DISCLAIMER: This post has been so freaking late that when it is out, I already ORD-ed LOL! Nonetheless, I’m still completing it as this is quite a unique experience that I would like to pen down and leave as memories. Starting this new post took much longer than expected, and this would most likely be the 2nd last time I talk about things army-related. (with the last one probably a round up of everything from BMT to ORD) I think I have exhausted all possible talking points regarding army, but since this one is an overseas exercise (in beautiful New Zealand!) I would just do my usual post, and in chronological order.
For most of us, we didn’t see this exercise as Ex Thunder Warrior, we saw it as Ex ORD; as we move closer to the day we get back that coveted pink IC. (which I got back, omg its been a while you beautiful!) [I’ll try to post more pictures to make this post less boring haha! ^_^]
Flashback to the day we flew off, nothing special happened. It was just the beginning of the new year 2014, and we were already going to spend the most of our January on a army exercise. Not the most exciting thing, but hey it’s a free trip sponsored by SAF to New Zealand! Bid my mom farewell and I took a short MRT ride from home to the airport (I’m so lucky to be living near to the airport). We had a chartered flight to Auckland on Singapore Airlines. SQ!!!! Omgosh first time sitting on SQ so exciting hahaha. The seat was quite spacious and service was not bad, maybe I felt it was so good because I have been sitting on budget airlines to Taipei too often. Do you know how nice it is to actually be able to ask for water to drink LOL? I was playing with the in-flight entertainment throughout the whole flight, watching shows and movies along with playing some games. There were also some songs in the system and they had the I Got A Boy album in it! Wanted to catch a short nap before landing but poof they turned on the lights on the plane so no sleep. Landing in Auckland Airport, all of what I saw 3 years back came back to me and seemed familiar to me, from the immigration counter to the waiting area outside the airport. In the end, I just caught up all the sleep needed en route on the 5 hour-long bus ride to the training camp situated at Waiouru.
The whole programme was similar to what I experienced in Thailand: Preparation, outfield part 1, break, outfield part 2, packing up and rest, R&R. Had some briefings, did some setting up of radio sets, nothing significant as the first few days were more of me just getting used to the place. The weather was really very good, a comfortable 10-15 degrees which made it feel like there was permanent air-con outside. The only downside was that there was a lot of wind so sometimes even 2 layers would not be sufficient. I took a while to get acclimatized to the weather there, having to wear my neck gaiter and gloves everywhere and also constantly applying lip balm to prevent my lips from cracking. The meals we eat inside… really as good as hotel since it was a buffet style and there was desert, a salad bar, coffee machine… this is supposed to be a military camp! The bunk was spacious and we each had two pillows and a thick blanket, perfect to just huddle in and enjoy! There was night snacks everyday as well and the toilets are so clean, with heaters equipped as well so that I could enjoy a nice hot shower everyday. The New Zealanders were very friendly people and it was a whole different culture unlike back in Singapore. In short, the New Zealand camp wins our own camp back in Singapore hands down, but of course there was this slight feeling of being homesick which always sucks but with my army friends all here with me, we spend day by day here and await the day we go back to Singapore (and of course, prepare to ORD!).
Onto the actual outfield, the whole training area is huge and provided many places for deployment, so everyday we see ourselves at different places. The scenery here is just really daebak! From the not so green but clean grass, the blue sky to the fluffy white clouds, everything here is very beautiful. It is here when I confirm my view of Singapore being a concrete jungle, and highlights the importance of traveling to other countries if given the chance to do so, you see a lot of different things, A LOT. I got to see Mt. Ruapehu as well as the supposedly Mt. Doom, which were all magnificent and I can go on forever about the praises I have for the scenery here in New Zealand: the sunrise and the sunset, the starry sky at night. The altitude of the actual live firing area is even higher (supposedly 800m above sea level), so the wind here are even less forgiving. I had to wear a total of 5 layers: my long-john. my admin shirt, my jacket, my I could barely use my phone for a few minutes, and it was outside where you will cherish the warmth back in our bunk. I should have brought along some of my own heat packs, because the ones issued to us were close to useless. Other than battling against the warmth, there was also the battle against the hunger. I haven’t had combat rations since BMT and I was not going to eat them, so I just ate tidbits instead. During the first phase of outfield, there was fresh rations but they were delivered so late to us that our lunch became an early dinner instead. Needless to say we were all just counting the days to the end of the whole exercise so we could enjoy ourselves around the camp as well as during our R&R. We only had a day for our technical break (which ws too short), but as if we had any say so we just go with the flow and did all what we were told to. And onward we went to Phase 2, also known as ATEC where we would be evaluated.
No one was happy, and tensions were high. What seemed to be a 4D3N ATEC got extended by 1 day, and morale dropped drastically as well. At that point of time, close to no one cared about whatever score we had and just wanted the whole thing to end. Everyone had their own set of problems, from mechanical failures to just superiors venting on us, I think we were fortunate to be able to achieve a reccon 2A (2nd possible best grade) for this whole exercise. Luck was also not with us, with temperatures dropping and the mist getting worse, affecting the visibility of the area which made firing unsafe so we had even more delay in the schedule. It was also raining for one or two of the days, which feels absolutely horrible when it’s already very cold and your whole uniform is wet. I for one wasn’t too happy at all, especially with the guy who I was working with. He didn’t have a working phone with him so relaying information to him was just burdensome. He even woke me in the middle of the night to ask me something, and already with minimal sleep you could imagine the vulgarities I wanted to spew in front of him. To make things even worst, another egoistic guy who chaokeng joined us and was ranting about stuff when his poor mates at battery side are getting evaluated outfield. I hate stuck-up people who thinks the world revolves around themselves, so I was sort of a loner the whole exercise. Seeing any familiar faces lifts up the dull mood, and I just passed the remaining time by reading books and watching drama in the phone while trying to preserve my phone battery life as long as possible. To all those whining about how much of a ‘slack’ role I got as compared to the others, well it was not like I was given a choice. During the times when you had your outfields months before New Zealand, I was stuck in Thailand for 3 weeks, and after a month I was off to my month-long driving course, all of which I wasn’t given a choice and got forced into it. I was also paired with one of the most egoistic guys in the platoon and unfortunately I exploded at him and he still doesn’t realize what’s wrong so I’m just happy I do not need to face him again. (shall keep this as rant-free as possible hahaha). Maybe I shouldn’t rant so much given the role I was given, so always count on your lucky stars haha!
The aftermath of outfield was nothing much, we just dismantled the signal sets from the vehicles and returned the relevant stores. The post- exercise wasn’t anything significant as well, just go some beer to drink and interacted with some of the New Zealand soldiers there. Some people got high and drunk as beers and shots keep coming and coming. It was a real pity that we didn’t have time to explore the whole camp since we were stuck outfield most of the time, but in all I could say I had a positive experience here (of course excluding the outfield haha). We packed up our duffel bags, slept our last night here and into the next morning, we boarded the bus and bid the camp goodbye. We stopped by some tourist attractions as well, such as the mud pools, hot springs and waterfall. I actually visited some of the places here before with Tinjun during our Geography trip but had no memory LOL. So perhaps I wasn’t really of a good student. We were all disappointed when we learnt that we wouldn’t be staying at a hotel and would be staying at a university hall instead. After arriving to our accommodation, we went to our individual rooms and ventured out to Auckland again! Yet another dejavu feeling again as I began to remember all the places in Auckland again, remembering most of the gift shops LOL. Bought tons of honey, as well as honey-related beauty products for the mom. Got my dad a mug (since I couldn’t think of anything), soft toys for my sisters and a bunch of other stuff for friends. I resisted buying a shirt for myself as I already had too many shirts at home. I felt really bad to my bmt buddy as although the day I landed back in Singapore, I was going to his 21st birthday BBQ, but I totally didn’t get him anything >.<“. Arrived back to the hall and played around in the games room! Unfortunately I didn’t manage to witness any of the hall culture here, but I bet it would have been awesome!
At our last morning in New Zealand, we ventured around the landmarks around Auckland. Beautiful flowers, green grass, with a view of the harbor and the glittering blue sea, I’m just glad that I was given the chance to be back here again in New Zealand. It was free and easy from the afternoon, and the group of us ventured to the Auckland Seafood Festival which Lihwei found out about online! At first glance, it wasn’t much and I was a bit fussy regarding the 20 NZ dollars entrance fee. Once we tasted the seafood, we knew we had to try all of the available cuisines. We had oysters, fish, prawns, lobsters, mussels, scallops, there was a group of us so we just tested everything and once the food was on the table, out comes the phones to take pictures before we savaged on the food. I think we were the only 21SA people to have found such a place, so yays to ourselves haha! The group kind of dispersed when one group of people were focused on shopping for clothes while the others weren’t *points at myself*. The other group took like 2 hours to shop which was way too long considering the small amount of time we have remaining here so I decided to split from the rest. We just tried to spend all of our remaining New Zealand money through the gift shops. Boonhao and Conghui bough sheepskin mats (or whatever you call it), which were of course comfortable but really not the way you want to spend your money on. I just bought more souvenirs and on the way back, we bought Dominos pizza since it was like $5 for one here. Boonhao bought too much and on the way back we gave it to a group of students chilling at the park. The cool thing was that they just readily accepted it and I loved their reaction, where they thought it was too good to be true haha. And on to the bus we went, and it was goodbye Auckland, hello Singapore!
We flew back on Air New Zealand (which was equally awesome!) and landed at around 3am, which was actually a good timing for me since my mom could pick me up only during that timing as the car was available. Bought some duty-free but the queue was epic long. Sorry to James, Conghui and Boonhao whom I used your boarding passes to buy all the alcohol to myself. The first thing I felt (as always to those who travel and come back to Singapore) was: “Why is it so freaking hot?!”. In spite of the hot weather and being back from NZ, it feels so great to be lying on my bed with my laptop, along with being able to shit in my own toilet LOL. Of course, it was great to see my family again, and they all liked what I bought for them, as well as my friends who also liked what I got for them. Double win haha I am such a good buyer LOL! And with that Ex. Thunder Warrior is officially over, and most of us would wait till we get back our pink ICs as this time, we can finally countdown to the day we have been looking forward to… O-R-D!
Today is my ORD day and we are so happy ah~! (and the obligatory TTS gif haha :P)