emotions. I do not remember everything, just fragments.


My nickname in the army: Shaolin monk. Because I practice martial arts and I was still a vegetarian back then

BMT (basic military training) phase

My platoon mates are unfriendly, even my buddy. Being a vegetarian makes you stand out, and usually, it makes you a target, especially when we have nothing to do while trapped in camp (no smartphone, computer, etc)

Unit phase

My men don't like me, because I am from JC, while they have O'level / ITE qualifications. They think that I am elitist, but it's their inferiority complex.

I am a sergeant and I have "authority", I can issue "push-ups" as punishment, but in practice, I have no power. The men in my unit have bad PES (Physical Employment Standards) status, they can't have physical activity (aka no push-ups). They can do anything and I can't do anything about it. In theory, I should escalate to my superior. But ...

My captain doesn't like me for the same reason. He sides with the men against this JC kid.

I am the only person in our unit fit enough to do guard duty

I am the only sergeant in our unit, so I become the armory IC, managing no one since the men are all unfit & unqualify to help

As quartermaster, I am in charge of inventories, without much help since my men have "bad skin" and inventories will cause them allergies

My captain wants good performance, so he will volunteer for events.

So I am the one who does everything, with no support from the top and bottom.

For example, during a shooting range event. I have to wake up at 4+am and get all the supplies. Upload them to trucks. Then by 5+am, I have to be inside the armory to issue firearms to ~300 people. Once I finish issuing arms. I will issue a firearm to myself, close the armory, and leave with an advance party to set up while others are having their breakfast. Once the event ends at around 1 am. I have to collect, clean up and bring all the equipment back to camp. Once I put them inside the warehouse. I will open the armory for others to clean their firearm and collect it when they are done. It will usually be done by around 5+am. The whole event lasted for more than a day, and this event repeats 3-4 times a year. While my men are not involved since they are unfit for firearms. They don't bother to help.

Most of the time, I will be the last person to leave the camp. Because the office on duty will have to check the armory and confirm all firearms are accounted for.

I would say the army is the worst period of my life. It's a job that you can't quit or get fired.

2 years of my life getting peanuts allowance, without making friends make this event unproductive for me.

I learned to become self-dependent, rely on no one, and make no mistake for my enemies to exploit.


I disagree with NS with every bone in my body since I am anti-authority.

But if I were the government, I am not sure if I would change a thing. Singapore needs soldiers as a deterrent. Increasing soldier's allowance will be a problem unless we raise taxes, and higher taxes may cause rich people to leave. From the big picture perspective, the country's need comes 1st. And I probably won't care as much since I am the one in power, I wouldn't be getting the short end.

Published: 2021-11-04 | Updated: 2022-07-12

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