I had the fortune (yes, fortune) to be among those selected to undergo National Service (NS) back in 2005, and ever since then, I've been firmly convinced that NS was a boon for me in many ways.
I know that many of you probably have some sort of distaste for the program - it's hard not to when you hear all sorts of horror stories from some who have undergone training and utterly hated it. However, since I had a pretty good time during my 3 months there, let me highlight some of the better parts of NS that become forgotten in the deluge of negative news about it.
This will be in the style of a FAQ - these are the questions I most commonly encounter from those curious about NS, so here's hoping it will help those of you who have been selected or are just plain curious about NS!
Where did you serve?
I served my 3 months out in Kem Rachado Bay, located in Tanjung Tuan, Port Dickson. It's supposedly one of the smaller camps in Malaysia - the canteen was barely a minute away from most dorms, and our training grounds and obstacle course were close by the dorms as well. One of the unique features of my camp was the fact that it literally straddled two states - one half of the camp was in Negeri Sembilan, and the other half was in the state of Malacca! Also, we were within walking distance of the beautiful (but purportedly dangerous) Blue Lagoon beach, which we used for our water based activities, unlike other camps which had to utilise man made pools.
What was your daily routine?
My daily routine was pretty much the same from Mondays to Fridays, and if I remember correctly, Saturdays were 'half days' and Sundays were days of rest.
We would be awakened by the azan, or the call to prayer, for our Muslim friends right before dawn, and while they shuffled sleepily to the surau, the rest of us non-Muslims would get ready for the day. After they were done, we would gather at the assembly area to sing the NS anthem and the Negaraku, and also recite the Rukunegara, if I remember correctly. After that, we would do our morning exercises, which would vary from simple twist-here-twist-there stuff, push ups, star jumps, to lots of running. Think running on the beach looks good in romance flicks? It's actually quite torturous and worse than running on concrete roads - double the effort to lift yourself up after your feet has already sunk into the soft sand.
After the morning exercise, we would go to the canteen for breakfast, before rushing off to shower and freshen up before morning classes began. There were several modules for our classes, some of which being Character Building, and another I remember was Nation Studies or Kenegaraan'. There would be a short morning tea break after an hour or so of class, and after that tea break, we would continue our classes till lunch. After lunch, there would be the physical training modules like march pass and obstacle course training which will normally take up the whole afternoon, before we indulge in some 'lighter' activities in the evening, like netball for the girls and sepak takraw for the boys.
After evening sports, we would freshen up - bathrooms are almost always full, because with the oppressive heat and the different sets of uniforms we had to wear, it got really hot and uncomfortable - and adjourn for dinner. ,After dinner, another round of classes would begin before we had our evening tea at around 10.30 pm, with lights off at 11 pm. But the day isn't over yet - at least, not for those on night duty. Those on night duty would have hourly shifts until 4 am to round the camp and make sure everyone is in bed and not, say, attempting to scale the 12 foot wall in the obstacle course.
Continue reading: National Service: Boon or Bane? (Part II of II)
Related link: Official website of Program Latihan Khidmat Negara (PLKN) | Photo by owaief89
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