I’ve always had a tinge of regret for leaving green- because the sense of accomplishment I got after every day in BMT, after every dirty exercise and after every intensive PT was amazing. There’s nothing more rewarding than to get back to wing line or coy line to simply shower after a disgustingly hot and sweaty day. Knowing that you got paid for receiving this feels even better. It isn’t even heartwrenching to spend my cash every weekend because it doesn’t feel like I struggled to earn them.
But X48 changed things of course.
On hindsight, the break out at 2am was rather scary. Imagine sleeping peacefully for 7 hours, suddenly hearing sirens and whistles and truckloads of noise in your faces (which was worse than CLM’s turnout of which the scariest shit was camo on faces in the corridor). Suddenly everyone had to get up and start doing jumping jacks to whistle counts, changing to pushups, flutter kicks, crunches, changing, changing, changing, running to the basketball court, continuing the routine, some 300m+ sprinting to touch the fkn fence AND BACK (which isn’t 20 metres away as I imagined before X48, it was probably around 150m away) which already made us, or maybe me, tired by the time the first hour was up.
After that was shitloads of boat PT, AND THE CHOW RUN BEFORE THE FIRST BREAKFAST HOLY CRAP. I randomly Google “chow run NDU”, and if naval divers can speak of it like some sort of terrible hell, it definitely must have been terrible hell for a rolling potato like me. The first chow run was the freaking worst worst worst, with our fieldpacks and some shit of 5-7kg inside, we ran nearly 13 or more rounds around the NDU parade square (which gives me a nightmare now that I look at RSN Day’s photos). I will never want to return to NDU again. One round is around 300m too? On a usual day it’s difficult to get me to even run one round around the track, don’t even talk about that distance with rocks on my back. I nearly died of breathlessness during the run and I constantly wondered to myself how the hell I was ever going to complete the entire X48. That was merely 5.30am, it had only been 3.5 hours since X48 started.
I think the most painful thing isn’t running. What’s worse is:
“74th. You did not keep together as one batch. I see no teamwork. We will do this again.”
“We will run another 2 rounds. This time, I want you to ____________.”
I’ve never hated running so much in my life, and the growing distaste is disturbing as my timings improve. It’s not so much about the breathlessness or cramps that I get from running- it’s more of the inferiority I get as I run. No matter how hard I push, or how hard I feel that I am pushing, I never am able to match up to athletes, much less guys. It’s very upsetting how females are built to be physically weaker than guys, and how we have to chase so hard just to be on level ground, and not even superior to them. Cynics will always say that girls have it easier in the SAF, or anywhere else. The truth is, we are the weaker gender, at least physically. It’s a mental struggle I deal with, especially here. That to this day, in Singapore, people can make fun of gender roles and relegate our household duties to being “in the kitchen”, or simply the gender that is “supposed to carry tissue paper around”. I hate it.
Back to X48: after breakfast we painfully shifted the sea boats to the shore and we did boat paddling the entire morning! Was it 5km? Or 10km? I don’t know actually, but it didn’t feel as endless as the parade square. I guess that’s one of the better elements of X48, it’s tiring but at least you are doing something enjoyable. There’s this culture in NDU where they say “It pays to be a winner”. Winners of every evolution (or activity) get to rest, while losers have to do it over and over again until they win. Thankful for my skillful coxswain Yi Ling who made sure we never had to worry about the direction our sea boat was going. We came in second for ALL the races, overtook people even though we started off last (our stern was facing the front at the starting line LOL), which meant that we got our rest time. It felt good to paddle damn hard and end up being a winner. And getting to rest. It really felt damn good. I was smiling as I shifted the boats up even as waist carry kills every part of my side back torn tendon, and I just kept repeating “I am happy”.
On to that later, then there was a chow run before lunch (combat rations) which wasn’t so bad because it was only a few rounds. Wow, I actually gave up counting because I believed runs were going to be endless. I can’t even remember the sequence of events now. Then there were swimming challenges, another confidence jump, another PT session:
“Go touch the fence!!!!!!!!”
“You do not know how to do it properly? RUN AND TOUCH THE FENCE!!!”
“You did not meet my timing! TOUCH THE FENCE!!!!!”
Freaking fence my second worst nightmare after the parade square.
THEN ROPE RUN. This is probably the next biggest pain in X48. Before the run we were told that “It pays to be a winner”, so the last division will redo 5 rounds with the rope. The slower girls (of which I am one of them) started falling out because they didn’t want to be a burden to their divisions. That was such a large temptation to me- and after a few of them did, it became obvious that Tiger was going to be the last division. My goal was not to fall out during X48, and that meant I was the slowest girl left. As we started our run I started crying and it interrupted my breathing quite a bit. It was so painful to run and FAIL TO KEEP UP and know that no matter how hard I push, I was going to be the last. We were going to be the last because of me. I felt so terrible as an extemely huge burden, I wasn’t even holding the rope to help my division but yet I was going to sabotage them in the end. Thank god they changed the rules in the end after seeing all the FNOs struggle at the back, it honestly provided me with more motivation to complete the run. It’s difficult to tell yourself to push harder to be second last. It sucks to start from the bottom.
After that was tyre PT, boat PT, swimming again, I can’t recall the events anymore. Leopard crawling 5-6 times too, because I couldn’t reach the boat in time and they made the slower ones repeat it again and again from the centre line which severely spoilt my back. I was whining with every twist of my back because it hurt so much I was going to cry any moment. Right now, I can’t bend down properly anymore. It made me look like a war veteran too, with my rotten elbows. Cold treatment is probably the next highlight. It was already freezing cold at around 12am and we were already trembling from leaving the swimming pool with our swimsuits and bodies wet. CQ took a temperature probe and THE HORROR WHEN I SAW THAT THE WATER TEMPERATURE WAS 0 DEGREES. The next thing we were instructed to do was to stick our foot in, the other foot, take a knee, and sit down. I was sitting beside ice blocks because I was all the way at the back, but honestly it wasn’t as unbearable as I thought it would be. After a while when your body gets numb it becomes fine. You continue trembling and shivering of course, but your mind doesn’t feel it anymore. In fact my back felt much better given that I had fallen down and pulled my strained tendon earlier during boat PT. I couldn’t even bend down properly like what happened during BMT. I told myself that this is all for recovery: I timed my breathing. It was okay. It was bearable.
THEN ANOTHER RUN: CASEVAC RACE. 10 rounds around the same parade square with 2 jerry cans and 1 tyre per division. “It pays to be a winner”, the fastest division will get to rest while the rest of the divisions will do 10 rounds again. I survived well this run telling myself in my head “Huiping don’t be a burden” “Huiping don’t be a burden” “Huiping don’t be a burden” “Huiping don’t be a burden”. I was already holding nothing every round- I didn’t offer to hold the tyre or jerry can at all. I knew I’ll be a bigger burden that way. I just kept running, and someone described me as the “lighthouse” with my yellow bib. They couldn’t go slower than me. My pace dropped quite a bit towards the end but I was keeping up. Of course I had to, I wasn’t holding no shit. I had no rights to be slow. Tiger division ended up first, with a lot of assistance from our DO and Tiger seniors. That was another part of the day, telling myself “I am happy”.
THEN IT WAS TIME FOR THE FINALE FINALLY IT TOOK FOREVER, which was another run with field pack. This felt exactly like the Chow Run. What was the worst part? You think it’s the end. I really sprinted and pushed with all my heart, I was getting really dizzy and nauseous and all I saw was a hand sticking out from a division mate to push me on. I grabbed it and ran with all my might. I thought that was the end. Seniors started clapping, and we gathered in front of CO MIDS. I was so damn ready to shout SECURE.
“74th. Basketball court, grab your field packs. Boat 12, 11, 10, 5 steps behind me.”
I almost cried and died. I couldn’t keep up this time because my thighs were giving way and I was getting really breathless, so thankful to division mates and seniors who held up my field pack so that I could run faster temporarily without the load on my back. I survived in the end though. I survived. That’s what’s important. Never, freaking, back down.
“I am happy.”
These three words meant so much to me. Honestly, in my entire time in MIDS Wing I’ve barely said or felt it. OCS Navy has been very painful for me, both mentally and physically. I’ve never felt accomplished at the end of every day, and as I’ve described it to many people before, it feels like I’m “going through JC again, with a position in the Student Council, in a military organisation”. The occasional physical training does kill me physically too, to remind myself how inadequate I am in this male-dominated organisation. I can barely run, and when we are supposed to keep up in cadence, it kills me over and over again. I’ve barely had occasions I truly felt at peace with myself and with what I was doing, or what I signed up for. It’s difficult to tell yourself that everything you are doing is for a bigger purpose when you can only see yourself sleeping at 2.30am and waking up at 5.15am. But week by week I survived with stupid people in my division and the stupid conversations we have. I continued laughing, I mocked people and got mocked in return.
X48 has been a very very accomplishing exercise that I’m very glad I went through. It re-affirms my decision to join the Navy because I sought for sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in everything I went through, and this really left me happy at the end of it. I’ve learnt about how much I can push beyond my physical limits and remain happy at the end. And how everything is mental. People start falling out and it’s tempting, but no. I’ve hardly fallen out throughout my years in NCC and my time in BMT (except BCCT 2 gosh biggest regret ever), and I wanted this to continue. Just bite the pain and go through it. I tell myself that it’s okay to go slow, but never stop. Never give up. Never back down. And I think that’s good enough. I merely did it for 28-30 hours and I’m already all broken, cramps all over. I can barely walk, I can barely bend, I couldn’t even get out of bed this morning without rolling off. The physical pain (especially my back injury which is aggravated again of course) kills you, but I think the mental torture not having accomplished something will kill you much more than any physical pain. I will never want to have regrets in everything I do.
There are several occasions I miss army, and I think I will continue to. It’s difficult to leave green when you have been in it for 7 years. But at the end of this all, I don’t think I’ll ever regret going grey.