But reservist training just might.
The average NSman (the official name for ‘reservist’ since 1992, but seldom used outside Mindef) gets called up for standby duties and training stints until he’s around 32, now that the ‘training cycle’ has been shortened to 10 years.
I’m 36 and have just completed the worst three weeks’ training in memory, having forgotten how bad full-time national service used to be.
There were a bunch of us at Exercise Wallaby who were slightly past our use-by dates because we had skipped a year or two of duty through work or study commitments in the last 10 years. (For mine, I had deferred a total of 8 years).
The strain showed, we couldn’t sprint as much and as quickly, and we couldn’t see as well in the dark. At one point during the night in the bush, I stumbled for 20 minutes in a 100 metre stretch of forest, trying to find my company’s tanks and vehicles, only to be stopped five times by the other companies’ sentries, asking for the night’s password. Later on that night, me and my motorcycle were felled by a tree stump.
At the other end of the spectrum were young full-time soldiers from the 40th Battalion, SAR, who averaged 20 years. They were attached to our unit because we were short of men. These boys, they were quick, they rolled all over the forest floor taking cover from enemy fire, and they were only put in their place when they went crazy at the canteen trying to down as many beers as they could while the older and wiser among us tended to limit ourselves to one beer a day.
And yes, I did tell one of them: “When uncle first put on this very uniform, you wuz only 2 years old”.
Surf stop: Gerard’s Flickr set of Ex Wallaby 2005