Like everyone else who’s turning 21 years old, we started thinking about being independent. I guess I was more matured than any of my peers since I started working at the age of 7 years old and I was brought up in a family with scarce resources. When I was studying in Singapore polytechnic, I was generating an income to support myself every month by giving out newspaper every morning, conduct street surveys, working as Telesales, selling drinks at Kallang stadium and being a part-time model. I didn’t want my family to pay for my expenses as I have always thought my parents have suffered more than enough for the four of us. I decided to sign on as a soldier right after I graduated from Polytechnic. With strong determination, I topped the Basic Military training (BMT) as the best trainee even though I can’t speak English well.
The worst thing was that I didn’t even know how to give commands in Malay language since my parents couldn’t afford to allow me to take up in any Extra-curricular activity at school as I needed to help out at the farm land everyday. What I have is a belief that if I am doing whatever I can and having the integrity to do the right thing and being kind to everyone, I will always be blessed by someone up there. I remember during the BMT’s field camp, I was the first to finish digging a trench and I continued digging till about 5.30am while my all other camp mates fell asleep.
By then, there were so many water bubbles (Blisters?) on my palm when I finally managed to finish digging my campmate’s trench. I decided to take a nap and I was found overslept by my commander. Overcame by fear that I could not book out, I quickly apologized. Surprisingly, my commander praised me for having the integrity to help my campmates. This not only won praises from my commander and it could be one of the reasons why I have topped the cohort because I might haved score well in my peer appraiser. Unfortunately, I was selected to the Naval Officer Cadet School in 1995.
I was very disappointed, surprisingly one of my friends from Officer Cadet School labeled me as hypocrite as he felt that going to NAVY was better than staying with the Army. I even appealed to the Navy school instructor, Captain Tay to transfer me back to the Army. I had a reason for this request because my fear is I would not be able to pursue the dream to sign on as an Officer. My school result was bad and I was a non-swimmer as my family never had the resources like time and money for me to learn swimming. Just before enrolling into National service, I tried to learn to swim and I nearly drowned.
From then onwards, I was worried whenever I am inside the swimming pool. Besides this fear, I had already put in a lot of effort like training to be able to complete 2.4km in about 8.5 minutes, doing 26 chin ups in 1 minute and a sharp shooter in the M16 riffle firing. After I was rejected the chance to return to the army, I told myself someone up there wanted me to take up a bigger challenge.
I decided to focus on what I can do. Right after the first swimming training, I earn the title of ‘Diver’ from my peers. I sunk once I tried swimming and also for the fact that I have a well trained body. This upset me and shook my confidence. During the first few months, I was struggling as the Naval school focused a lot more on academic and we had to quickly pick up basic knowledge like ship handling, rules of road, Astro-navigation, basic military warfare knowledge and a lot of different subjects.