Monday, June 16, 2008

Ego Hero

I think Today writer, Leong Wee Keat, hit the nail on the head when he wrote that our SAF National Serviceman can get into trouble, healthwise, because they are not willing to come clean on the state of their health. And really, as someone else has written, the doctor will only know you are not well when he examines you upon a complaint by you. Otherwise the only other way a doctor can know if you are not well is when you collapse. The first requires one to volunteer the information. After all, doctors are not Gods and Platoon Commanders upwards in a military chain of command are even less so. The second is when information is forced out of you. Unfortunately, it might be too late for anyone to help then.

In the recent death of two young men in the course of their national service exercises, questions have again been raised as to what caused their deaths. It certainly wasn't a war, nor a bullet. Less sympathetic observers might say that it is the recruits - they are so 'lembeh' (Malay for weak) nowadays, conditioned by years of comfortable (if not luxurious) home living, that a little more exertion can literally kill them. In other cases, it is pushing yourself so hard to achieve your objectives that you throw the warning signs that your body is likely sending out out the window. When you do fall dead, nobody is the wiser why an otherwise healthy young man can die so easily. All things being equal, when 19 others go through the obstacle course unharmed, whereas one falls dead, the reason does not lie in the obstacle course, but with the person. Unless you say that something in the course (e.g. jungle) poisoned him - but that can be determined by an autopsy, I suppose.

So the lesson we must take away from the recent deaths of 2 NS men is to put common sense above bravado. It isn't very much use if you cannot reap the benefits of bravado because you ignored Mr Common Sense. And it is no shame to tell someone, or get someone to help early when your body says something is not quite right. After all, war is about survival. If you can't take care of yourself, how can you take care of the nation?

Postscript: The SAF resumed training activities after a 3-day suspension "following the deaths of Officer Cadet Clifton Lam Jia Hao and Recruit Andrew Cheah Wei Siong". Further, "MINDEF is satisfied that proper procedures are in place for all physical and endurance training activities carried out by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), and that these are being followed". - Channel NewsAsia, 17 June 2008.

Conclusion: The SAF is not at fault.

Question: So who is?

Image source: Author: Clara Natoli

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