I want to share a story about ‘collective idiocy’ that involved your father.
When I was an Army recruit, my training camp was back in Pulau Tekong and when it was time for us to book in, we have to find our own way back to Commando Jetty. So when it was time for us to book in, it is no surprise that you will see many botak (bald-headed) recruits on the same bus, since we are all booking in at the same time.
So this fateful night, we were on the bus, and heading towards a common destination, we all have to alight at the same bus-stop and of course we need to press the bell so that the bus driver will know there are passengers who were alighting.
What happened was a matter of group-think towards collective stupidity.
We all, the recruits in the bus, knew we are all alighting at the same stop, and we all waited for one of us to press the bell, and anyone of us can, but no one did!
So we looked wide eyed as the bus zipped past our stop and everyone started pressing the bell in frantic. Too late, the bus driver simply ignored us, and take it that the bell we pressed was for the next stop.
So the bus alighted at the next stop and the whole group of us has to dumb, dumb walk back to the earlier bus stop and towards Commando Jetty. No one said a thing about the incident, we didn’t have to, we all made a fool out of ourselves, and now thinking back more than 21 years later, the whole incident seems petty hilarious.
During your father’s Reservist, he has fired a MATADOR (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MATADOR). This is an Light Anti-Tank Weapon (LAW), that is in used with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Our unit was given some organic weapons training, the NSmen were given a few choices: M-16/SAR21, Ultimax 100/SAW, GPMG, or the MATADOR. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I chose MATADOR.
I mean, who in this world actually get a chance to fire a real anti-tank rocket? It was a chance too good to pass up!
Of course there was a familiarization lessons to go through. We handled the dummy version, understand the immediate action (IA) drill in case the weapon malfunction. This mainly have to do with the weapon not firing and we have to leave the weapon, more gently than you put a sleeping baby down! Any jerk could set off the malfunction weapon and blow everybody up with the most unintended consequences! The reality is that it can be nerve wrecking to know if that high explosive thing you put on your shoulder failed to go off.
Anyway, we went through some technical handling and we made it to the MATADOR range, which was actually an open area where we get to shoot at some metal targets simulating vehicles. Since a single live MATADOR cost more than S$10,000, the army has to make sure we are familiar with it. So we were given to sub-munition rounds to get ourselves familiar with whole drill of handling the MATADOR. There were 2 rounds of sub-munitions for us to shoot at the targets. So when we squeeze the trigger, a small projectile will be sent flying towards the target. Piece of cake.
When it came to the real thing, all of us got somber and serious. We were told that the MATADOR packed a nasty back blast, and true enough the amount of back blast was phenomenal. Anyone standing 5 meters behind it will be severely injured by the back blast. No joke, it threw a blast a good 10 meters or more.
Because it was an expensive round to fire, everyone only have one chance. and due to some military mess up, I was the last shooter for the entire cohort.
It was an exciting moment as I hefted the real thing onto my right shoulder and as I peered through the simple sights, I took aim at the big vehicle shaped metal sheet, about 250m ahead, well within the MATADOR’s maximum 500m range.
So I repeated the commands and grasp the pistol grip and flicked the safety off. The moment of truth.
Nothing prepared me for what was going to happen.
I squeezed the trigger and was totally taken by surprise the amount of recoil of the weapon packed. And the amount of smoke! I totally lost sight of the target momentarily.
When the smoke cleared, I couldn’t hear what the trainer was trying to tell me, I pulled my earplugs off while I exited the little mold of earth making up the firing point, everyone at the training shed was on their feet cheering!
I thought they were cheering since I was the last firing, so I lifted the empty, and light MATADOR casing in bravado. It was later when I reached the training shed that I realise what my buddies were cheering about.
As I didn’t prepare for the recoil, the warhead was jerked upwards when it left the MATADOR. Hence with an upward trajectory, the warhead totally missed the target and instead flew for its maximum 500 meters and landed beyond the range parameters!
It probably blew up some tree and killed some ants. What a way to waste a $10,000 weapon!
During my NS, there were some gnarly things we did, and when I saw this on the shelf of our local supermarket, it reminded me of some of the things we did during our National Service dealing with rodents.
There are plenty of rats in any decent military camps, food is good, free lodging. Most of the time, soldiers will usually leave the rats alone. Well, too bad this time around, since we were in the Guradroom, bore out of our wits. The mundane guard duty will get to us, and the Rats are getting to us too, as they decided to raid our food supplies.
Your dad has no idea how to catch rats, or deal with them. Your dad’s friend, Jerome, has a couple of idea up his sleeve. They were sinister.
This is in my opinion, the best way to catch them, it works, like a charm, all the time. The only issue is, you will have a live, scurry rat to deal with in the cage. Oh, there are plenty of ways to deal with a caged, live scurry rat, so I learned from Jerome.
One way was to take the cage at both ends, shake and rattle it, HARD. The whole idea was to give the rat inside a concussion, stun it immobile, open the cage, take out the Rat, hold it by its long tail, and swing the rat, WHAP! Onto the ground, dead rat. This is by far, Jerome’s most ‘humane’ method.
The other way, by your dad’s deviousness, was drowning. With the rat in cage, you dunk it into a pail of water, completely submerge it, until, you know… die.
So I got this rat, and dunk it into the pail, you see the little fella trying to find air, but getting none, little bubbles coming out from it’s nose, as it struggles underwater. I’ll lift the cage up and then it can catch a little breath, then I dunk it again. I repeated this a couple of time, and was actually thinking of not killing the poor thing but, keeping it as a kind of pet.
All this was happening while I was on gate duty, a vehicle drove towards me, and I remembered my job, opened the gate for my camp’s officer, saluted, took down the plate number and time. I walked back to the guardroom and chatted with my friend, and suddenly, I remembered.
So I ran back to my rat in the water, but it was too late. Poor Mickey had drowned.
That is one messy way to get rid of a rat. We put this sticky gooey stuff on a cardboard, not unlike how we spread peanut butter on a bread, but this was much worse. Right in the middle, we put a small bait. then set it on the place our rat of a friend will patronise. They never failed to turn up.
So there was a day we catch a big one, stuck to the rat glue board, no where to go. The rodent must have exhausted itself trying to unstuck itself. There is no unstuck, once a rat is on a rat glue. Since it is not going anywhere, we went out to do our chores, and leave the thing there as it is.
Big bad mistake
Bee Bee, our yellow mongrel bitch, somehow got a wind of that little rodent on a gooey platter, decided to make a meal out of it. Of course with that rat stuck, it is not going to be any good, clean meal, and Bee Bee being a dog, will, well, trash, swing and bite that meal free? It did, and she wasn’t successful, and left behind a messed up room, a very dead rat (it was still alive when we left it). So lesson learned, no rat glue.
So there you have it, your dad’s dastardly experience with rat in camp. It is not of the most pleasant experience but it is part and parcel of my life’s story, now they are yours!
During my National Service, there were plenty of time for me to come into contact with dogs. While as a Regimental Policeman, I have to duty to ensure the integrity of the camp I’m guarding are robust. Dogs on the other hand, will always have their ways to get around chain linked fence. If all else fails, they simply stroll into my camp via the very main gates we were guarding.
I’m quite lucky to have served National Service in days where there is no Al Quaeda, no Daesh(ISIS), and security in camps isn’t as tight as it is now. I was posted to the guard room, and technically served as a security guard. I got Mondays to Fridays 8.30am to 5.30am. which was great, the night shifts was covered by the guys in the camp. Life was easy, the only ‘security threat’ was not properly registering the visitors.
So there was this brown mongrel. My friend Jerome, called her ‘BiBi’ as she kind of looked like one of the Chief Clerks in the camp. Actually she don’t, but the name stuck. Bibi came and went, like all free roaming dogs do, we feed her when we can and the relationship was very laissez faire. She came into the guard room, we feed her; she leaves, she leaves.
But she was pregnant. we knew that and didn’t think too much of it. Well, we were eighteen then, what do we know about doggie parenting?
We came to camp one day and the guys who manned to night guard duty told us that Bibi did something in our cell.
You see, back then our guardroom has about 12 holding cells for prisoners, but most of them were unused, and became makeshift storerooms. although a couple of them were clean and unoccupied. Other than the stacks of newspapers we put there.
So Bibi went into that cell, made herself cozy, by spreading the newspapers out. Promptly gave birth to her offspring there.
It was the most b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l thing to me. The experience is not anything I could have had. Bibi was there, there was 11 of them, but 3 died at birth. the rest of the 7 scurried to Bibi’s nipples for their suckle of life. They all scrambled like hungry little rodents, and despite of their eyes has yet to open, they know where the nipples are, and homed in on it. There were one or 2 weaker ones, who couldn’t get to the nipples for refuel, I helped moved them a little and positioned these weaker ones for their nourishment.
Bibi trusts me.
I didn’t know maternal instincts until I met Bibi. Of course her giving birth wasn’t a total secret in camp, many of the camp guys camp to see and yeah, that’s all they get, a look, they couldn’t touch the pups, they could try and all they got was a low warning growl from Bibi. These guys were strangers; for me and my RP friends, we held her, we could hold her children. There was no issue. For me, to have a dog trust me instinctively and intrinsically is one of the greatest honour I could have as a human being. It is a big deal as an 18 year old then.
The pups were small, I can hold one in my hand, and as pups, they grew fast and grew so full of energy. And so playful too.
Unfortunately, sometimes, ignorance and playfulness can cost them their lives.
Puppy vs 3 Tonner
I came to camp one day and learned the unfortunate demise of one of the pups. The night duty guys told me that one of the puppies, a lovely little brown patch of furry energy, decided to take a nap on the road, just outside my guardroom, the wee hours of the morning.
A 3 tonner came and went, unfortunately didn’t see the puppy, well it was night and dark, the little mutt was barely visible. The result was predictable, road kill.
I think the most fortunate of all the pups was this little black thing called ‘Blackie’. He was picked up by a Commando Major, and the soldier took it in ever since. Even when the Major retired and joined the Police Force, Blackie followed him. I’m sure the Major would have given the mutt a good life, all the way to the end.
I’m still in touch with the Major every now and then, and he does tells me Blackie’s still with him, but that has been a couple of years since I last caught up with the old soldier, I wonder if Blackie’s still alive, or old age has finally caught up with the mutt.