NS Short Stories: Grenade Throwing

It is mandatory for all able men to do 2 years of National Service in Singapore. I too, have put on a uniform to serve my country.

Whenever you have a bunch of hot-blooded young men together, some amusing incidents will bound to happen. I remember one such incident during our grenade throwing practice involving this comic of a bunk mate, EL.

The EL I knew, was a small, stubby man with a pair of black, thick-framed glasses over his slightly hooked nose. He was one of a meek character and needless to say, being in a highly testosterone-charged environment, we teased him (good-naturedly) quite a bit.

Every national servicemen I know, have their own “Blur King” (honorary title given to someone who is easily confused). In our bunk of 8 men, EL filled in that role, much to our amusement/ dismay.

During one of the many grenade-throwing practices, EL did something so unbelievably ABSURD that the incident itself, is one of my fondest memories of my basic military training days on Pulau Tekong.

Yakult
Aids digestion and apparently, makes great practice grenades when filled with sand.

Now, the process of the grenade throwing exercise goes something like this.

One by one, we were supposed to step forward to a little dirt trench, where the sergeant/ instructor waited. We would then go through the drill, calling out each step, before finally lobbing our practice grenades out. After fetching our practice grenades, we would rejoin the rest of the gang at the back to observe and the next guy would step up.

By the way, our practice grenades are made out of empty Yakult bottles filled with sand.

When it was EL‘s turn, just like everybody else before him, he went up to the trench, addressed the instructor stationed there and asked for permission to enter the trench to begin his practice.

The instructor was a sergeant whom I remember was a strict, no-nonsense kind of man with impressive standing board jump ability and a short temper. Out of the 4 sergeants in-charged of our platoon, he was the one we were least likely to joke with.

Granted permission, EL entered the trench, got into position and started his drill. It was a simple enough drill. EL managed to do everything correctly, but he missed one simple final step before hurling his sand-filled Yakult bottle out.

For the basics of grenade-throwing, we were taught to yell “Grenade!” right before we toss it out at the enemies. I cannot see a practical reason to alert the recipients about the explosive which I was about to serve them.

Tapping lightly on EL‘s helmet, the sergeant asked EL, “Eh. Have you forgotten to say something before the throw?” EL, from his position, looked up at the sergeant. I imagined the lights in his eyes dimmed and flickered as his mind processed for a bit. Next moment, (lights came back on, both eyes blazing) he replied the sergeant, “Yes Sergeant!” Scrambled up from his prone position, he quickly retrieved his fake grenade.

Soon, he was back in the trench to redo the drill. Once again, he did all the same moves, calling them out in sequence.

He pulled his arm back and just before the launching his bottle of sand, he screeched an enthusiastic and prolonged,”Tiewwwwww!” and sent his Yakult bottle soaring through the air.

EL's Legendary Throw
A Reenactment.

Now “Tiew” (first pronunciation from the link) is not an actual word, but it was a sound effect commonly associated with the “whistling” sound of a bomb dropping, or if you are familiar with Warner Brothers, the sound of Wile E. Coyote falling off a cliff. It is something I, as a child, would sound out when playing war, tossing imaginary grenades at imaginary enemies.

Our jaws dropped.

As his fake grenade landed and rolled to a stop, EL looked genuinely pleased with his effort. Flabbergasted, the sergeant gawked at EL, mouth wide opened. I was convinced that the sergeant was not able to compute what just took place nor could he determine whether or not, EL was trying to be funny with him.

Moments later, all the witnesses to this stupefying event broke up into hysterical laughter. Once the laughter died down though, the sergeant made us do laps around the field nearby.

Funny how life fast changes sometimes.

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