Yoga mats for recruits: Much ado about nothing

Last week, netizens poured scorn on the Basic Military Training Centre's (BMTC) Facebook page for a post on a photo of a glum recruit.

This week, another photo has caused a stir - this time, one of recruits using yoga mats.

The photo in question shows recruits at Pulau Tekong performing crunches on yoga mats, presumably during a physical training (PT) workout.

Online commenters were quick to lament the disparity in training standards over the generations, with the usual gripes of "during my time, NS [National Service] was so much tougher, versus your time."

Zhili Wang, a Facebook user who commented on the photo, exemplified the typical gripe from NS men from yesteryear: "During my generation... we do PT under the sun without the yoga mats and we had blister (sic) at our back after the PT."

His last line was overflowing with copious amounts of envy: "Good life for this new generation of recruit."

The politics of envy has been an evergreen issue, and it will continue to be for generations to come.

From the days when the first Navy warship RSS Panglima was made of wood to today's state-of-the-art Littoral Mission Vessels, we can only get better from where we started 50 years ago.

Surely as we demand the best of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women, we have to equip them with the tools and training necessary to keep up with the times?

Surely removing the air-conditioning onboard ships or reverting to wooden ships won't make our sailors hardy?

Another Facebook user, Herrizal Shaun Paul Nazari, pointed out the usefulness of these yoga mats: "The yoga mat is to standardise for those people like me who can't do sit ups on concrete ground. Reason is because my tailbone area is a bit protruding so it hurts when I do a sit up on solid ground. (sic)"

It is, therefore, ludicrous to single out something as innocuous as a yoga mat as a means of 'pampering'.

These improvements, from the minor like yoga mats, to the major technological advances, should be celebrated as the SAF marks 51 years of defending Singapore this year in 2016.

It is only human nature to compare, but we cannot expect things to be in limbo. And we most certainly cannot use every improvement in the SAF as fodder that our soldiers, sailors, and airmen and women are becoming weaker.

Certainly, when push comes to shove, people have always proven to be resilient in the harshest of times, and this rings true for all generations - soil, mud, reclaimed land, or yoga mats.

If there is anything to disparage, it is that BMTC should not have deleted the photo - the second time it has been caught doing so after the glum recruit photo incident.

In the wake of any brouhaha, BMTC must learn to thicken its armour and stand its ground, just like how SAF commanders are expected to be firm and decisive.