Let us hop on the PIONEER bandwagon, you and I!

Why? For context:

  1. I think most people should know by now that I have a keen interest in issues that deal with the Singapore military and with National Service.
  2. I’ve also been reading David Boey’s blog quite a bit.
  3. Mr Wang’s latest post provided the impetus to write about something close to my heart.

So I was once a PIONEER writer too.

Fortunately or unfortunately, it didn’t happen during a posting while I was serving my NSF. I managed to score an internship with PIONEER under the Singapore Civil Service Internship Programme in the ‘summer’ of 2006.

According to Edgar Lee, one of the Senior Editors then, the choice was between myself and another girl. We weren’t shortlisted; we were just two kukubirds who were interested (or silly) enough to apply for that position.

Well, I thought I got it because I sounded earnest enough during the telephone interview. Actually, I got the gig because the other girl didn’t pick up her phone.

Oh, well.

The internship was one of the best things to ever happen in my life. I had just finished my second year of University, and was somewhere between being willing to write well and being able to write well.

I thought I was destined for academic mediocrity, but the stint at PIONEER was the turning point.

Being forced to write coherently – and consistently – helped me to see what I was doing wrong before, and provided me with more self-awareness when it came to improvement.

You can check out a list of the articles I wrote here. There is a distinct immaturity in each article but I improved at a very rapid pace.

To illustrate: this is the first article I wrote, this is an article from the second month of my internship, and this is the last article I wrote. See the difference?

Anyway, unlike many other people, I haven’t cancelled my PIONEER subscription.

I still read the magazine every month with a fervour: ripping open the plastic sheet that PIONEER comes wrapped in; devouring the publication from page to page.

Is it because I am a military nut? No. I follow what the SAF does  “out of a desire to ensure the system is accountable for the lives of Singaporeans who step forward to serve in uniform”.

That is my only motivation, and PIONEER provides me with one of the few links that I have to a military system that has much room for improvement.

In fact, PIONEER magazine itself provides the most apt example of the change that needs to happen.

The publication is a symbol of how the Singapore Armed Forces wants to portray itself – a glossy, polished, professional entity.

But silences speak the loudest words, and the features that are missing from PIONEER are the very same ills that plague the SAF.

For example, there are no critical commentaries from learned individuals that analyse and evaluate military policy. Neither is there a forum page for soldiers and citizens to air their views.

In spite of this, I will continue to subscribe to PIONEER.

I believe the day will come when more citizen/soldier involvement and engagement takes place. PIONEER, like Singapore and the SAF, has evolved slowly, but surely over the last few decades.

This evolution isn’t going to stop – unless something happens to derail progress, of course.

Change will happen, and I look forward to being able to thumb through an issue of PIONEER and feeling like it’s worth more than the forty cents per issue I’m paying now.

About the author

Laremy Lee

A versatile educator, writer and editor, Laremy Lee (李庭辉) has the uncanny knack of being one of the few among his generation in Singapore who crafts compelling stories in different genres.

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