You pick up your bottle, the old faithful grey one, and lift it to your chin. Make sure your shoulders are ninety degrees, or you will get dissed. Look straight look sharp, like you are at a parade. It’s a water parade, anyway. Like every parade, your sergeants will scream. “Bottles up”, “Caps off” and of course the best of it all, “The SAF eight core values are…”. We recite them words, with gusto and drive, like we really know if that’s what we live by. Loyalty to country, Leadership, Discipline is key; something no soldier will ever let these values slip. Professionalism, fighting spirit, the hand of the trade, the anvil upon which a soldier is made. Yet when we reach the last ones, ethics, care for soldiers and safety, it starts to get slippery. For if we look around it really is quite tricky. And of course this is a passage, about my believes, from what I have seen, after 4 months within. Coupled by the things that I have heard, from my peers, superiors and careless talk; that maybe conscripts aren’t human at all, that the name National Service, has got to move on.
I can’t say for sure that I have seen it all. The danger, the pain, the trouble of it all. The burden of being the shield of our land, our family’s anchor for the home that we stand. But since the day I was conscripted, as a fellow recruit, for this “holy” right of way, which all men go through, I do see the reason, for such a bold move. Taking away a mother’s son, to bear arms to kill. Yet with the broad smiles they show, and the assurances they give, it never quite sat well, with what it would be. For when they leave did the fun begin, upon this retched island, that no one will miss.
A few months later upon the same o’soil, as another errand boy, for this suffocating command. An Ammo tech, that’s what they say, or a glorified storeman, that handles the blades. The blades shaped like dewdrops, that fly like the rain, a beautiful storm of death and pain. Yes they’re harmless, or so they or say, that holding explosives, is just like child’s play. Looked upon like vermin, the dirt on the ground, that unit they all feel, should never be around. “just a storeman” they think, “we don’t need them” they mused. But little did they know, the plight of us few. For soldiers can fight on a stomach unfilled, but none can fight, when their guns fall still. These “storeman” they seem, are not just slackers, for they are the oil, that fuel the embers. The ones who carry, drag and push, the very bullets that our Army use. So don’t for one second, think of us ill, for not all soldier fights, with a gun at his hilt.
There are cases we see, that defied a few, of those sacred values, soldiers held to. “Advanced Trainfire Package”, a compulsory event, a beautifully fatal name to begin. A buddy of mine, a commando guy, one of those casualties, paying the price. For combat is heavy, it never was light, that left him with discs, slipped in his spine. The price is painful, the price is worth it, for it should be in the service of this country. Yet despite his pain, and his obvious demise, it didn’t stop them, still that barrage of apathy. They sent him for ATP, despite his injury, the one that made him, prone-unworthy. 5 times he went, down to the clinic, just so he can, clear this insanity. It took so much pleading, some angry emails and a letter, from a specialist to get him over. But even so they are reluctant, so where is that care, in our Soldiers?
Two months flew by, and my time begins to mature. Been through hell, starting to learn better. For after July we will start taking over,for friends are completing, their terms of service. But then came barrage of trouble, many that shows, the army’s through colour. The reluctance to admit mistakes, the hurry to push, the blame of everything upon the servicemen’s shoulder. The unwillingness to accept, that we too are human, punishing us for doing our duty. They like to boast, that they are like family, but I am sure its not that easy, for backstabbing surely, is not family, as family stand and help each other. How can one be Professional, when one lives in fear, of doing his job only to get jailed. Where is the Leadership, if one has to wield, the Military Law, to satisfy his will. A leader listens, and a leader leads, by standing together with his men in need. A shortage of manpower, that was the problem we faced, a problem that easily can be solved and erased. But no despite the complains and the desperate requests, no effort Is seen from the head up above. For not only is there no one appearing for the month of July, but even In August, they still are nowhere we can find. It’s simple really, the logic right here, that one cannot support with that little men. There is a reason why we are given, the Combat Service and Support label. For your men can’t fight, if they don’t have support, much like a man missing his spine. So what is so difficult to show some care, to shift some combatants, to fill the deep cracks?
Some of these days, I feel my heart cry, a bewildered soul, lost, in despair. For National Service, was meant to do well, to give boys the opportunity, to serve their land well. Yet as I see the salutes they give, the snap of the palms to their brows; and I read the captions online, of the barrage of hashtags, laden with pride, I couldn’t help but wonder, if I could live by, this plight for which I feel like are lies. A service I feel, is not worth, for a department so deluded, so apathetic and superficial, that sometimes I wonder, if we even matter. Sure my friends retorted, just quit your complaining. Just focus on serving your country. But how can one serve, a nation he loves, when he is always, taken as a fool?
But in the end I’m sure we all have, done our part, our own fair share. For this are the problems we face, the indication that shows that its not just all play. Appreciation, a “thank you” is all that we ask. For after these 2 years do we finally see, the dangers we face, the difficulties of serving the dream that persists. A dream of a safe and happy community, a dream to never pick up that god forsaken gun again.