As the saying by Solange Nicole goes, "a diamond doesn't start out polished and shining. It once was nothing special, but with enough pressure and time, becomes spectacular."
No one would know this quote better than 2LT Randell Chan Yi Long. Losing his opportunity to enter the Officer Cadet School (OCS) due to a temporary medical condition, 2LT Randell's passion to sign on never wavered. He was assigned as an Administrative Support Assistant (ASA) after enlistment due to his medical condition. After his medical status was over, 2LT Randell managed to proceed to the Specialist Cadet School (SCS) as a Specialist and eventually to OCS where he commissioned on 15 Dec.
Accomplishing such achievements, while married with one daughter, is not an easy feat. Inspired by his story, we spoke to 2LT Randell and understood more about his journey.
When you first enlisted, you were an ASA. Can you share with us why and what motivated you to sign on?
When I first enlisted, I worked really hard to push through Basic Military Training because I wanted to make sure that the time I spent away from my family is worth it. I was also curious how far I could go in the Army, especially when I achieved a commendation in BMT. I was posted as a pilot trainee after that, however it was detected that I had a medical condition and could not enter OCS as I intended. It took me some time to recover from that. However, I decided to pick myself up and continue striving to be the best person for my family. And this reignited my passion for signing on.
We heard you tried to sign on three times before you were accepted. What were some of the challenges you faced during your application and how did you find the perseverance to keep trying?
I first failed to sign on, and received a long medical status. After my medical status ended, I tried to sign on as an officer again but it failed as they had to review my medical condition. After my medical status was cleared, there wasn’t sufficient time for me to enter OCS.
Despite failing to sign on many times, one of the values I learned through my experience is mental fortitude. I believe that when a person hits rock bottom, the only way to go is up. I took every failure in my stride and saw it as a learning opportunity to better myself. I was also motivated to sign on so that I can secure the future of my daughter, be it emotionally, financially or opportunity-wise. I will never allow myself to deprive her of anything any parent can or should readily provide for their child.
Fast forward to when you were in SCS, what was something you have learnt that has helped you get through OCS?
SCS polished my Command and Control skills. In outfield settings, I was able to have a clear grasp of what needs to be done and how to go about achieving our mission, without compromising the needs of those around me. My course mates came from varying backgrounds. After talking to most on a personal basis, the experience opened my eyes to the different thoughts, feelings and struggles they are facing. My SCS journey made me more empathetic towards my course mates, and that’s a valuable lesson I'd never forget in my Army career.
Compared to your peers, you have served for a longer time and have had more experience than them. You were a man, then became a sergeant and now you are a commissioned officer. How do you think these experiences have helped shape you as a leader?
There was always something to learn at every step. As an ASA, I gained organisational and multi-tasking skills that enabled me to plan clear and concise methods to execute whatever task that was given to me. I even learnt how to better communicate with my fellow peers and commanders. Moreover, having outfield experiences in leading my course mates to accomplish our mission further polished my collective thinking despite the physically and emotionally harsh environment.
Overall, through blood, sweat and tears, knowing the expectations and challenges within the chain of command has allowed me to not only lead with determination, but also with empathy as well, a value I hold very close to me.
Lastly, your family definitely played a big part towards the success of your journey so far, how have they supported you? Any words of gratitude you would like to say to them?
Despite the tiring training, my family is always warm and welcoming, and will always make the extra effort to include me in family activities. It shows their genuine care and concern for me.
Now that I have the chance, I would like to dedicate my military achievements to my parents. These achievements are my gift to you for believing in me when no one else did, for listening to me and understanding me.
2LT Randell Chan with his family.
Having been through plenty, 2LT Randell Chan still remembers his motivation and we believe he will continue to sharpen his skills and capabilities as a commissioned officer of the SAF, overcoming any obstacles and challenges that may await him.
Written by: PTE Gershwin Lim
Photography by: LCP Cyril Tang