Guard duty is the dreaded word that every National Servicemen Full-Time (NSFs) hates to hear. If you’re wondering what exactly entails during these enforced duties, here’s everything you need to know about guard duty!
What is guard duty in NS?
Guard duty is a military task almost every soldier has to fulfil. It is to provide security to the army camps you train in. There will always be personnel guarding the camps and are rotated on a schedule. For most camps, weekday guard duties are 12 hours from evening until the next morning. Weekend duties are unfortunately the full 24 hours.
8th Singapore Infantry Regiment (8SIR) and the Military Police currently take on the tiring role of guarding the camps on weekday mornings to evenings. They will soon merge with the 9th Singapore Infantry Regiment (9SIR) to do protection of key installations.
As the day ends, the night and weekend duties are then taken back by the in-camp personnel. There will be a takeover of duties through each guard duty team. It is good to know what goes on with each role to speed up the process of the handover.
Will I get guard duty during BMT in Tekong?
The chances of getting guard duty during Basic Military Training (BMT) in Tekong is fairly low. This is because there are many recruits on the island to fulfil these roles. If you are lucky, you may not even kena these duties during your BMT.
Unfortunately, punishments can also easily become guard duties. Signing extras refers to getting extra duties due to misbehaviour in the army. This means if you make a mistake, your commanders can easily assign you duties that nobody wants to do. Oftentimes, this will be the weekend guard duty. Stay out of trouble and hope for the best!
Guard duty in Tekong has various locations to provide security to. The ferry terminal is a typical guardhouse, which is similar to most camps. Another area is the ammo dump, which is a collection and deposit location for ammunition used during training. It is a fairly secluded area within Tekong with few military personnel going through.
This can mean a more relaxed duty as compared to other locations.
How am I allotted my guard duty slot?
Guard duty rosters are decided by the regulars in the force. The camp sergeant major allocates the required duties and it then follows the chain of command to assign each individual soldier to the duty roster. This system makes sure it is fair that every soldier is rotated on their camp obligations.
You can also occasionally swap duties with your buddies. If somehow you and your bunkmate agree to take over each other’s duty, you can make it known to your immediate commander to update the roster. However, this is at the discretion of the commander, and extras are not to be swapped.
Some NSFs may wish to take over another’s weekday duty because of the guard rest given the next day. Guard rest is due to the mandatory seven hours of uninterrupted rest before any training. This is enforced by the Army Safety Inspectorate, and you can use this to your advantage. Fulfilling your guard duty the night before means you are given time to rest the next morning outside of physical training.
What are the roles in guard duty?
Depending on the camp guard requirements, there are different roles to fill. Some are easier than others, and these are what entails:
Patrollers have the most tiring duty due to the amount of walking required. This role includes two soldiers walking the camp grounds in Standard Battle Order (SBO) and rifle. The responsibility is to ensure the parameters of the grounds are safe and secure.
If you are in a large camp, you may have multiple routes you need to take. There are checkpoints within the camp to report back to through radio or a physical paper. It is hard to “cheat the system” as the checkpoints are easily tracked through surveillance cameras by the guard commander.
This role can also be quite chill if you have a friend to walk with!
The sentry is a single role where the duty soldier stands at the gate to provide security. This means standing in SBO with the rifle for a couple of hours until the next shift. You will have to look fierce with no nonsense as regulars tend to pass through the gates often. It can be quite intensive and if you’re someone who cannot stand still, avoid this role at all costs!
Personnel Access Control (PAC) refers to the person checking each personnel going in and out of the camp. Depending on the security status of your camp, you may be required to check each person’s belongings as they pass through. The PAC is still required at night due to the late night and early morning booking in of personnel through the camp. There are some camp guardrooms that do allow for the PAC to remain indoors unless there are soldiers coming through.
While this is fairly simple, the moments where a mass influx of NSFs booking in can be tough. Often, there is also a secondary person inside the guardhouse to give out camp passes and to track the influx.
Vehicle Access Control (VAC) is the person allowing access to the personnel in vehicles going through the camp gates. This usually includes the occasional vehicle check depending on the security level. Similar to the PAC, not many vehicles pass through at night. Mainly, only the regulars and cookhouse food delivery trucks come by in the morning.
As compared to the other roles in guard duty, this may be the easiest job as not as many vehicles come and go throughout the night.
What happens during guard duty?
Guard duty is completed through a rostered schedule. You will usually do your role for about two hours before someone else in your group takes over. This happens repeatedly until your duty is relieved by the next guard duty personnel group. The start and end of your guard duty is typically where the most things happen. Due to the handing over of duties and personnel, it can get quite messy.
Here is usually what happens in this sequence:
#1 Guard mounting
This is the formal mounting of the guard duty personnel, where you will overtake the duties from the previous group of personnel to the new group. You will line up in ‘parade form’ outside the guardhouse to count strength. You will also be assigned roles by the guard commander. Try to request for the role you want beforehand to make things easier.
You may be asked scenario-based questions on what happens in various situations you can encounter while performing your duty. There will be time to look through a guide book before, and the answers are fairly logical. It is not hard to arrive at the answer just by thinking, and there is no punishment for the wrong answer.
From my memory during my time in NS, a question was on how to react to a civilian throwing debris into the camp gate.
#2 Drawing arms
Drawing arms will be similar to how you are taught in BMT. The process requires your 11B identification card and to sign off. You will be assigned specific rifles to your name, take note to always draw the same rifle each time you start your shift. Further safety checks by your guard commander will also occur before you begin your role. Because you will be performing legitimate guard duty roles, you will also be drawing live rounds.
Don’t forget to do your weapon checks!
Depending on your assigned role for the guard duty session, you will be allocated a timeslot on when to perform your duties. This is usually done by the guard commander to be fair to all duty personnel. You usually cannot pick your preferred shift, but you might be able to swap timings with buddies of the same role. Once your shift is done, you can rest in the provided bunk.
Sometimes due to the timing, you may actually rest more than performing your shift. Resting in bunk usually means sleeping, but you can also use your phone. Phones are only allowed to be used while in the bunk.
#4 Returning arms
Once your duty is completed, you have to follow the sequence to return arms once again. This includes all the usual rifle safety checks. There are checks to ensure all live rounds are accounted for by the guard commander. You will have to repeat the process of drawing and returning arms each time you are to perform your duty.
Some commanders may allow you to order food after your duty. This may be a chance to eat civilian food while in camp!
This is the most annoying part of guard duty. It is to ensure the duty personnel are ready to provide security to the camp. This is decided by the camp duty officer and it does not always happen. From my experience, the guard commander usually knows if there will be a turnout and would drop hints if it were to occur. Turnout includes drawing arms in full gear and to fall in at the designated area. The turnout only applies to the personnel resting in bunk, as the ones on duty have to remain vigilant.
#6 Area cleaning
Like everywhere else in the army, you will have to do area cleaning after you end your duty. The guard commander will be checking to ensure cleanliness for the next duty personnel batch taking over. Out of respect for the next group, do keep the area clean!
#7 Guard dismounting
Guard dismounting involves taking everything out and laying your belongings for inspection. It is to ensure no prohibited items are brought out of the guardroom. Make sure you have returned all the live rounds you have drawn as it is a serious offence to even forget.
Once that is all done, you can enjoy the guard rest you deserve!
If you completed a Saturday duty, you can go home immediately after.
What happens if I have guard duty on a Public Holiday or a Sunday?
Having to perform guard duty on a public holiday can be rather depressing. Many NSFs have felt this due to the many weekend duties and training. It is painful to think that your friends and family will be outside enjoying themselves while you are in camp!
However, you will be given a day off in lieu for duties on public holidays. You can talk to your immediate commander on when you can take this off in lieu. Depending on your commanders, you can decide when you want your day off.
Doing guard duty on weekends unfortunately does not grant off in lieus. This is because the army believes it is the soldier’s duty to protect one’s own camp. While this may sound like nonsense, I have also heard stories of enciks giving day offs for this at his discretion.
However, this will really depend on your camp!
Guard duty seems like a waste of time, especially on the weekends. It is a dull job yet it is necessary.
What’s more, it may affect your booking out period too…
Performing your duty well goes a long way for the security of the camp you train in. Keep things fair amongst your roster and know that there are many other NSFs that have to do this duty.
Additionally, failure to do so may incur even more guard duties!
Remember, you can make the most out of guard duties if you know the system well!
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