Everyone loves a good comeback story, that of a hero triumphing over an obstacle, defying odds to achieve the unlikely. Many of us have had our own comeback stories, often slapped within different phases of our lives as we challenge ourselves to overcome our own "Everests".
In this story, 2LT Sean Pang acts as our real-life protagonist, as we follow his winding journey of recovering from a bout of pneumonia to eventually commissioning on the parade square of SAFTI Military Institute as part of the 116/19 batch of officers.
After enlisting into 1st Battalion Singapore Guards, 2LT Sean had a positive mindset right from the get-go. "I came in with the mindset that whatever I wished to take away from National Service, from the Army, came down to what I wanted to make of it. I know it will not be easy or rewarding all the time, but I felt that if I did not do my best, then that would be all there is to my NS - simply an obligation to serve."
This drive and determination to make the best out of NS played a key role in pushing himself throughout this journey.
After completing Basic Military Training, 2LT Sean fulfilled his initial goal of making it to command school as he was posted to the Specialist Cadet School (SCS). His specialist cadet life however, was a short one, as he was diagnosed with pneumonia less than a month into the 36/18 Specialist Cadet Course. This obstacle dampened 2LT Sean's mood, leaving him in initial doubts over his future in NS. "I felt pretty upset. Not only because I was instantly placed out-of-course by the Medical Officer, but because I knew this meant my medical classification would be temporarily downgraded for at least six months. While this would allow me to recuperate, it also implies that it would be very hard for me to be sent for the subsequent course."
Posted back to his original unit as an Administrative Support Assistant (ASA), 2LT Sean continued to do his best and embraced a different side of the Army. "My key takeaway was a deeper understanding of how the Army works - broadening my horizons from how a section functions to how an entire company or even battalion works, both in operations as well as admin."
It was also during this period of time that 2LT Sean was noticed by his superiors for his exceptional artistic talents, which he used to great effects by gifting works he produced to commanders overseas.
One of 2LT Sean Pang's artworks - "Rifleman's creed", presented as a token of appreciation for Exercise Valiant Mark 2019.
Inspired by his commanders, 2LT Sean's desire to serve propelled him to re-enter SCS, a full 8 months after being placed out-of-course, extending his service term by 4 months.
"My friends and family, knowing my passion for leadership, were very encouraging and supportive of me. Although it wasn't easy, this strengthened my resolve to embark on a new, unfamiliar journey - even if it came at a price of extending my service by 4 months."
After re-entering SCS to train as a sergeant, 2LT Sean was one of the few outstanding candidates to be selected for the crossover from SCS to Officer Cadet School (OCS). Though grateful for the recognition of his effort, 2LT Sean initially did not expect to be chosen as one of the deserving few. "Frankly, I did not expect to be chosen for it. When I was eventually selected, I felt that my effort and hardwork had been recognised."
His time in OCS was filled with constant training and outfield exercises, but 2LT Sean savoured the plethora of different operations and skills he had to tackle and learn from.
With his official completion of OCS, 2LT Sean has effectively extended his service by 10 months and 10 days, a substantial amount of time. To 2LT Sean, however, this amount of time in NS served as timber for his ever-growing passion in learning. "I came into NS wanting to make the most out of my time and though I might have to serve a little longer than others, I think I've ultimately met that goal to become a better person and a better leader."
Whilst 2LT Sean made the climb back to the top of his NS aspirations, it was his parents who held the ropes, giving him the support and reassurance that the experience gained through his extended service period would prove invaluable eventually.
"We were initially apprehensive, but both of us agreed that the learning, training and experience would be something worthwhile, taking him to further heights in his life and future career path. At the end of the day, we are very proud of his determination to do his best to excel and perform, towards becoming a commissioned officer."
2LT Sean Pang (centre) with his parents during the Officer Cadet Commissioning Parade.
Written by: PTE Douglas Toh
Photography by: LCP Nicholas Chow