Exercise ORD: A Second Trip to New Zealand!

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.

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Some music for the fanboy haha!

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!).

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Breakfast @ base camp, ohnomnom~

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.

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Mt Ruapehu!

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Just one of the many beautiful sights in NZ!

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!

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The silver sky (When rain was coming T_T)

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rainbowwwwww

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!

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room in uni hall! It’s actually around 1.5x bigger compared to the nus halls i saw during open house haha

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!

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Pretty awesome right!

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just one of the many seafood we ate, SEAFOOD SPAMMMMM!!!

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And the aftermath…

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)

 

ttsfeb3ttsfeb2ttsfeb1

 

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The Last 25%: Final months as a NSF (Part I)

Post 90! So apparently my 80th post was during last November, so yes the frequency of posts here have been getting really slow (forever talking about this but still not posting enough). Hopefully I would be posting here more often, because I really miss just typing out stuff on my MacBook in this personal space of mines. It hasn’t been long since I came back from Thailand after my overseas exercise ended (EDIT: I started writing this 2 weeks ago but haven’t been able to complete it, so much for more posting here LOL), so it’s only natural for me to talk about it, which will be the focus of this post. Since there is much I can type out with 6 months remaining as my time as a soldier, I would touch on what the rest of all army-related thoughts in another post. (WARNING: DRY POST INCOMING SORRRRY >.<)

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MEN OF STEEL! ARTILLERY!

EX BATTLE KING! Since no one wanted to go for it, I got unfortunately arrowed to go for this exercise. At first thought, it looked horrible since I’m going to Thailand, which is going to be extremely hot, and I would have 2 weekends burnt, and to add on my misery, be away from my friends whom I used to see and talk to every week. But as time passed towards the mid-year, I got used to the mundane army life as week after week passes by, with some of my weekends burnt due to regimental and extra duties. Putting everything else aside, I went into BK with surprisingly a positive mindset and looked forward to get the most out of it. I was actually excited to going overseas since it has been close to 2 years since I haven’t travelled out of the country and I invite any changes to the really monotonous army life of mines. The actual thought of me being away for 2 weeks plus only struck quite late, so I panicked a little but I left Singapore with a light heart and off to Thailand I go! I had my first meal on a plane since I don’t know for how long as I have been always traveling on budget (no joke). As with any change in environment, at first I hated Thailand: The 75 men bunk, the poor shower facilities, the lousy cookhouse food and worst of all, I had no one to turn to and was all by myself in this foreign country. But throughout the whole exercise, I got used to the new environment, and it helped knowing that we aren’t going to stay here for long kinda subsided any sadness I experienced. Before I knew it, this exercise only became a distant memory, which ended up as a relaxing trip away from everything in Singapore and made me realize how reliant I am on technology. Now moving on the actual exercise…

The first 3 days of preparation was hell. The weather was hot, and there were many signal sets to be mounted. Not everyone was doing their share of work, so being the loner among the group, I just kept quiet in a corner did more than my share of work. I probably mounted more signal sets in Thailand than I ever did back in Singapore LOL (yes it was that many and it was so tiring). I never felt so shagged out before and for those few days, I fell asleep easily despite the sponge-like mattress and lack of ventilation in the bunk. My admin shirt changed color from all the sweat I did and from Day 1 of doing work, I started to realize how lucky I was to have such a “boring” army life, in a way that having nothing to do always is better than having something to do. With all the prep done, I was given kind of a major role during the exercise since I was the only ‘corporal’ signaler in the team. I was given a role with some responsibility. RESPONSIBILITY! Who would have known that word would be in the same sentence with my name. Imagine in a net diagram you see names of officers in charge of something and under rebro, you see CPL NICK LIM. After being in the army for so long, I was convinced I was never the leader-type material and should just stick to being a follower. You could say that I wasn’t that comfortable with my role, but there’s a first for everything. I had to draw my own stores, be a vehicle commander and be held responsible for any screw ups. So you could say that I was easily a victim of any angst from the signal officer-in-charge, yay for responsibility…

Onto Day 4, it was time to move off and it felt good to be driven along the rural areas of Thailand which I wouldn’t get to see if I wasn’t arrowed for this exercise. I don’t want to be rambling about 9 days of outfield so I will just focus on the more memorable moments. The first 2 days it was raining and I had to cuddle into my jacket. When I was hoping for slightly better weather, the days to follow the sun was blazing hot and I had a free tan and eventually became more blacker than I would wanted to be. Nightfall was very early there and by 7pm, the sky is totally dark to the extent that you can’t even see your own fingers. It was during that time where my thoughts start to wonder and the thinking starts yet again. Everyday passed by so slowly as the only thing I do is facing the goddamn radio waiting for something to happen, but somehow 9 days passed like that. I had to save my phone battery so I spent most of my time reading my book, and with that limited battery life I re-watched SNSD’s Hello Baby. You can tell how much remaining time I had to just stare blankly into space and die of boredom LOL. By the 6th day and the words of “exercise cut” gets closer, the motivation was there and time past quicker (it seemed). There was a distant lack of human interaction, as the people I talked to most was my Thai driver and liaison officer. How I wished I knew more Thai so that I could communicate with them instead of them trying to understand my English and sign language. My buddy wasn’t really enthusiastic about entertaining them so I tried my best to engage them in any random topic, from exchanging our army stories to random things about outside of army, where topics we talked about were derived from the outdated newspapers delivered to us. It wasn’t exactly an eye-opener, but it helped me understand the outside world better, especially when there is little to see and know in Singapore.  They treated me super well, providing drinks and food from the outside world, and the driver was a super funny guy who I could joke with easily. Although the whole exercise, for our side, didn’t go smoothly all the way, along with me being angst at times, somehow we survived and as the last convoy, he drove our way back to base camp. Oh how I missed my crappy and being able to sleep in a building and not in the open. Since I was only a support staff, I didn’t need to put on my helmet or ilbv, or put on that disgustingly hard to remove camo cream, or even draw rifle. You could say life was pretty good comparatively for me hahas…

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The view from outfield

After outfield ended, time past really quickly as the pressure on everyone was gone. Although we were supposed to have a break, we signalers still had to do some work for the NSmen who are coming in for their subsequent exercise (forever saikang warriors), but what to do? Suck thumb and move on, and the only thing that is motivating me is seeing that percentage go lower and lower. In the middle of all the recovery of stores, we chilled a little and played some dota games as well.  I apparently drunk-whatsapp someone LOL (so freaking embarrassing) and realized how low my alcohol tolerance is. The educational tour around Thailand was okay I suppose… nothing memorable since we spent most of our time traveling in the bus and there wasn’t anything outstanding that we visited. Apparently R&R was counted as an off day and 2 of my off days were deducted which was super depressing. Fortunately, old BSO (who’s in ORD mood already) was kind enough to top up those 2 day off so I got 5 days off from this exercise. Life got back pretty back to normal after I returned to Singapore, but I became more appreciative of the things around me and I’m always glad to receive this kind of enlightenment.

So there were many plus sides to this exercise, but nonetheless there always has to be an ugly side, and yes it was super ugly. Getting mistreated, scolded for absolutely nothing and unable to argue because doing so only would make the situation worse, which simply points to the problem between officer and men, and how some just want to show that they are superior to you. And what can I do? Nothing but SUCK THUMB! I do not have a good temper to be honest, but sucking it up ever since enlisting is something I have learnt well and just lived with it. There were also many showing of “bootlicking” (the civilized way of saying it). I have said this once and I would say it again, what is there to bootlick anyway? I know this would be common when I go to the workplace, but what IRKS me is the total attitude change of some, a total 180 degree change before and after exercise. I would love to continue ranting, but I would like to keep it positive and why so much hate over something that is over already right!

With all the negative things aside, this overseas exercise has taught me much, and one which I won’t be able to learn if I didn’t physically experience and see it for myself. I saw it for myself, how a less developed country (LDC) was and how blessed I was. And also despite them having a lower standard of living comparatively, they still led their lives happily. Whenever I feel life’s unfair, I should look at them and be ashamed of myself. They do not have many things and still living happily. You never realize how you take many things in life granted until they are taken away from you and you are put in a whole new environment without them. This experience also made me realize how different of a person I am with my friends and with people I don’t know, and it felt awful always being left out and alone. Fortunately, JJ came to this exercise as an instructor so yays for having at least 1 person I know here stuck in Thailand. I never really jelled well with the other signalers, would have loved to click with them but whatever, that didn’t happen so life goes back to the way it was before I left.

And that’s it for BK. Will do another post for the remaining army stuff which I didn’t talk about. To be continued….