Archive for the 'Unit Life' Category

Operationally Ready

I burned several days of off and leave clearing the backlog for one of my understudies, because he and the other fellow were deployed for Army Open House 2009. But I am thankful because I did not need to attend this time wasting event!

Even on the last day, I was still asked to clear more backlog and I could not refuse because it would not be courteous to refuse a free lunch treat from my superior. But I am thankful because I do not need to handle stores anymore even when I come back for ICT.

Never mind that I only asked for chicken porridge because I had a bad stomach, at least I had free lunch. Never mind that I was wasting my time at Amy Logistics Base, at least can look at pretty girls. Never mind that I couldn’t return my camp pass on time, precluding me from collecting my pink IC on Friday when the rest of my cohort had.

I came back on Tuesday to collect my pink IC, transcript and testimonial. And although I was one of the last to collect my pink IC, I was the first to collect my transcript and testimonial in its entirety. With ‘outstanding’ performance and conduct of course. I am, a good soldier.

Now I can gloriously say,

‘ORD LOH!’

Last Sixty Three Days of NSF Life

I am entering the last sixty three days of my fulltime National Service. One journey ends and another will begin soon. I need to settle the remaining matters at work as soon as possible, or else I will not be able to leave in peace.

Yet obstacles continue to rise before my face. When one job is finished, another one pops up. Work never ends. I try to organize and plan my work by breaking them up into small bits but they seem to be ever increasing;  any form of time tabling and scheduling seems hopeless. Time is running out.

I’m beginning to think that I cannot settle everything nicely in time for my replacements. I work overtime; I forgo my nights’ out; I even delay my own book out timing, but nothing seems to be working. Maybe it is time to be the bad guy, and do what my predecessors called ‘Throwing The Shit’.

But isn’t that just taking the easy way out? I’ll just be like a thousand other NSFs who did the same thing, thus adding to our inglorious reputation for being lazy. (Shut up, I will not sign on as a regular soldier.)

Maybe I am not working efficiently enough. In this age it is often said that we should work smart, not work hard. An easy thing to say, but hard to do. For someone who is used to putting in 100% effort and yet dismayed with unfruitful results, maybe I’m too behind the times.

A friend once told me, ‘You want to do the right thing but you complain so much.’ She is right. I must finish this race well. By the grace of God, I must.

May the Lord grant us quiet night and perfect END! Amen!

Creative Despair

The ATEC wasn’t as bad as I thought. In fact, it was less tiring than the one I went for last year. Nonetheless, the conditions were far from ideal. Plenty of screw-ups before, during and after the exercise. One idiotic one was forgetting to bring the picnic lantern. How can anyone forget to bring the picnic lantern and set up BCS at night!? The weather on the first day was incredibly hot as well. We were so tired after setting up that we were all lying inside tent groaning and lamenting the heat. It was so bad that the Senior Medic and Signaller elected for a bag of Ringer’s Solution infused into them.There were some pretty comical scenes as well.

There was one time when me, two of the medics and the signaller went to dig the latrines. It was damn hot. So were taking turns with the ET stick and blade to dig two holes, when our signaller decided to take over. He was hacking away at the soil and began to to become frustrated because the rifle kept slipping down while worn in backsling. That annoys the hell out of everyone.

Signaller: Ok screw this, I don’t care if I get extras, I’m taking everything off. (Proceeds to take off helmet, webbing and weapon)

He continues hacking away for a couple more times when suddenly he faints and slams into the ground. We could hear the ‘Piak!’ sound generated by his body contacting the ground.

I looked at the other two medics and mumbled, ‘This is not good’. So the three of us starting shaking him and trying to wake him up. After thirty seconds he suddenly opens his eyes and swears loudly. Hahaha, it was really funny.

Upon returning to unit, I was kept busy with duties, preparation for brigade exercise and the usual torrent of paperwork. At least I managed to take some time off to do some of my personal tasks. The time off balanced out the looming datelines, irritating phone calls and obstinate arrows homing onto me. I managed to catch Detroit Metal City. I managed to apply for school as well. There’s a chance I might be going overseas for further education, but nothing is set in stone yet.

From 13th to 15th of March, I was running a camp for the new appointment holders in Legion. Their response was really promising. Some of them have really great potential. Yet it remains as potential because their time to lead has not arrived. Who will take charge of these little ones? My cohort will all be moving on to the next phase in their life, yet I seem to be stuck here.

I am terrified at the prospect of taking over as junior curia president. The curia president MUST be a member of an senior praesidium. I am not, therefore I will be forced to join an senior praesidium. I will be honest: their meetings bore me to death! I cannot believe that I must sit through week after week of such meetings. Let’s not get started on the way these people do things.

Perhaps I am biased. Perhaps I am not giving others a chance. But there is something I’m sure of, that is, I’m not really sure where all this is heading and what it is supposed to mean for me.Yet ten years in the junior curia must culminate in this moment of truth.

Oh, it was only yesterday that I was the idealistic sec one boy who joined for the wrong reasons but grew to love this. Seniors came and went. Friends came and went. Yet I am still here. All this is definitely part of God’s plan. It feels like I am inching towards the edge of the cliff, and being commanded to jump off. Alone.

When will I rediscover the joy of being in the Legion? At present it seems like a burden.

To Taiwan and Back: Part 3

Finally, we arrived at our long awaited destination. Taipei.

We were put up at various hotels. I was placed in a different hotel than from my unit guys. How disconcerting. The only people in my hotel are the medics, drivers and cooks. There were two of my clerks there too, and I shared a room with Jing Wei, one of the signallers from 41 SAR who incidentally followed our BCS team for ATEC.

On the first night, I did not venture far from the hotel, merely walking and exploring the neighbourhood. I was also trying to get some decent maps to navigate around with. The trip was quite long as well, and I was quite tired. I just bought some beef noodles from a shop around the corner and ate in my hotel room. On hindsight, I should have went out to see the nightlife. This was the only regret of my trip. Okay, enough lamenting.

The next day we got up pretty early and had breakfast at some restaurant. Most of the catered meals were at some local restaurants serving rice and various dishes such as vegetables and meat. Not very fantastic, but considering that everything is paid by for the army we cannot be choosy.

After breakfast we headed towards Yangmingshan National Park (陽明山國家公園). Basically there is nothing there but mountains and more mountains.

From right to left: Me, Jing Wei the signaller, Gan Kai Xian the ops clerk, Wee Liang the ops clerk, and two guys from SMI.

Road that leads deeper into the mountains.

Visitors’ Centre

Hands off the exhibits!

Flower Gardens

Some local Scouts having a day out

This so-called garden is actually quite big. It is a reputed hotspot for hiking and long walks. This road goes down..

and down..

and down all the way! So much so that we decided not to follow that path because was really steep and too far.

We headed back to the city for lunch, and had free and easy time for the rest of the day after 1 pm.

Okay, Yangmingshan bores me. Next stop, Ximenting!

To Taiwan and Back: Part 1

I was in Taiwan for three weeks of training. It was quite exciting to be deployed overseas for the first time. So yes, I will share what I have seen there.

Pre-trip preparation

On 24 October I went down to attend the pre-exercise briefing. What a waste of time. I was half-asleep, until the medical briefing.

Officer: Okay, the MO is not coming. The Senior Medic is not coming either because his wife has gastric. Where is the medic? Raise your hands! Come out and give the talk!

Me: (Looking around for other medics, but no hands were raised)

Officer: Eh Medic, come out leh!

I had not choice but to come out to the stage and give the talk. I was shaking like hell. It wasn’t too bad since I knew most of the stuff. I’m just glad they didn’t ask me to teach them to use condoms.

The rest of the day were spent with duffel bag inspection and weighing.

Day One at Hengchun

Our flight departed from Terminal 3 at twelve thirty am. We arrived in Kaoshiung at six in the morning.
I was happy to see Zhanhe again. He was waiting outside the airport.

On arrival at Hengchun camp, we were allocated bunks and made to move the stores in the ops boxes. I met up with the other medics. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. Since I didn’t see any of them on Friday, I thought I was the only medic for the whole frame, which was pretty scary. In any case, Zhanhe took us for hospital orientation at Hengchun, Kaoshiung and Fangliao. Along with me were some medics from Pasir Laba Camp and Bedok Camp. I was also introduced to Zhenhao, the other base medic; and Mark the Ambulance Driver. He was from Maris Stella Primary. He said I looked familiar, but I could not recognise him.

There are three hospitals in Hengchun. The 802 Military Hospital in Kaoshiung is where the complicated cases go to. On that day, we sent one fellow with persistent food poisoning. We spent the rest of the day at the hospital, and had dinner at the canteen.

Before we set off, we bought some bubble tea. I had this one called the Pudding Milk Tea (布丁奶茶). It was really good! And so began three weeks of drinking all kinds of bubble tea.

Day Two at Hengchun: Nights’ Out at Kenting

To our utter surprise, they gave us nights’ out on the second day. The nights’ out was at Kenting (墾丁), a tourist town by the sea. There were many stalls selling street food, and shops selling swimwear and other apparel.

A street in Kenting

Various shophouses

Sushi Restaurant and KFC

And who can forget the renowned smelly tofu of Taiwan?

I didn’t eat the smelly tofu because I could not stand the smell. I just had some pig’s blood cake (豬血糕﹐,米血) which is pig’s blood cooked with rice cake. It goes well with the soup and the prawn rolls.

We spent about 2 hours there, and they sent us back to camp by ten-tonner. Yes, you read correctly, a ten-tonner. We use five-tonners and rovers, but the ROC uses ten-tonner trucks with mechanized doors and Humvees.

We had another nights’ out in the second week. During the two nights’ out I took the opportunity to stock up on food, drinks and reading material.

Life in camp

I only went to cover for a total of three times. One was navex, one was bike navex and another one was live firing. Other than that, I spent most of my time in the medical centre on duty. Sure, business was all right. We even used the Body Cooling Unit twice. It’s the first time I ever seen the drill for heat exhaustion. I let Zhanhe do the job of placing the rectal thermometer into the patient’s… well it is obvious isn’t it? There were plenty of illnesses ranging from coughs to chicken pox to STDs even. Those were laughable. The doctor was quite amused. We had plenty of people warded in the sickbay too.

There is no Medical Informatics System in the camps there, so everything is updated manually. It was great not having to deal with computers. No computers, no downtime. There isn’t much patient volume everyday, anyway.

I spent most of my free time playing PSP. I managed to complete the main story of Final Fantasy 7: Crisis Core. I still have half the side missions left.

I’m glad I had ample time to say the office and my usual prayers, though PSP was quite distracting. I will reconsider buying one.

The bunks were furnished with double-decker beds. We had foam mattresses to sleep on. It was quite stuffy. Fortunately the window was just behind me. The only thing I had to contend with was the sun shining on my face at six am. In Taiwan, the sun rises that early. It goes down as early at five pm too.

As for the showers, the shower stalls had no doors. At least there was hot water. My only gripe is that toilet paper has to be disposed in the bins instead of being flushed down. I countered that by using more water to flush it down. In any case the condition of the bunks and showers never bothered me too much, because I slept and showered in the medical centre most of the time.

Food in camp was all right. They use the local short-grained rice. The food isn’t always good, but it is still better than SFI. Sometimes I just gave up on the cookhouse and headed for the canteen or the ‘White shop’ outside. There is this white coloured shophouse outside the camp which sells food and drinks. I had the pork steak rice and chicken steak rice on more than one occasion. It wasn’t that bad.

So sorry that there are no pictures of camp life! I don’t want MSD coming to my house in the middle of the night or during my off day!

Akan Datang: Part 2

Terror-rific

Finally, most of the major events are over. AHM 2008 ended with no deaths, thank God. ATEC Stage 2 ended well. I hope that will be the last outfield exercise in a long time. And surprisingly we managed to pass the IQA audit with a high score. Absolutely miraculous. I think the inspection team was being merciful. Nevertheless, we still have to correct the faults before the given dateline.

I’ve been trying to clear some of my offs these few weeks. Yesterday’s day off and today’s public holiday combined is a great boon for my mind. I ought to take it easy from now on. I think I’m overworking myself. Yet despite all my efforts, the results never turn out perfect. Maybe I need to find a better way of doing things.

And the discipline is becoming atrocious. I think I should stop being so nice.

I have to finish my planning for the Legion Annual Retreat in end November. Due to a very busy August I did not manage to finish much. But yesterday’s meeting with Christopher was timely. At least we managed to get some ideas for the games segment.

Things are starting to lighten up. I should start thinking about the future.

Multi-tasking Terror

The past weeks were madness! So much work to do! There is so much to write about, but I don’t feel like writing any of it.

Outfield was outfield. We didn’t get much sleep, but that’s normal. There’s more to come in the weeks ahead. The only good thing about outfield is that it is a good break from the hustle and bustle of the medical centre. Not hearing your phone ring for a few days is also refreshing. Nobody to bug me with ‘Hello? Who is the medic tomorrow?’

There are too many last minute things to settle. Then there’s plenty of chicken shit, menial and meaningless tasks that get in the way of my work. They are little assassins popping out of no where to kill me.

I still have to settle the AHM 2008 logistics for my medical side, which is not good because it is next week!

Then there are audits to prepare for, stores to indent, documents to update, trainings to conduct, meetings to attend.. It doesn’t help when no one else has a sense of urgency nor the willingless to help. I still have to deal with insolent imp infirmarians who always try to escape duties. I hate these malingerers. Life would be so much better if there weren’t so many of them.

Right now we are cleaning the shit of ORD personnel who didn’t clean up theirs. Massive damage control with little time. Why can’t people do their share of the work? Argh!

Terror on Timetables

ATEC Stage 1 was a success! The ATEC MO thought I did very well for the resus procedures. Well, I don’t know. I did make a few mistakes here and there but then I tried to be as thorough as possible. I was happy as I thought I could relax after ATEC.

Wrong!

This week was madness! All the specs were gone from the medical centre, leaving only me to keep things up. Monday was not a good day. Most of the MOs were quite edgy, even the usually jovial ones. I also had a hell of a time trying to manage the medical covers for the week, most of which were unfinished business left by my fellow specialists. I hate dealing with this kind of crap. I didn’t even know what was going on, and yet I had people calling me all week to ask me. It was also annoying, having to deal with people requesting for things last minute. Tomorrow, that will repeat.

On Wednesday night I had to go to the SAF Ward at Alexandra Hospital. I had to take the duty for my upperstudy because he was seconded elsewhere. It was a mad rush trying to finish all the tasks for the day before going down to the hospital. The SAF Ward is where they keep mild psychiatric patients for observation. That night we were supposed to have one patient only, but then some guy was admitted at four in the morning.

The next morning I didn’t return to camp. Instead, I went home to rest. In the afternoon there was our Company HQ/S4 chalet at Changi. The chalet bungalow was quite big. But there were a lot of mosquitoes. It was worse than outfield. The bungalow looked like a guardhouse too.

I had a lot to eat and drink. I managed to get to know a few people here and there, but most of them were stuck in their own individual departments. Clerks stuck with clerks, storemen with storemen, and my medics by themselves. The RPs are a jolly bunch. OC-Sir himself egged us on with a few drinks. CSM was a teetotaler. The RPs couldn’t get him to have any.

Well I learnt a few things this week.

1) It is always good to know your stuff, very very well.

2) It is even better to know your rights.

Antebellum: ATEC

So far the rehearsals have gone well. We managed to deploy our Battalion Casualty Station in twenty minutes. Still, I think we can do better than that.

Setting up is one thing. The next examinable portion is the resuscitation procedures. Basically when severely wounded casualties come in, some life-saving procedures have to be carried out stat. We are like the A&E of the battlefield. In fact, many of these procedures are indeed used in an ordinary A&E department. For example, Endotracheal Intubation (ETT) is used to ensure that a patient can breathe even though his neck muscles have failed. For next week’s exercise I will be one of the medics assisting at the resus tables, and being examined as well!

This week we have been practicing the resuscitation procedures. So far it is moving along well. I just hope I don’t make any silly mistakes.

REDCON 1!! REDCON 1!!

Terror on Rotors

Yesterday we had some helicopter drills. It was really cool. In the morning we went to Sembawang Airbase to familiarize ourselves with the Super Puma helicopter. There are protocols to be followed when mounting a helicopter that is still running. For example, one avoids running near the tail of the helicopter. This is to avoid being chopped up by the tail rotor. Much of the drills involved running towards the helicopter with a stretcher and improvised casualties. It was quite tiring.

In the afternoon, we went down to Pasir Laba to execute an actual casevac drill. It was quite exciting. The feeling of sitting in the helicopter is something one has to get used to. Fortunately I felt all right.

All right, when’s the next round?

My sources tell me that we might have to do this again in September as part of a graded exercise. Yes, the dreaded ATEC (Army Training Evaluation Centre) assessment. We are having the first stage in two weeks time. Damn. We’ve been practicing the setup of the casualty station in the quickest time possible for the past week. I hope we can meet the target. And earn some off days in turn.

Although I am a specialist with the Brigade, I have to take part in this assessment of one of our battalions. These guys.. are not a bad bunch. Though they have some motivation issues, I think we can sort that out.

Last week I spent two days revising some basic first aid with the battalion’s troopers. Really, it takes a lot of effort to even gain their attention and respect, especially with the monointake guys. I take my hats off to their sergeants who can handle them. That’s another issue I have to take note of. I cannot afford to lose the respect of the people here. It will only make my job more difficult.

I was never good at practicals. Asking me to teach Continual Medical Education is the same as asking me to eat humble pie. Here, I feel like I’m over consuming it. Like today for instance, I absolutely murdered the correct ways of bandaging, causing everybody to snigger.

I hope the rehearsal goes well tomorrow. No more time for anymore screw ups.


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Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us

Stella Matutina, ora pro nobis

Our Lady of Perpetual Succor, pray for us

St Michael the Archangel, pray for us

St Jude, pray for us

St Benedict, pray for us

St Dominic, pray for us

St Anthony, pray for us