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★★★☆☆ Book Review: Fall In! The Unofficial Guide to Surviving Basic Military Training by Matthew Chew & Nicholas U Jin

fallin

An informative and fun survival guide to prepare the recruits of Gen-Z.

No matter how many times you read (and re-read) MINDEF’s official website, how many of Jack Neo’s Ah Boys to Men movies you’ve watched (skip everything after the second one), or how many times your father tells you anecdotes that start with “back in my day”, nothing ever quite prepares you for the mystery of BMT until you’ve actually experienced it yourself. But with Matthew Chew and Nicholas U Jin’s Fall In!, it might just be a little easier.

Fall In! is effectively an updated compendium of information for the latest incarnation of Singapore’s compulsory National Service. But as an “unofficial guide to surviving Basic Military Training”, it’s a surprisingly comprehensive and organised account of what new recruits should expect from the day they step foot onto Pulau Tekong to the day they pass out. Rather than spending time on the internet trawling through stories and posts on forums such as r/NationalServiceSG or HardwareZone, Fall In! then acts as a useful and fairly accurate compilation of what the latest batch of enlistees goes through during their BMT.

Written for and by Gen-Z, Fall In! is lightweight, easy to read and provides personal insight from both Matthew and Nicholas about their time in BMT. Not only does it get to the point of each chapter quickly; the guide’s casual tone keeps the mood light throughout, with the authors providing helpful illustrations throughout the guide. There’s plenty of heart and humour that the authors pepper their writing with too, including personal reviews and ratings of each army ration pack that anyone who’s been through National Service is likely to relate to. All of this makes Fall In! a breeze to read, ensuring that new recruits or worried family members are fully equipped with as much information as they can hold to prepare them for Pulau Tekong.

At its heart, Fall In! may not be a necessity for your outfield exercise, with all the information you’ll naturally learn if you stay on the ball, but definitely helps pre-empty you for the day you do enlist. Helping both recruits and parents wrap their heads around the countless acronyms and jargon the army comes saddled with, readers are likely to clear the fog of war by the end of this book, and feel a little more mentally reassured that they’re going to get through BMT just fine.

Recommended for: Pre-enlistees, recruits, parents, and partners who want to know more about what to expect from this generation’s version of BMT.

Fall In! The Unofficial Guide To Surviving Basic Military Training is published by Epigram, and available online here

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