You may have heard your friends in the army dreading booking in and raving about booking out. If you’re wondering what these terms mean, here’s everything you need to know about booking in and out during National Service (NS)!
What does book out mean in NS?
Booking out refers to the procedure of exiting the military camp grounds during NS. It involves each soldier signing an official booklet for recording purposes. There are also checks to ensure cleanliness and that prohibited items are not taken out of the camp.
At the end of each soldier’s fleeting freedom, booking in refers to the act of going back to camp once again.
When can you book out in NS?
For new recruits in Basic Military Training (BMT), the first two weeks are called confinement. There will be no booking out until confinement is over. This is to familiarise you with military life. Subsequently, recruits book out on Fridays and book in on Sundays.
As you graduate from BMT and into your posted camp, there will be a different system depending on your unit. Getting into a stay-in unit means you will get to go home after five days of training within the camp. Being in a stay-out unit means you will book out at the end of the day and book in the next morning.
You will also book out for the public holidays. They may allow for soldiers to book out the night before or only on the morning of the public holiday. If you are lucky, this does mean a long weekend if the festivities fall on the weekends!
NS duties include the dreaded weekend guard duty, which takes away precious weekends. Getting assigned these duties on Saturdays and Sundays means you will lose those days outside of camp to fulfil your obligations.
Unfortunately, these are unavoidable and the weekends lost will usually not be paid back in lieu, unless it falls on a public holiday.
You can find out more about guard duties during NS here.
What time can I book out in NS?
Booking in and out of Pulau Tekong during BMT is different as compared to other camps. This is due to the ferry timings and the sheer mass of recruits going in and out of the island on the weekends. BMT book ins consist of your company meeting at Pasir Ris Bus Interchange (PRBI) at a given timing. Once everyone is accounted for, you will board a chartered bus to go to the SAF Ferry Terminal. A ferry will then take everyone to Tekong and you will march to your specific company line.
The whole process can take about an hour and will be done in reverse for BMT book outs.
Unfortunately, there will be regimentation requirements before booking out. Commanders will enforce the cleanliness of your quarters through a session called Stand By Area or Stand By Bed. This means area cleaning of the bunks, toilets, staircase and corridor until everything is dust-free and in order.
Once ready, either your platoon sergeant or the sergeant major will be doing their rounds to check every nook and cranny. During my time, we were given many push-ups for each item not up to the commanders’ standards.
Signing the record books to book out was not a quick task either. Each soldier has to sign their names one by one, and this could delay the projected book out timing. While the idea of booking out may bring joy, the process of booking out can be really draining.
Can I book out everyday during NS?
Stay-in units follow the BMT five-day work week and only booking-out on Fridays. If you are in certain administrative roles or in a stay-out unit, you simply stay in camp only for the working hours of the day. While this may seem ideal as compared to staying overnight, commuting to camp daily can be a hassle.
Sometimes, your sergeant major will allow for day-offs for hard work by the company. This is outside of the off in lieus for being in camp on public holidays. It may be worth it to try asking for day-offs through the appropriate chain of command, to try your luck with your commanders.
However, this is dependent on your sergeant major’s persona!
What is the book in timing for NS?
During BMT, the timing to form up at PRBI is given before booking out. Due to the bus and ferry scheduling, you may need to head to PRBI sometimes in the late afternoon. This will take away almost half of your precious Sunday.
When you are in a stay-in unit, the book in timings are usually more relaxed as you need to book in by around 10pm on Sunday night. This is to ensure you are well rested for the next day’s worth of training.
What is the book in attire for NS?
Book in attire during your BMT phase will be Smart 4. There is also a tendency for commanders to get recruits to book in and out in Long 4 if there are rising cases of dengue. The long sleeves help to lower the chances of being bitten by the mosquitos. After BMT, book ins will be in civilian attire, just like the very first day of BMT!
As you progress through NS, there will be different booking in and out systems for each camp. There are stay-in and stay-out vocations, both with contrasting lifestyles.
Hopefully, you will get posted to a unit with a booking in and out arrangement that you prefer!
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