The 40th batch of NDU trainees puts the Team in Team Building Week.
By Clara Lock
Photos by Navy News and courtesy of Pioneer Magazine
Every batch of NDU divers owns a t-shirt that proclaims they have survived Team Building Week (TBW), a shirt they design as a batch and wear with pride long after repeated washings have rendered it worn and faded.
It is a badge of glory, a sign they have fought their way through one of the toughest training regimes in RSN and emerged triumphant.
The 20-week Combat Diver Course that all divers undergo is punctuated by a five day programme known as TBW. For the trainees in the 40th batch, this may as well be a lifetime.
During this week, trainees undergo a grueling round-the-clock programme that is meant to stimulate wartime conditions of insufficient rest, and train the divers to overcome physical and metal fatigue. The training is designed to push them to the limits, and an uninterrupted stretch of two hours sleep is a luxury.
“When your days become the unending stretch and you can’t see the end, you start making metal bargains with yourself,” says LTA Eden Kang.
He adds: I’ll make it to the next meal, you promise yourself, then I’ll go from there.”
They lean on each other in order to bend and not break. MID S Satguru, by his own admission, joined NDU as a ‘non-swimmer’. He struggled to pass the swimming component of the Divers Fitness Test, a 500-metre swim that had to be completed in less than 12 minutes.
“I can do it twice in that time,” says MID Guo Jing Yang.
The latter’s friendly ribbing belies a fierce desire to see his batch mates succeed. MID Guo, who had previously worked part time as a lifeguard, coached the weaker swimmers on the correct techniques to help them pass their vetoes. Each diver had to pass five vetoes before they could graduate from the course.
“It’s my accomplishment too when I see my batch mates succeed,” says MID Guo, who was named Best Trainee.
The 40th batch is full of similar zero-to-hero stories. CPL Jeremy Yee enlisted a hefty 90kg that impeded his running, and whittled his weight down to 70kg – shaving almost four minutes off the timing on his 2.4km run to clinch the coveted Diver’s Gold standard on his IPPT. 3SG Nigel Tan enlisted after breaking his collarbone about a year before he enlisted, an injury that prevented him from doing physical training in the six months before he enlisted; MID Vincent Chua halved the timing of his 2km sea swim veto, going from a hundred to 47 minutes.
In the end these accomplishments do not stay with them as long as the bonds forged over fire, and what it ultimately helps them achieve.
Training Officer 2WO Rajandran says: “In future, when they encounter tough situations, they will look back upon TBW as a reference and tell themselves, I can do it.”
He adds: “They will be a changed person.”
Tadpoles To Frogmen
For many in the 40th batch, one of the toughest training drills involves running laps while holding a 76kg inflatable boat above their heads. They perform this drill, termed Chow Run because it typically precedes mealtimes, in groups of eight.
3SG Julian Siew leads his batch mates in a set of knuckle push ups. Throughout the course, trainees take turns leading the class to assist the smooth flow of training. Some of their duties are to muster strength, lead drills and keep morale up.