The Official Survival Guide for National Service BMT: What to Bring and How to Fit In
Received your Singapore National Service (NS) enlistment letter? Then, the ultimate test of adulting has arrived! This rite of passage, which starts with Basic Military Training (BMT), may seem intimidating initially. But many have gone through this induction and lived to tell the tale! So don’t worry - you’ll survive!
It’s OK to feel nervous before boarding that ferry to Tekong. After all, you’ll have to get used to bunking with complete strangers, surviving the intense training, navigating unwritten social rules and being away from the comforts of home.
Don’t panic! For all you NS-men-to-be, our Official Guide to Surviving BMT has the answers to your two most burning questions: “What useful things should I bring for BMT?” and “How can I fit in”?
Best Things to Bring For BMT
Facial Wipes and Body Wipes for Instant Cleansing
You’ll go through lots of physical training on your way to becoming a combat-fit recruit. The Field Camp is one of the major highlights of BMT. Forget about access to clean showers – by the end of this jungle warfare exercise, you’ll be sticky, smelly and sweaty.
For instant on-the-go refresh, we suggest you pack some facial wipes and body wipes to wipe off all that sweat and dirt after a long day of physical activity. This sure beats the powder cleanser. What’s more, refreshing wipes with menthol-cooling properties such as GATSBY’s Facial Wipes or Body Wipes can help to cool your body down. This will be a welcome relief from the heat at the Field Camp!
Facial Scrub to Wash Off Camo and Dirt
Days in the outfield will leave you with a cake of dirt on your face. From the black-green streaks of your camo cream to the oil, mud and sweat, getting rid of that all that gunk can be really tough.
Regular facial cleansers won’t do the trick though - you’ll need something more heavy duty to scrub every inch of camo and trapped dirt off your face. Our tip? Use a facial scrub like GATSBY’s Facial Wash Perfect Scrub as this comes with micro-beads that can remove all the dirt clogged deep inside your pores. Don’t forget to include this in your BMT packing list.
Petroleum Jelly for Long Road Marches
During BMT, road marches with your full combat load are quite the norm. This builds up to the mother of all marches – the 24km route march! Those long marching hours can leave you with blisters on your feet, as well as bruises and abrasions on other parts of your body.
That’s why petroleum jelly is a survival must-have. Before your route march, apply plenty of petroleum jelly on the insides of your legs, behind your heel and other areas that are prone to abrasions and blisters.
Sunscreen for Sun Protection
You’ll be spending many hours under the sun as most training is done outdoors. That’s when your face and shaved head could easily get sunburnt … ouch!
Our advice: pack some sunscreen to protect your “botak” head and face from a blistering sunburn. Sun protection is a usual part of skincare regime. But since time is of essence in military training, a stick sunscreen is a better option for you as you can apply it quickly.
Fabric Freshener for Smelly Clothing
With all that physical activity going on in BMT, you’ll be sweating buckets. The result? Your uniforms are bound to end up stinky.
You may not always have time to wash your clothes regularly. Here’s where fabric freshener is your best friend. To beat the smell, give your used (but dry) uniforms a quick spray of fabric freshener until you have the time to squeeze in your next wash.
High Energy Snacks for Energy Slump
All that energy-sapping physical activity during BMT will leave you feeling fatigued and hungry quite often. So you may want to stock up on some snacks for a quick energy fix.
Avoid sugary or unhealthy snacks as these may actually worsen your mid-afternoon energy slump. Opt for nuts or protein bars instead to boost your energy for intense physical activities.
During the course of BMT, you might scrape your knee, get a blister, develop muscle soreness or come down with a headache, sore throat or stomachache.
So here’s a practical tip: prepare your own personal medication pouch for these emergencies. Throw in some paracetamol, medicated oil, thermometer, lozenges, bandaids and medicated patches - you never know when you might need them!
Permanent Marker to Mark Your Belongings
You’ll be issued a standard kit in BMT. With everybody having the same clothes, water bottle, gear, towels and toiletries, it’s quite common to misplace your items or to get your things mixed up with others.
Here’s where a permanent marker will come in handy. Make it a point to label EVERYTHING … right down to your boots! During bunk inspections, there’ll also be less confusion in the mad rush to get all your gear in order.
There’ll be occasions when you’ll have some spare time in camp. You might want to have some offline entertainment to help you unwind after a long day.
Before heading to Tekong, pre-download some movies or songs or bring along a few good books. Oh … and don’t forget the power bank for your mobile phone.
Spare Coins for Vending Machines
Before you book into BMT, save all your spare change. When you are craving something cold to quench your thirst, that bunch of coins will come in handy at the vending machines.
How to Fit In
Never Be Late For Anything
Being late is a huge NO in BMT. If you’re late for falling in, your platoon mates will silently curse you as the sergeant punishes everyone with more pushups. So do yourself a favour … be a team player, have self-discipline and set your alarms – this can go a LOOONNG way in helping you fit in.
Organise Your Belongings
If you’re messy in real life, it’s time to change your habits! Keep all your belongings neat and organised at all times. Random checks can happen anytime and you never know when you may have to gather your things speedily for unannounced parades or activities.
Don’t Chao Keng
Past recruits will probably tell you that the most important “unofficial” rule in BMT is not to “Chao Keng”. There’s a good reason for it too! Slacking off or feigning illness for no reason will earn you a reputation for being lazy. You won’t get any brownie points if your platoon mates have to suffer for picking up your slack.
Know Who The Big Shots Are
In BMT, you’ll need to wise up and recognise your superiors’ names and more importantly, their ranks. After a while, you’ll find out who you really do not want to mess with. That way, you’ll know when you need to be attentive and “on the ball” … and perhaps when you can chill and relax for a bit.
Appearance is Everything
Discipline is essential in NS and this extends to your personal hygiene and appearance. Don’t throw your pre-NS men’s grooming habits out the window. From being clean-shaven to wearing a properly-fitted uniform, looking smart, neat and tidy is indeed the way to go.
This will brighten up your image as a responsible recruit. Mastering the art of folding your Smart 4 uniform is a good place to start!
Be a Team Player
One of the most important lessons during your BMT experience is to be a team player. Look out for your platoon mates, be dependable and help each other out. This will help you fit in and be accepted. After all, you’re all in this experience together. Oh, by the way, don’t confuse this with being “wayang” … putting on a show of helping out can actually harm your image.
Relax, Exercise and Socialise
BMT is one of the most important and memorable experiences in your lifetime. Do head into it with an open mind and enjoy the experience. Another quick tip: step up your fitness so you can prepare your body for the physical challenges of NS. After all, BMT is essentially a 2-month long exercise in training you to be the fittest you’ll ever be.
Lastly, make friends! With so many people in your platoon, you may not get to know all of them or be the life of the party. But take the effort to bond with those closer to you such as your section mates and especially your buddy. You just might walk away with friends for life!
BMT is one of the major milestones in your life. So be prepared, know what to bring and try your best to fit in. Wear that uniform with pride as you play your part for the nation!