Sunday, October 25, 2015

My Two Recruit Days Buddies

When we served our recruit days during NS stint, each of us was assigned a buddy.  Both buddies had to work together and if one happened to have erred, both were punished as a result.  It is called buddy system and I believe it should still be practised now.

I was from the first mono-intake which means we did our recruit training and after passing out, continued on as guardsman vocation till we ROD in the same unit throughout our NS stint.  My unit was called 3 Guards located in the rustic Kranji area then.  The camp has since been re-located where the present Yew Tee HDB flats are.      

Upon enlisting, everyone was assigned to their buddy but I had two buddies, as we were the remaining last three after evenly sorting out the rest.  Lang and Tong (not their real names) were my recruit days buddies.  Both used to live in the same neighbourhood and prior to enlistment, they know each other in their growing up days but they were not close though.  I only know them during enlistment.  Their characteristic greatly contrasts to one and other. Lang was quite a sloppy man while Tong was more 'on the ball' type.  Lang will not help out in cleaning and spent most of the time lying idly on the bed.  Lang sported few tattoos on his body and arms.  My initial impression of him was not very good then.  In fact, he had one tattoo that says "He loves so and so (the name of his then girlfriend's name)" and when I got familiar with him, I started to tease him by asking what will happen if he changed his girlfriend and sure enough, he changed his girlfriend few times over.  I think he eventually deleted the entire tattoo some years later.  Lang did not have proper job even after ROD.  He used to smoke and gamble heavy.  He was also involved in triad activities and I did witness the injury he sustained one gang fight too.  Yep, he was a street fighter.  Tough he was outside the camp but when it came to training, it was a complete opposite.  He will try hard to feign sick to avoid all sorts of training.  Once, he went to great extent to get a bunk mate to break his hand using a changkok stick in desperate attempt to earn few days or weeks of MC.  Few guys will hold on to him tight and one will just hit his hand hard with the stick.  It was a pain to watch and I didn't want a part to play with it. Needless to say, he was not very fit and eventually downgraded.  Despite all that, Lang and I got on fairly well actually.  We continued to keep in contact for good many years after ROD but we have lost touch in recent times.  

Tong was more a righteous person.  Both of us did try to apply to apply to become policemen in a futile attempt to avoid tough army training when we were still recruits but were flatly rejected.  Tong eventually managed to join the police force after ROD and later transferred to CID  handling heavy crimes.  Tong was quite fit and we even kept up our fitness regime after ROD but for a short period though.  We used to arrange for run together at National Stadium.  Tong was also downgraded when a changkok (metal plate) hit his head while digging trench in one of our exercises.  I was present too.  Blood was oozing out from his head, it was scary to watch and he was in great pain.  Fortunately, he did not suffer serious damage to the brain but had to be downgraded to service vocation.  He served the rest of his NS stint at the officers' mess.  He was a total changed man after he joined the police force as a CID investigation officer.  He did not want to contact any of his army mate, me included for reasons he knows best I think and slowly but surely, when we met on the street one day, we acted like strangers to each other.

The two recruit buddies of mine represented the 'black and white' in society.  For a good many years, Lang was always in involved in triad activities but we had always maintained cordial friendship until we lost contact.  I have never intended to disassociate with him knowing his triad connections.  The righteousness of Tong is the opposite.  Perhaps, he must have thought being a CID officer, he must stay away from friends in order to remain impartial.  Or perhaps, it was wrong of me to assume so.  I harbour hope to meet up with these recruit buddies one day.    

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