Somewhere out there, in the northern region of Singapore (say, Yishun), this conversation could have just taken place five minutes ago:
Wife: I’ve put all your army barang barang on the sofa. You can pack them yourself. Remember to buy some toilet paper from that supermarket in camp
Husband: Wait, what? Why would I need them?
Wife: You said you going for ICT tomorrow what?
Husband: IPPT, not ICT!
Wife: Aiya same one mah, both PIE and AYE goes from Jurong to Changi mah
Husband: No, different! I’m just going for a fitness test! ICT then is go back for training!
Wife: Wait…that means you’ll be gone for only two hours? Not two weeks?
Wife: Oh, shit, then the high-teas I’ve booked with…
Wife: Nothing, nothing! I’ll…I’ll go put your guns back to the storeroom
Husband: No guns lah darling!
Unless you’re one who’s been through the NS in the army, it’s rather confusing for you to understand the different obligations and terms that SAF NSmen are familiar with.
Heck, even those who’ve been through the army and have gone for a few cycles of ICT might be confused over IPT and IPPT.
So, as your entertaining and informative BFF, we’re going to list down the very basic facts of NS in the army so that your wife won’t have booked two weeks of high-teas only to realise you’re just going for an IPPT, or your boss won’t think that you’re going to Hong Kong when you’re going for a HK ICT.
Of course, these information are open for all to know, so it’s not a secret, but more of a concise guide for wives / girlfriends / bosses / dogs.
Now, if you prefer to watch instead of read, here’s a video we’ve done based on this topic:
Still here ‘cuz the narrator is too ugly, or you prefer to read instead?
Well, here goes.
The Very Basics: Terms to Call
If you’ve remembered, quite a while back, a well-known retail chain in Singapore provided a “2-year free membership for NSmen” that’s worth $30.
In fact, it seems like they’re likely to provide the membership for NSFs instead of NSmen.
You see, even I was confused with the terms before I enlist, so if you already know this, just bear with me.
NSF is for people who are still serving their 2-year national service. It stands for National Servicemen Full-Time.
NSman is for people like me who’s completed the 2-year national service, but is still required to go for 10 cycles of paid chalet ICT. It stands for Operationally Ready National Servicemen.
For people who’ve completed their ten-year cycle, they’ve gone “MR” or “ROD”, and so they’re no longer NSmen. Or you can call them ex-NSmen, though it sounds a tad bit weird.
So your young Singaporean male colleagues are most likely a NSman, while your boss is a…human being.
Duration of Service and Duties
This might be common sense to any NSFs or NSmen, but it could be new to your pets, females and foreigners.
Every male Singapore citizen or second-gen PR has to serve two years of national service after they reach the age of 16.5. The reason why you see many 18s or 20s in the army is that you can defer your NS before you get into university, so many of us enlist only after JC, poly or ITE.
If you’re fit and pass a fitness test known as IPPT (which we’ll discuss later) before enlistment, your NS would be shortened to one year ten months.
And after two years, your journey isn’t over yet.
You’ll become a NSman, and as a NSmen, you’ll need to go back to camp for ten cycles of training, known as in-camp training (ICT). They are usually one week, which is known as low-key (LK), or two weeks, which is known as high-key (HK).
Sometimes, it can be three weeks, but that’s for special training events like overseas training or a test.
For the duration of the cycle, it’s usually seven high-keys and three low-keys.
Also, as a NSman, if you’re combat-fit, you’ll have to pass the fitness test, the IPPT, every year. Read on and you’ll understand.
Leave & Benefits
As an NSF, you’d actually be entitled to 14 days of annual leave. This is on top of any off days you can get during your service.
And just so you know, NSFs, unless they’re in a shift-work vocation, usually book out on Friday night and book in on Sunday night as well.
For benefits, they’ll be entitled to the common benefits any company would have, with one extra: free meals. Yes, all their meals are free, though we can’t vouch if they’re good: some of us think it’s the best-est food ever and most of us think they’ll rather have McDonald’s salted egg yolk loaded fries than cookhouse food.
To each his own lah.
Now, this is something that even some NSFs or NSmen won’t know about.
For a start, NSFs can go overseas if they want to: they just need to seek approval from their superiors.
For NSmen, it’s slightly different: in the past, we’ve to notify Mindef or MHA if we’re going overseas for more than 24 hours. Before 1 March this year, we’ll have to notify only if we’re going overseas between 14 days to 6 months.
Now, we just need to notify them if we’re going overseas for more than 6 months.
Pretty lit if you’d ask me.
However, if you’re going overseas during your manning period, you’ll have to inform your unit about it. Read on and you’ll understand.
IPPT & RT
This is the confusing part for wives: they must be wondering why their husbands are usually so sporty once a year.
For NSF, they’ll have to pass the test by hook or by crook, and it’s usually a breeze because if they’re training every day.
For NSmen, we’ll have to take IPPT every year. If we fail, we’ll have to go for twenty sessions of physical training in a camp known as RT next year.
If we pass, we’ll just take another IPPT the next year.
So if you’re fit, you’ll be going for IPPT every year and acing it annually while getting some incentives (yeah, got money if you excel). If you’re not, you’ll go for IPPT one year, RT one year, IPPT the year after, RT the year after that…so on and on.
But you’ve a choice if you know you’re going to fail.
Known as the IPPT Preparatory Training, it’s for NSmen who know they can’t pass their IPPT. So instead of going through the IPPT & Fail -> 20XRT -> IPPT & Fail -> 20XRT cycle, they can opt for 10 sessions of IPT every year.
Each IPT is like a session of RT: an intense physical training session.
As long as they go for ten sessions yearly, they’ll have fulfilled their IPPT obligations.
And here’s something even more interesting: for IPTs, they can even take it in a park, which is a public space!
Both NSFs and NSmen carry a special card known as 11B – for NSF, they’ll be their IC for the entirety of their service.
While we often see it as a card for discounts during SAF Day, do you know that 11B actually stands for 11 basic information?
There are more interesting facts about this card in this article.
If you’ve watched Ah Boys to Men 4, you’ll remember the scene when someone has to leave the office during a meeting because he’s “activated”.
That’s not a joke and it’s real: to ensure that NSmen can be activated for battle within hours, units would conduct mobilisation exercises regularly.
We’ll know when our manning period is and if you’re “lucky” enough, you’ll be called up and have to report back to camp in full battle order within hours.
Full battle order refers to all the barang barang, including the helmet.
There would be two types of activation: silent mob whereby you’ll receive calls, though nowadays it’s more of WhatsApp, to report back to camp. The other is open mob, whereby you’ll receive calls and also see your unit code name on TV.
But for wives and girlfriends, don’t worry: they’ll just report to camp and soon after that, they can report back to you as it’s usually a fast process…unless you live in Jurong and your camp’s at Changi.
Ah, here’s the thingy that not only wives and girlfriends should know, but bosses, too.
As mentioned, NSmen have to report once a year for training, and it’s usually one or two weeks. We’ll be notified six months before the ICT, so once you receive the notification, it’s recommended that you send the SAF100 to your employer immediately.
Most of the times, there are still free time for NSmen in camp, and there might even be computers with internet for NSmen to work. Reception in certain camps might be bad, but most of us can still access the Internet.
But. Here’s a big BUT, Mr Boss.
NSmen use this period to recharge and refuel, to rest so that they can provide better work after they complete their paid chalet. You should just let them enjoy their chats with their buddies whom they’ve not seen for a year. Don’t disturb them lah.
NSmen are busy – and sometimes, they’re not even in their bunks, but in the middle of a jungle running away from some invisible enemy. Their hands are dirty from all the soil, snacks, gunpowder, drinks, and sweat. If you want them to focus on their work during office hours, should you let them focus on training during ICT hours?
To any bosses or clients reading this: don’t disturb them lah. They need
the rest to focus.
Terms That’ll Trigger NSFs & NSmen
Saying “extra” to a lady who’s smiling might be innocuous, but saying “extra” to an NSF might just cause him to beg you all of a sudden, because there are some words that are “taboo” to them.
Here are a few so you won’t make the mistake tomorrow:
Extra: It means a punishment whereby a soldier has to do extra duties during weekends
Confinement: It means a punishment whereby a soldier has to stay back during the weekend
SOL: It means “stoppage of leave”. Just don’t use it, it’s bad.
1206: It’s a code whereby soldiers have to pay for missing items
Turnout: When soldiers have to prepare for battle, it’s “turnout”
Now that you know more about NS…maybe it’s time to salute these heroes who’re not wearing a cape to protect you.
Oh, you’re welcome 😉