Morning at the recruit training center is morning in the truest sense, we are rudely woken up at 4 o’clock by this crazy lunatic who carries a cane, anybody slow enough to jump out of bed experiences excruciating pleasure of pure natural rattan, they don’t restrict it’s usage only in prison, it’s meted out with pleasure, glee, brute force and pure passion in recruit training center.
I read somewhere that an enlisted man cannot be struck, it must have been in some US magazine or American comics. Armed with this powerful knowledge I summed up my courage and told this, Corporal Latiff off. Big mistake, real big mistake, he looked shocked at first and broke in a fit of laughter, suddenly he stopped laughing, heard a thwack sound, felt this pain burning across my back followed by two more strokes. I took heel, I was now battle scarred, with three welts running across my back.
From now on I decided, I am not going to read any more American comics. They are a bad influence on impressionable people like me. From then on I decided to keep my distance from this weirdo, but the problem in RTC is that you can’t avoid lunatics, every third person is a lunatic, they had this misbegotten impression that they can beat the shit out of any recruit they came across.
We were made to fall in and given an introduction to physical training on what to expect for the next six months. It was only torture, devised by the most sadistic of minds. It’s like this, when I say go I want you to reach that tree by the count of twenty, normally the tree would be three hundred meters away. You are slow, go! It is repeated so many times you on the verge of collapse, as you are too exhausted the PTI would order you to lie down and start rolling towards the same tree, we are of course helped along the way by a few well placed kicks. Up and down we roll, some of the guys are puking some greenish stuff.
Then it comes to squat jumps, you squat down with both your hands behind the neck, with one knee forward, the PTI says up, you jump and alternate your knees forward. The commands become faster and faster, it’s a never ceasing nightmare. Thoughts like, will I make it, am I going to die of pain comes at you. Without any warning this kind of a torture comes to an abrupt halt. Another torture takes place while your thighs are crying and begging for relief.
You are instructed to place your index finger on a spot on the ground bend over and move your butt in a circle, this torture tickles the instructors pink, we are asked to rotate faster and faster. Some of the guys just fall over, caused by dizziness they are soon set upon by the other instructors, they must have really missed playing soccer, as they were practicing their kicks on the writhing bodies who fell.
It’s over, it’s time for breakfast, bits of grass, mud and weeds are stuck all over us, once we reach the barracks we are given two minutes to clean up. The instructors are always there to assist us in doing everything in double quick time by instilling in us the fear of corporal punishment. We are marched up to the cookhouse in the typical military fashion. Most of the guys are in a daze, thank god all the running long distances was paying off for me.
Some of the guys had blank looks about them, probably it had not sunk into them that they were in hell. Most of them could not eat due to the gruelling physical torture they experienced. We were given bread with jam. Noodles, an egg, tea, coffee and chocolate drinks, I relieved those guys who did not have an appetite of their food. Then it was back to the normal torture otherwise known as training. I was after a time, determined that nothing would faze me.
Physical training was not always the same on other days, sometimes it was unarmed combat, with bayonets and rifles. It was non stop prodding if it was bayonet training, and your arms would feel like falling off. Normally at the end of it all you feel physically bruised and mentally abused.
I decided to improvise, adapt and overcome anything that would come in the way of my goals. I intended to fulfill my father’s wish that I become an officer. Just before I left home my father said,“I want you to become an officer and make us proud of you.” I decided whatever they threw at me I would slug it out. During the course of my training I always looked forward to fire arms training.
All of us were issued with a standard infantry rifle, a Belgian FN self- loading rifle 7.62 millimeter. It weighed ten and a half pounds. It had a wooden stock and butt with a metal plate. Boy, was it a very long rifle, especially when I had the bayonet attached, it was nearly as tall as me.
It could fire on automatic, but then it was not encouraged as you had to split it at the butt to enable you to push the safety catch to auto, therefore we always left it at semi automatic. The bullet feed was through a 20 round magazine. The breech block and it’s parts were gas operated, one had to adjust the gas regulator to the correct sized hole to minimize stoppages. It’s sights could be ranged up to 600 meters. It was an awesome piece of equipment during that period of time.
The Vietnam War was at it’ s height, the Americans were getting clobbered by the “gooks”. Their tactics, similar to our communist terrorists, was paying them back by putting a huge number of American youth in body bags. In return the Americans adopted from their wild west history great tactics about decimating Red Indians. They put into practice George Custer’ s techniques, pacifying villages, body counts and massacres, made them look horrendously inept and an embarrassment to us, we who looked up to the good old US of A, the bulwark against communism, at the same time grudgingly admiring the weapons of destruction the Americans had at that time.
We had our own problems, communism in Malaysia was becoming active encouraged by the victories of their communist brethren in Vietnam. It had a profound impact on our training. All of us were serving by choice, we tried to excel in training as brutal as it was. The butt of the SLR(self-loading rifle) was quite often used as club against us by our beloved instructors, those blood thirsty mother fuckers had no qualms about drawing blood. Some scalps were split, my, did they bleed profusely. The first time we went to fire our weapons, we went to a 25 meter range, all of us were excited, at long last we were going to fire a weapon. We were lined up in details of five, the details were lined up on the firing point, we were like virgins, nervous, breathless wanting to do well. All the weeks of dry runs towards this day when were finally going to use our “wives”.
The command rang out, “Detail to the firing point advance, in the lying unsupported position with a five round magazine load, Action! On your own time go on.” I placed my cheeks firmly against the butt, aligning the sights on the center bottom base of a white patch on the target, I wrapped my fore finger firmly around the trigger and gently squeezed. I felt the bullet leave the muzzle and the quick recoil, I let loose the remaining four rounds. We inspected weapons and approached the targets at a run.
The instructor was staring at a group size measuring about twenty millimeters. The grouping wasn’t in the center of the target. At that time my knowledge on sights was limited to peering through them. The instructor took the weapon from me. I was already preparing myself for a nasty butt stroke, instead he looked at the sights, made some adjustments and said, ” Don’t let anyone call you four eyes ever again You have a very good group size, I have made some adjustments I want you to fire again Use the same technique, this time you will hit the spot you are aiming at.”“Thanks sarge”.
I did, from then on it was plain sailing whenever I was at the rifle range. The sergeant who was a real ogre, I shit you not, had this weakness, whenever someone does well at the range he tones down the physical abuse, mind you not the verbal abuse.
After that we went into sub-machine guns, the only kind available at that time was the Stirling sub-machine gun, 9 millimeters. It was a British weapon, most equipment at that time was British, as they were our colonial masters some time back. At that time they traditionally monopolized our Armed Forces equipment, also they exploited maximum our defense spending, during the old days they used the locals as canon fodder to protect the British Empire against the Japanese during World War 11.
Going back to the Sterling. It was a cute looking weapon, it’s butt was foldable and had a thirty round feed magazine. It was used in the Star War movies, and was depicted as a futuristic looking weapon. It’s breech was spring operated, when it’s cocked one has to be careful, as it would go off, if dropped or accidentally hit.
Quite a number of unfortunate souls met their end this way, not mentioning the ones maimed or crippled. It was fun training with this weapon, I became adept at using this weapon. All those guys who were not impressive enough at shooting, always used to get the shit clobbered out of them.