I’ve felt a lot these few days, and I’m not quite sure how to put my thoughts into words.
Many people have asked how my 17-day MSTD was, for the sole reason that I was so full of dread for this entire experience before I even went on it. I’ve heard from seniors that sleep deprivation characterises the entire deployment, that you will be facing the decks (floor) more than you look up, that you will be so busy studying in a “floating classroom”, that all your debriefs only happen past midnight and they will have truckloads of things to say, that 6 weeks of homesickness will pass slower than you can ever imagine. It is almost like a 6 week long field camp when you eagerly count down the days to home, to solace and comfort.
I remember waving to Aloysius, my mother, my sister, Edina and Gracie on the gangway which boldly spells “RSS ENDEAVOUR” for the last time, and I remember rushing back to the briefing room to muster in time to speak to Commander OCS. I was already getting so upset about having to go through this experience without having the assurance that our family and friends will always be there at the end of the night to comfort you- out at sea you will never get reception, until you reach any port, and even then you have to get yourself a SIM card before any form of contact can be established.
I was harshly proven wrong though, but I have absolutely no complaints about it. MSTD started well, when I entered the greatly pink female cabin due to the decorations done up by Chief MS, which was a source of comfort every night I returned. I had more fulfilling experiences than ever, to be able to keep watch in the dark of the night and put ROR to practice, to be able to handle marine sextants and measure the altitude of stars which I would otherwise not recognise, to be involved in harbour duty and know that you were doing it for the safety of the ship and its remaining crew, to get myself involved in port presentations and executing the entire divisional event with pride. I wouldn’t go too far to say that MSTD was easy because it isn’t- and elements of sleepiness still kicked in occasionally. However, it was much better planned compared to what I have heard from previous batches, and for that I think I should be very, very thankful.
On our final day, we were initially informed that we would leave the ship at 1300. I was not mentally ready at all, spending 17 days with the same group of people, tablemates, Tiger Bravo for watch meant that we developed a closer bond among ourselves, and I would dare to make a sweeping statement that MSTD formed a friendship so special among people that OCS life can never compete. It was more than friendship, it was emotional dependence: it was almost living with a new family, when you grow so accustomed to one another’s habits, until it allows you to know who has the smelliest socks or smelliest morning breath. When you see your officers day in day out and the line drawn due to hierarchy blurs.
But when we were told to gather at 0930 with our luggages at 0917 we were all taken aback. It was heartwrenching to say the least: one day ago we had been performing, we had been dedicated songs and quotes, jokes were made about people, about us, and about how we were SMSD and not SNSD for a reason. We were laughing and wishing that we could stay for a little bit, a little bit longer. Having all that in mind we were denied the opportunity to say our final goodbyes, and we could only frantically wave our hands to everyone else on the tank deck, trying to hide our sobs from the ship crew who were on the FCU with us. I’ll always remember this mental picture that I tried so hard to save: when everyone started singing “See You Again” of which lyrics I only learnt the day before; when the FCU slowly left the well dock and everyone started waving with their long 4s and reflective silver strips; when I saw CPT He and MAJ Tang on the flight deck waving and making heart shapes with their arms for us.
MSTD has reminded me how it feels like to be so strongly attached to a group of people, to the point I felt like I was devoid of emotions when walking around Palu, Indonesia that night. Whenever I opened my eyes on the bumpy mountainous terrain I saw my division, and smiled whenever MSTD memories came to mind. I did not have strong favour for my experience in MIDS wing and would gladly leave all of that behind, but I had a really good time on MSTD and I’m really glad my experience in the SAF abruptly stopped at a high. I think I will be able to leave for my studies happily, and still look forward to returning for my vacational attachment 9 months later.
Eating by the beach on our limited 8-hour shore leave: I’ll always remember how one of them opened up the SAF issued condom on the Tuk-tuk and faced it windward, and how it got filled up by air so easily like a balloon. We were laughing hysterically, singing and shouting our guts out along the road. It’s one mental image I’ll always smile at, unfortunately being midshipmen we were never allowed camera phones on board. For this photo we had to approach the waiter to use his phone, and we had to download Line on our non-camera smartphones to obtain the photo from him.
I am thankful for having this piece of memory.
The cheesy love letters written by almost every guy from my division and a soft toy gift: I am sure most guys aren’t good at expressing their thoughts in words but they made themselves do it. And there are so many that made me sob at home. I took one hour to paste every single card on my Leopard reflection book and that’s definitely going to come with me all the way to London.
They said “thank God for placing me in Tiger division”, but I think, thank god for placing me in Tiger. I will never pick any other division, be it for the divisionmates, the divisional officer or the divisional warrant. Here’s a large thank you for all the positive experiences.
“It’s been a long way, without you my friend. And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again.”