It’s not everyday that you’re reminded of the brute fact that you’re dealing with explosives. For that matter, it is precisely because you deal with explosives every damn day for close to two years, piles upon piles of it (so much so that you could raze Singapore to the ground with it all), that complacency creeps up upon you.
Last Thursday, an ammo trainee dropped an inert detonator on my boots during a dry run for today’s demolition. That silver thing, smaller than a bullet, would have instantly blown my toes off if it had been the real thing (I think my astonishment at his carelessness far outweighed my wrath at the point in time). The same trainee would have killed himself today in a spectacular blast, had my warrant officer not urgently stepped in to literally baby-feed the trainee in det-ing up an explosive chain.
As he triggered the blasting machine before ourwatchful eyes back in the bunker, the trainee screamed FIRING! with the very fullest gusto of his lungs, but it came out like trickle of shivering self-doubt. In an immediate roar of a reply was the dull but earth-shattering thunderclap of plastic explosives going up in a hail of fire and sand. Me and my fellow sergeant’s reaction was that of gratifying relief. Safely detonated along with that blast was whatever means that our dear trainee could have killed himself (and all of us) with.
There are many terms in the army that one could use to describe soldiers like him: blur-cock, bobo king, sotong. And they would come in handy in the big question of how do sotongs, like this trainee, even get vetted through for possibly fatal ammunition courses?
Whatever the case, I am beyond glad that I’ve fulfilled my first and only tour of duty at School of Ammunition: micromanaging trainees for eight hours at the explosive range and making sure they don’t accidentally blow themselves (and me) up.