Category Archives: SAF

Happy RSN50

It is Navy’s 50th anniversary! I have been so goddamn distracted the whole day by thoughts about my short 2 years in the Navy so far. I guess it is the perfect time to describe in detail my irrational admiration of a leader that has been involved in my leadership journey. He also happens to be the one I am referring to in my previous post — the leader I truly respect despite his claim that he is not outstanding academically. Let’s just call him MDT (rank and name LOL).

I remember the first encounter with MDT, when we, as a division, were all sat in this room meeting our training officer for the first time. He got all 30+ of us to self-introduce our names, our schools, and a hobby. I think so. And then it was his turn. He went around in a circle, addressing all of us by name. He had memorised our names and matched them to our appearances even before our first meeting. Everyone in the room had heard of this happening to previous batches, but seeing him do it in front of us truly amazed me. It is difficult to even remember names of people you know (I am terrible with faces), how do you do the same for 30 strangers when you only have their 2D faces printed on a piece of paper?

I struggled a lot throughout my time in MIDS (Navy OCS). There was a lot of self-questioning and self-doubt as I trudged through the days, ending up in tears many times because I was shouldered with so much burden and frustration. This sounds really cheesy but he was a beacon of hope in the darkness; I remember a particular occasion when we had individual review sessions and I had mine. At that point, I was afraid, worried and sad. I did not know where I was heading and every day felt like a torture because I never did see myself improving. I shared my frustrations tearing up, nearly breaking down crying. He talked to me about my strengths and weaknesses, and reminded me to focus on the bigger things. He shared about how disappointed he was with their oversight (!), and how he felt that he could have been more involved with us especially when he saw that external instructors wielded such a strong influence on our day-to-day mentality. I marched back alone from OCS HQ to wing line grinning from ear-to-ear. I felt like someone truly cared about our well-being and growth amidst all those nonsensical scoldings and various instructors blowing things out of proportion. From his words, I felt like each of us mattered as an individual.

We were to submit weekly/fortnightly reflections on our leadership growth. We were to keep track of our leadership journey, write reflections and journals on how we felt we were growing. He read them all to understand our points of view and gave us personal feedback. He constantly took stock of our learning progress and showed us areas we could improve a lot more on. We were repeatedly told to look beyond all the seemingly important things — performing well in tests, or having the best physical standards. He made sure to congratulate people for passing their retests, and gave more credit to those who “finally passed after three failures” than those coasting through the tests. He likened every leadership role as an opportunity to invest in your learning experience, be it a small or large role. He saw the value in people who tried and tried despite all our individual weaknesses. Above all, he paid the most attention to our learning attitudes evident in the people he favoured the most, and I see how it materialises in the success and growth of the people he nurtured.

I remember a particular dialogue last year where we were told to share one thing that we learnt the entire year — I mentioned that it was the little things that matter. MDT walked the talk. You would never catch him with crumpled sheets, you would never catch him with an unneat appearance, you would never receive a thoughtless reply in any statement or reflection submissions. He made sure to send all of us personal messages on our birthdays even long after commissioning. He made provisions to meet us as a division even when he was definitely busy as a new CO of a ship. He never gave himself an excuse for anything; despite his age he made sure to run faster than us despite carrying a jerry can when he shouted at us countless times during X48. He was willing to sacrifice his professional image and be in disfavour of the other officers when he shouted at us again and again for our basic mistakes. Afterall, who would enjoy being hated by everyone? No officer wants to be the bad guy. If anything, he is the most under-recognised instructor/leader, and the RSN is truly lucky to have him dedicating his all to nurture batches after batches of officers. I am truly lucky to have met him as an instructor in my leadership journey and I am sure most, if not all, my division mates have benefited from his harsh training, even if they may not have the same admiration for him as I do.

Many people joke on Instagram or Facebook about how “when I grow up, I want to be like you”. MDT Sir, when I grow up, I truly want to be like you.

Happy days

All 4 coursework have been submitted as of Tuesday and to say that I am in a “holiday mood” is too much of an understatement. I am now overcompensating for the nights doing readings and churning out figures after figures, simply because London life should be a little more than this.

Yesterday

I watched a movie in the morning over Skype with HT, took a 3-hour nap after and went to New Malden again with Dilys to introduce her to some great bingsu. We had Korean BBQ at the Kimchi Village Restaurant as well, where the buffet came to a grand total of £17 with a rather wide selection of meat (prawns!!!) and cooked food. The soy and spicy chicken were excellent, kimbab was excellent as well. What more could I ask for?

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Injeolmi!!! I missed you, now what’s left is to take the red beans out.

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The Korean BBQ! An unflattering shot of the food because all I wanted to do was to start.

We had a great conversation over the BBQ and spent quite a bit of time catching up because I feel like it’s been long since we saw Dilys (stop going home woman!!!) I also really like New Malden despite the trouble that we have travelling there all the time because of its inaccessibility relative to locations in central London, but for the excellent bingsu I will always go back. Hehe.

Today

I had a short day in school today and went home to talk to Joey and Weixuan over speculoos brought back from Brussels. We talked about several people and ideas and I thought these are conversations that I would always enjoy having because it creates depth to what I always expect of people — humans are complex creatures and thinking about them in great detail would always create somewhat like a new dimension to them.

Afterwards I had Korean lesson which was great compared to the session on Wednesday. Sujin and Yejin are excellent tutors and I love their powerpoint slides and learning exercises, a pity that only 4 people turned up today which I thought was a huge pity given their effort put into the lessons.

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I went to do some parcel delivery and obtained some cupcakes from Dilys along the way in King’s Cross because #dyylbakes today! Thank you it was lovely and I love it hehehe I love having baker and chef friends!

Subsequently met Richard, Ban, Bryan and Beatriz for some bak kut teh dinner, excellently cooked beef, oven-roasted chicken and some new year goodies. Over-ate as usual over funny and good conversations but these nights are all worth it.

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I made a casual comment that when I am back for good (since I am sadly already halfway through London life) these are the nights that I will miss the most because we spend it doing nothing except to listen to music, sing along and laugh at one another. I think these are elements of student life that will always be perfect, right now and especially on hindsight. Very thankful for this bunch in London and I am really thankful that we became closer on arrival in an overseas country.

I was walking along Euston Road to King’s Cross to conduct my door-to-door deliveries today and realised how much I will be missing this space and freedom — sights of the London red bus all around me, foreign yet familiar sounds or noises all around me. This is a life I could only dream about, talk about and watch when I were younger, and now I am truly in this space. I am lucky to step out of my house into what would be deemed a foreign neighbourhood to any Singaporean; I am lucky that I can call this my second home. Today is a day I remember to be thankful for how I am extremely privileged to be here, despite the occasional bouts of homesickness. I will never be able to reciprocate fully all these opportunities I have been given but I honestly promise to try my best for all the following years that I have.

#PNic

Peng Ning and Nicole hit up London and Collingwood House the day of the SAF lunch! I can’t believe it’s been a year. I can’t believe we are no longer the most junior.

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My table this year. Unfortunately I did not really get to interact with the people at the other end of the table much — woes of a rectangular table. But I got to know two new people, one of whom I have probably stalked out before heh.

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We had brunch at this cafe called The Attendant! Apparently toilet-themed but the cubicles were really nice and the food weren’t shit-shaped/toilet-inspired unlike the Toilet Bowl Restaurant in Taiwan or JB? Thank god if not the food probably wouldn’t be as appetising.

The whole week I was so troubled about my growing red pimple which had a whitehead which then became pus and WHATEVER it was such a pain to look at it in the mirror so I kept touching… and popping it. Looks like my “Do Nothing routine” isn’t working very well anymore, perhaps I should start putting on moisturizer.

Thanks for coming down again and for the beautiful photos as always, looking forward to welcoming you in London soon again 🙂

Was it a choice?

After a week I thought I should finally open up about this. Unfortunately and perhaps unsurprisingly, I did not obtain COC in time before I return back. For the less aware: COC refers to the Certificate of Competency, certifying one fit to perform duties in harbour. While it sounds stupid, i.e. going through trials and tribulations just to be certified to do harbour duty, it IS essential. Because more things happen in harbour than one could think — afterall, most ships, even merchant vessels, seem to spend more time in harbour than out at sea.

People could console me and blame it on a lot of attributes for me, just to see me smile a little wider. “COC is a lot about time and space”, “COC is one of the most difficult things to get”, “PV COC is more difficult”, “You had a tough one”, “I laughed when I saw your scenario because if you passed, I would say you are fkn zai”, “I think they have higher expectations for you”, “You cannot compare your COC to others”, but honestly, we all know the truth: I am clearly unprepared, way more unprepared and unaware than any COC holder on board my ship. Because there are people who get it in 2.5 months, the total time I spent on board my ship. To add on to it, there are people who get it on board my ship in 2.5 months.

I concluded that it was all my choice, my choice to be sorely lacking compared to the other COC holders on board my ship, my choice to not shamelessly fight for my own opportunities and attach to other ships for duty. My choice to pick up slowly and chase slowly, being scolded for my own mistakes instead of learning quickly from the mistakes of others. My choice to return home to family and comfort on many weekday nights instead of staying in and walking the ship over and over again, my choice to go out on several weekends and SRs (when granted the privilege) instead of attaching myself to other ships to do fire drills and learn faster.

It was all a choice, and I have no one to blame but myself. I wondered why I cried so much, throughout the night, eyes so dry that I couldn’t keep them open. People were astonished that it affected me so much. Because I knew that it was my fault and I didn’t know what to do or who to fault. People could blame it on circumstances for me, people could offer me a hug and tell me that it’ll all be okay because no one remembers in a few years time, and people would tell me that I’d be more prepared than ever when I return in a year’s time. But I cried really hard because I knew I was lacking, I knew why I was lacking, and I knew that in a month’s or a year’s time when I meet up with senior commanders and fellow scholars again, I do not have solid reasons to convince them why I am lagging and lacking. All I have with me right now are excuses; I have no defence against the fact that I failed in my position as a scholar, one who should go all out in her efforts to achieve more than others. I am responsible for my own training and I know I cannot blame it on anyone else.

On hindsight, looking at the past 3 months, do I regret? Do I regret not working hard earlier enough? Do I regret not following my training plan strictly, do I regret not finding out things that I should have found out earlier? Do I regret not choosing a better ship posting that may have put me in a better position? Do I regret not opting for an earlier VA such that I had more liberty of time and space even if my ship were not in harbour?

I don’t know, because these two years have honestly been a tiring chase for me since I got termed a ‘scholar’. The title is heavier than anyone would think — the expectations of me and my actions are constantly tagged to the idea of being a “scholar”. I should perform well in my academics and get first class easily. I should get my COC within my first VA without any problems. I should be an effective leader and gel well with the ship crew. I should be many many things, because a lot of resources are invested in me and they cannot go to naught; there is no room for opportunity cost.

Do I want to continue chasing? I don’t want to, which was why I changed my perspective towards my capabilities, or the lack thereof, so much after I got out of OCS. Enough of that shit, enough of striving to outperform everyone and enough of feeling inferior just because I fell short by a bit. But after this VA it seems like chasing is not a choice. Some people are excellent in their own right and “chasing” does not even occur to them; these are exactly the people I’m chasing after to be on the same page. I thought doing well for A Levels would be the free gangway to everything, because you undoubtedly have access to a brighter future with better grades. But in retrospect doing well in A Levels seems to be the beginning of everything. In the past I only faced up to my personal expectations; right now, I constantly strive to meet the expectations of others. What’s worse? “Scholar don’t complain”, because of course I can’t. I am indeed blessed with so much and given so many that I will never be able to contribute back to the organisation in the same right. For some people, the organisation is lucky to have them. For me, I know I am truly lucky to have the organisation.

I don’t know when the tears will ever stop from feeling inferior and inadequate as I mentioned in my previous post. I know and still believe that hard work will always breed success, but whether I really want to work so hard my whole life just to be on the same page as everyone else… I am not sure of the choices that I will make anymore.

“In my contacts with other President’s Scholars over the years, I discovered that some did as well as they expected while others did not. One observation that dawned on me was that several of these scholars as well as their circle of family, friends and community expected comparable achievements to continue by default. If a scholar did not do well, or as well as perceived, a sense of betrayal over what was deemed an entitlement to success crept in.”

LWL

3 weeks into shipboard life

That was fast, I’m left with 7 weeks of my vacational attachment. 1/3 through?

After attempting to remove traces of my blog appearing on social media pages I hope I become less traceable to professional stalkers like myself. Recently I have been wanting to share a lot of my time in London but I was always limited by my own position as a scholar… and the need to present the fact that I am not struggling academically. More so because it’s the first time in my life striving to meet unsaid expectations.

I reflect on my first day on board ship and I remember feeling how lost I felt coming on board, not even sure how to navigate around TNB, not even sure how to get to C Pier, not even sure where I was supposed to report. I wasn’t even sure what to expect of the wharf, how did it look like? How were the ships arranged? And then there was the whole getting onto ship and seeing a whole bunch of new strangers. It was the very first challenge: everyone close to me knows that I am terrible at remembering faces (names and appointments are no problem) and it was a struggle to remember the ship crew from the start. I rehearsed the nominal roll in my head over and over again, reviewed it every 2 to 3 hours and stood along the corridor to match faces to appointments. This I will always fondly remember as a lesson from my OCS Divisional Officer: he managed to memorise our names and faces before even meeting us for the first time. Not sure how, but he was already addressing us by names during the typical self-introductions on the first meeting. 好的东西一定要学 and that was what exactly I was trying to emulate.

Surprisingly I was given the opportunity to go home that very night, much unlike the rumours I had been hearing about a compulsory 2-week confinement on board ship for the first time. However I chose to stay in that very night. This decision was based ironically on the fact that I was feeling very very down over having to be away from family again; I wanted and needed to get used to this routine again. For some context of it I was… crying on the shuttle bus back home to grab my bed linen. Which struck me as really odd and triggered a word post:

that familiar feeling of having everything and having it all taken away from you….. And wondering if I’m the only one feeling this way. It’s sad because honestly I should be more optimistic

I will work fucking hard through this and emerge stronger

A few days later I started wondering why the hell I was feeling so emotional on the first day and I concluded it was definitely PMS. I started enjoying shipboard life a lot more despite the unpredictable schedules and incomplete weekends since I started work. People were nice, even the most experienced seamen were extremely humble and extremely willing to assist for every stupid question I ask. Before Zheng Rui left for NJOC he dropped a subtle hint that all of us YOs were extremely lucky to have such a cooperative ship crew and I cannot agree with that enough.

I recall that nearly one year ago, in their move to comfort us and prevent some of us from moving they kept saying that MIDS wing was a misrepresentation of the navy. 3 weeks in I wholeheartedly agree, when I remember that I was crying every weekend in MIDS. I finally rediscovered the me in February 2015 who found book outs enjoyable, who proudly professed to people what she did over the week, who could share earnestly about why she was doing what she was doing.

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And all of this coincides with SAF Day. I remember returning to wing line disgruntled during SAF Day last year because we were made to PUSH IT UP (knock it down) for not disposing our rubbish properly. I returned to home happy this SAF day, despite the fact that I did not get to enjoy the half day that most regulars in other services had. Despite the fact that I am returning to camp tomorrow on a Sunday morning for duty. I am blessed and lucky to have such a welcoming ship crew, such nurturing officers and fellow batchmates. I will keep this in mind as I keep striving to improve to be of greater assistance to the ship. :’)

Fearless

A totally apt post title as I returned from NDU today. Basically I was trying to get my ass out of NDU in the fastest way possible to meet the rest of the 4G girls, and… someone stopped along the road out of NDU to ask if I wanted a ride.

I hopped in… and honestly still feel a bit guilty being so rude initially when I opened the back door — too used to hopping into the back of the car sorry Dad… and to this stranger. I must get rid of this bad habit.

“What do you do in a day?”

“I run, I swim, I go to the office and type on the keyboard… I train with my men. Sounds boring when I put it like that but I really enjoy it.”

“You’re lucky. Is this the life you always envisioned yourself to lead?”

“Yes, definitely. I just found it earlier than most people. Some people are still finding it after 10 15 years.”

I got a free ride to the west and a good conversation. Thank you CH, whom I’ll learn through stalking later that he’s a CPT. Sadly, with a hierarchy in place, conversations are always better when ranks are unknown.