"The Men Who Stare at Goats," is a weird story about a secret, psychic military unit established in 1979 by the most gifted minds within the US Army. Defying all known accepted military practice - and the laws of physics - they believed that a soldier could adopt the cloak of invisibility, walk through solid walls and, perhaps most chillingly, kill goats just by staring at them.
This jaw-dropper of a hard-to-believe book (also made into a movie starring George Clooney) is a non-fiction story. Based on material from declassified government documents, Ronson addresses the more sinister aspect of out-of-the-box military thinking.
Equally weird is a study by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) that claim recruits who go through their Building Resilience in Individuals for Growth and Emotional Well-being programme (BRIDGE - even the acronym does not tally up) out-jumped, out-ran, out-shot and out-performed those who did not. Add out-hype to those superlatives. Mindef spokesman Desmond Tan boasts that the programme focuses on imparting the knowledge and skills recruits need to control their thoughts and actions to overcome the adversities they face in physical or outfield training.
Stretched over the 10-week Basic Military Training (BMT), BRIDGE is supposed to teach recruits to:
Stop negative thought processes (and replace these with positive self-talk like HDB prices will come down);
Reflect and share thoughts with peers and commanders (keep the distance though, look what happened between teachers and students in schools);
Set individual targets for physical training (why 10 push-ups when one will do?)
Oh yeah, and recruits get to watch movies and are given handbooks, in addition to the laptops and iPads issued.
Makes one wonder when our young men in uniform will get to practise their marksmanship on the firing range, or learn to reverse a land rover without running over someone standing behind.