Five tips for National Service by National Servicemen

Full-time NSFs share some tips they wish they knew before beginning their NS journey.

Jeremy Na

Just like that Khalid song, Young, dumb and broke. Ok maybe not dumb but definitely the other two.

Published: 4 November 2020, 10:36 AM

With several enlistment intakes set to commence over the next few weeks, some may be looking forward to beginning their National Service (NS) journey, while others may be dreading its start. One thing is for certain though, there is no escaping it.

So regardless of whether you have your sights set on the iconic Officer Cadet School (OCS) singlet or are just looking to survive NS, keep reading because here are five tips from NSFs for a smoother NS experience.

1. Exercise regularly before enlisting

Many would agree that for the average person, Basic Military Training (BMT) is not exactly a walk in the park. One of them includes Officer Cadet (OCT) Titus Soh from the Air Force who believes that preparation is key to a smoother time in BMT.

He feels that while BMT has regimes that progressively train the physical fitness of recruits, pre-enlistees should still try to make an effort to exercise regularly prior to their enlistment.

SAFRA gyms have a PREP4NS programme where pre-enlistees can enjoy a free one-year gym membership to help get themselves into shape before they enlist. 

However, If heading to a gym is too much trouble, then simply going for runs often will be better than nothing.


Recruits have to go through strenuous exercises that will push them both physically and mentally. PHOTO CREDIT: MINDEF

2. Fix your sleep schedule

Singaporean’s are not known for our healthy sleep schedules. On the contrary, we actually rank third in the world in the list of most sleep-deprived cities. 

Although some of us have a habit of boasting about how late we sleep each night, Titus recommends fixing your body clock a week before enlistment.

“Sleeping at 10.30pm and waking up at 5.30am is the general sleeping routine of an enlistee. The first night might be difficult to sleep due to the foreign environment, so you don’t need a messed up body clock to worsen that,” he said. 

That means no more late-night games of Mobile Legends or Genshin Impact.

3. Safety really is priority

Private (PTE) Sebastian Koo was well on his way to securing his place in OCS after BMT, with both commanders and peers recognising his leadership qualities. However, a training injury sustained near the end of BMT meant his dreams of command school were over.

One tip he has for new recruits is that while you should always push yourself to hit your goals, it is important that those goals do not come at the expense of your health and safety.

He said: “Overexertion and not taking care of yourself will lead to injuries, and can cause all your hard work to be wasted, dropping your chance of getting into command school all the way down to zero no matter how competent you are.

4. Maintain a positive mental state

With the harsh level of training recruits have to endure, it is no wonder that a positive mental state is vital to surviving the course. After all, BMT is meant to push you to your limits both physically and mentally.  


It is important to maintain a positive outlook throughout your time in NS, regardless of vocation. PHOTO CREDIT: BASIC MILITARY TRAINING CENTRE FACEBOOK


For the times when you feel like you’re going to give up, Corporal (CPL) Wilson Tan from the Naval Diving Unit has one tip for you.

“Do everything with a smile on your face, regardless of how hard something could be. Stay positive for no matter how hard training can be, the sun will always set and it’s another day closer to ORD,” he said.

Titus also stresses the importance of making friends during BMT. He said: “Nothing else is going to get you through other than the company around you. if you don’t have fun with them or you don’t find your bunkmates fun then time is definitely slower.”

5. Tips for those who want to get into command school

OCT Quek Yew Hern graduated from BMT as the platoon best and made his way into OCS where he began his training to become an officer. He believes that the first step to getting to command school is understanding how to get there in the first place.

According to him, there are three main things that determine whether or not you get into command school.

First, the situational test. This is a one-day outfield that tests one’s ability to lead and think critically on the spot.


BMT Cadets will have to go through a situational test outfield for commanders to assess their performance. PHOTO CREDIT: MINDEF


For those wondering about what this field test encompasses, recruits are put through many missions and are required to carry them out. 

Yew Hern points out that recruits must exercise problem-solving skills, collaborative skills, soft skills and have a general sense of charisma in order to do well in the situational test. 

Sometimes, the missions succeed and sometimes they don’t. But ultimately, the commanders are there to look out for how recruits coordinate and carry out their plans. 

Next, a peer and commander appraisal based on your performance throughout BMT. The peer appraisal plays a vital role as well, so make sure to get on good terms with your section mates.

Finally, a minimum of IPPT Silver is required for command school as the training is significantly tougher than that of BMT.

Hopefully these five tips will help you have an easier time in BMT. Oh, and one last tip – if your commander asks you to take your time, don’t.

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