I guess I have finally become a true Singaporean, but I've become a little dull towards news events. So, I guess when I do find something to grumble about in the papers, I suppose I should take the opportunity to do it.
Anyway, the latest news item that's got me "involved" in an effort to try and say something intelligent is the fact the Ministry of Defense (MINDEF) has just released the results of an inquirey into sudden deaths in the SAF. Over the last month, we've been reading stories about how National Servicemen in their late teens and early twenties dropped dead all of a sudden and thanks to incidences happening so close together, the Ministry decided to suspend training for three days to review procedures.
All of this is deja vu to me. It was just 11-years ago, before going Opperationally Ready (ORD), when I remember the SAF going through another excercise. Swift Lion had claimed two lives from 23 and earlier that year, an officer cadet had just been shot at a GPMG range by one of his course mates. Then all of a sudden, while we were out in the field, a recently passed out second lieutenant called Brian Loke decided to play with an M113 tank killing round that he found while clearing blinds. He lost his left arm and fingers on his right (he was knocking a stone on the base of this gentle bit of ammunition), sent his two sergeants two the intensive care and killed the private who had the misfortune to follow orders.
So there you have it, my generation can be politely known as Generation S or Generation Stupid. With the exception of Ronnie, Yin Tit and the Staff Sergeant who died earlier in New Zealand, nearly everyone who ended up dead from my generation did so out of stupidity. Well, when I think about it, Ronnie was not stupid but was a victim of stupidity on the part of the ammo-people. How the hell did they not think to check that fuze before issuing it out to us? I don't know, I guess it was just your typical breeding ground for civil service, "As long as nothing goes wrong" mentality on the part of ODE and the guys who equip us. Life to them is about just producing the hardware that gives the political masters a hard on without actually bothering too much if it actually has a side effect.
Swift Lion for all its faults did have one positive effect. It made the military stand up and insist on some sort of safety standards for National Servicemen. For just under ten years, guys on National Service got right to see the ex-ray of the fuzes they were to handle. But unfortunately institutions have short memories and if I'm not wrong, this is going back to the dustbins. After all the civilian engineers who build our weapons are a group of highly competent people - which is fine until its a military guy who dies from their stupidity. Seriously, if ever there was a country where the military needed more guts to tell the civilian sector to stuff it, it is Singapore.
But yes, that was my generation. A group of kids who had it good and I guess you never think you can die during National Service, until you actually see people die. The term "Culture of Complacency" fitted my generation quite well. I suppose we learnt quickly because after National Service we ended up with the Asian Financial Crisis to make us understand that it wasn't much easier in the commercial sector either. So much for Generation S.
As awful as what we went through all those years ago may seem, I think the thing that the guys who are dropping dead are going through is worse. They're dying of heart attacks. How can that happen I wonder?
Well, if I have heart problems (I've got hypertension), its from years of late nights, not enough money and too much booze. Duboius women don't help either. But the kids who died during national service are supposed to be in the prime of their life. This is when a man is supposed to be at his fittest. Sure, I was not fit and I do have a family history on heart issues (Mum's side) but I didn't die of a heart attack!
So, what's happening to the kids these days? This time I can't blame MINDEF or the SAF or even ODE and the guys who make weapons for being arseholes. Has life become tougher in the SAF? Well, I guess I'm inclined to suggest that it has not (In My time.....a sign of age in Singapore). But its more likely that kids are becomming more soft with a growing economy and the good life.
It makes me dispair! At least for those of us who lived through Generation S, we had the opportunity to grow up and become sensible adults (my ex-wife would denny that I grew up). Is there hope for Generation H, or Generation Helpless? What can you do if the bunch of you have heart attacks left right and centre? Would really like to know!