I’m happy to do National Service not because I’m a True Believer, partly because I’m never sure what I believe in. But National Service is such a way of life here that I’m better off not spending my time kicking against it while having to serve, because that’d make me a whole lot more miserable.
As you’d imagine, there are stories to be told about National Service, and because of that, Days Were The Those was started last year, with open invitations to anyone (non-serving women also) with a story to tell about National Service. I like the way it’s been going, with a diverse range of insight and downright nonsense, with the nonsense bits coming mostly from me.
This week, I received an email from a reader who contributed a story about how his life was put in unnecessary danger during his time in service. I’ve asked him to post the story himself because I think it’s important enough, and because I’ve gone through that same stupidity myself to know it well:
Some nights I can still see the round dropping to the ground in slow motion – and yet too fast for me to do anything. I know that two years after I ORDed an NSMan died in an incident very similar to the one that I had gone through – and on the very same live firing area.
There’s a difference between putting your sons in harm’s way for a legitimate reason and something as senseless as taking a risky shortcut. And it should make you wonder as well, whether realism in training dictates that you should simulate water torture conditions, when in all reasonable expectations of reality, the chances of our soldiers being put in that situation for real is close to nil.
I know there are many more stories along the same vein, and I’m glad they’re slowly ‘declassifying’ accounts of incidents to bring those guilty of perpetrating gross neglect and stupidity to bear. I’m still horrified by standards during my time in full-time NS where once, during a night training exercise with live ammunition, I was asked to train my machine gun on a ridge 600m away, and only stop firing when I was told that our own troopers were charging up the hill. The radio-comms call ordering me to cease-fire came only after I sighted the silhouettes of my mates, against moonlight, on the ridge. Good thing I had great eyesight and night vision.
I’ve lost two mates to National Service, and I have four years left to serve. I don’t want to lose anyone else.