As Singapore celebrates NS55, we drop in on the 40th anniversary reunion of the 7th batch of officer cadet trainees from the Singapore Police Force.
TEXT: BENEDICT THAM
In 2007, the 7th batch of Officer Cadet Trainees from the Singapore Police Force (SPF), gathered to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their National Service enlistment. Since then, this group has been organising reunions every 5 years. The easing of safe-distancing measures enabled them to celebrate their 40th anniversary reunion recently at the HomeTeamNS Bukit Batok Clubhouse.
As Singapore celebrates NS55, we gatecrashed their reunion to find out what National Service means to them and why they still keep in touch.
RUNNING BEFORE DAWN
The reunion kicked off with several NSmen sharing fond memories of their Officer Cadet Training (OCT) course like their pre-dawn runs.
“Our commander, Sri Kanthan, instilled a lot of fitness and discipline in us. We used to go for runs before sunrise, and he’d lead us. We would run around behind the Old Police Academy and we would all run in our various squads. Oh, it seemed like a never-ending run! You didn’t know when the run would end. Once it did, you’d feel very tired, but also very good!” shared Mr Richard Koh, 60. Mr Koh was one of the reunion organisers.
FORGING UNBREAKABLE BONDS
Over lunch, the NSmen listened to more speeches and watched video presentations by those who were unable to attend, and caught up with one another. Mr Gerald Paul Chew Cheng Huan, 58, who was also part of the organising committee for this year’s reunion, elaborated more on the unbreakable camaraderie forged amongst the ex-trainees.
“We bonded, not only within our own squad, but also between each squad (the trainees were grouped into four squads). We knew what everyone else was doing and tried to help each other. Even during our operational roles (when we were posted out), we would still call each other for advice on handling cases.”
STAYING IN TOUCH, OVER A VARIETY OF CHANNELS
Mr Chew added on with how the ex-trainees kept in touch with one another after their NS stint. “The collective experience forged in the early years of NS bonded us and helped us to stay in touch even throughout university and reservist life. In addition to WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram and individual calls, we continue to find more creative ways to stay in touch.”
After celebrating their 25th anniversary in 2007, the ex-trainees set up a WhatsApp group and even invited their previous instructors to join. They still congratulate each other on their birthdays, job promotions and other life milestones. Their former commander, Sri Kanthan, who is in his 70s now, continues to inspire his ex-trainees. He sends the group inspirational messages every morning in addition to maintaining his overall fitness.
CELEBRATING AN EVEN BIGGER ANNIVERSARY
As the 7th Batch of Officer Cadet Trainees gathered for their 40th anniversary of NS, Mr Yap Shao Peng, Assistant Commissioner of the SPF, who makes it a personal goal to attend every reunion found this year’s reunion a “happy and touching affair”. As their reunion coincided with the celebration of NS55, Mr Yap also explained how such cohesion events improved the morale of NSmen.
“NS55 is about acknowledging NS, the contributions of NSFs and NSmen to Singapore. Us getting together today, and other cohesion events, helps to reinforce the notion that NS is an essential institution in Singapore; the fact that we can gather after so many years shows that we cherish NS. NS lives on through these reunions!” he said.