Army days: Local celebs share their experiences about NS

15 July 2013 / 3 years 3 months ago

Photos: The Straits Times, The New Paper, Chris Bucko, Mark Teo PhotographyIt seems like Singaporeans can’t get enough of army shows.There was the wildly successful Jack Neo movie Ah Boys To Men, which made stars out of rookie actors.Next Thursday sees the premiere of local sitcom The Recruit Diaries, which follows the lives of five newly recruited army boys as they go through national service.The 13-episode sitcom, which will air Thursdays on Channel 8 at 8.30pm, stars rising actors Shane Pow, Jeffrey Xu and Xu Bin.Next Friday , the encore performance of musical Army Daze will be staged at the Drama Centre Theatre, following a successful run to sell-out crowds last year.The New Paper went out to see how some of our local celebrities were like in their army days?Paul FosterTHE son of a British father and Chinese mother, local TV host Paul Foster was initially misunderstood when he enrolled in the army in 1999.The 32-year-old Singaporean said: “During my basic military training days, people looked at me and thought, ‘˜What is this ang moh doing here?’, and they asked if I was a permanent resident or Singaporean.‘Foster had an army mate who is Chinese but grew up in the US, spoke with a strong American accent and was not familiar with the local culture. He did not fit in as well as, Foster.The Beam Artiste added: “It was an irony. I only look ang moh in appearance, but I am born and bred here, I speak Singlish and I have many local friends. I didn’t have any difficulty getting along well with my army mates.‘Foster, who was subsequently posted to Changi Air Base and is a lance corporal (NS) in the Republic of Singapore Air Force, feels that the most important lesson he learnt while doing his national service was knowing how far one’s limits can be pushed.He recalled a training exercise where he did not sleep for two days and had to carry out a patrol in the jungle. He was so tired that he fell asleep while walking.“I hit the ground and woke up in a ditch. My mate helped me up and we had a good laugh about it,‘ he said.“After that incident, I realised that I can literally fall asleep anywhere when I am really exhausted.‘The actor has just wrapped filming of Channel 5 drama series Mata Mata, which will premiere on National Day. In the show, he sports a moustache for his role as a colonial British police officer who is the head of the anti-narcotics division.As the filming schedule of the show overlaps with some of his reservist days, Foster went back to camp last week with his moustache intact and had some amusing stories to tell.He laughed and said: “It was, quite funny because I was standing guard at the gantry and people would wind down their car windows to take a double look at me.‘He added: “Some made comments like: ‘˜Why is there an ang moh here? Why does he have a moustache?’ and others would recognise that I am that guy from TV.‘Shane PowLOCAL actor Shane Pow (below) did not experience any heartbreak during his army days, but he felt like he was part of a break-up, thanks to his bunk mate.The 22-year-old said: “My bunk mate and his girlfriend broke up and I was there throughout the whole process, giving him advice and cheering him on. I could feel what he was going through.‘He added: “I even helped him text his girlfriend to scold her for breaking his heart. I felt that I was the one breaking up too.‘The former 2011 Manhunt finalist, who was also attached when he was in the army, said that he did feel a little worried that he might get dumped as well, after seeing what his bunk mate went through.Pow, who completed his national service last August, said: “Thankfully, my girlfriend and I are still together.‘The MediaCorp artist, who is managed by Beam Artistes, will be seen in new local sitcom The Recruit Diaries.In it, he plays a brawny but brainless recruit.Filming a show about army life five months after he was discharged, from national service was a big deja vu moment.

“I didn’t expect to shave my head so quickly again as I don’t think I look good botak (Malay for bald),‘ said Pow, a corporal (NS) in the army.“Even though I’d already finished my two years of NS, I felt like I was serving army again as we kept going back to camp for three months to film the show.‘For Pow, one of the most unforgettable army experiences happened when he was stationed on a hill buzzing with mosquitoes and sandflies for four days.At 6pm, the area would become pitch black.He said: “I ate too much on the first day and had a bad stomachache. I had to go to the bushes in the dark to ‘˜do my business’ and was busy trying to swat away the mosquitoes which were attacking me.‘He added: “In the end, my entire butt was bitten and it was so itchy for the next three days, and I couldn’t shower at all. The weather was very hot and I was very sweaty. I couldn't scratch my butt despite it being itchy. It was quite bad.‘Dwayne TanFor local theatre actor Dwayne Tan, (below) getting into the Singapore Armed Forces Music and Drama Company (MDC) during his national service helped shape his acting career.The 36-year-old, who performed in the choir at MDC, said: “Joining MDC was one of the, foundations in my early performing career. It was a good platform for me to learn and make mistakes, and learn to be a professional.‘Tan, who plays the lead role of mummy’s boy Malcolm in the musical Army Daze, which returns to the stage next Friday , felt that one of the highlights of his time in MDC was being able to travel to Rockhampton, Australia, to perform.“We did several performances in different places during that 1½-week trip and many people cheered us on. After we performed, there were fireworks and it was magical,‘ he said,“That was when I realised I loved performing and I wanted to continue doing this after army.‘He added: “It was also the first time I ate crocodile and kangaroo meat, and that was a unique experience as well.‘The actor studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York after completing his national service.When he returned to Singapore in 2008, Tan went back to MDC to teach a musical theatre course from 2009 to 2010.He said: “It was my way of giving back and imparting more knowledge to the recruits, as I had learnt so much there. For me, it wasn’t just about teaching, it was also an emotional and fulfilling experience.‘He added: “I feel like I have completed one full cycle.‘Being in Army Daze brought back memories of Tan’s time in, NS.“During my basic military training days, whenever I booked out and I saw a grass patch outside, my natural instinct was to want to jump into crawling position, lie there and not move. I was always in my ‘˜army mode’,‘ he said.“But going to the army has made me appreciate my parents more, and become more mature. It’s a good thing.‘

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