Carrying on the mantle of defenceIt's one of the biggest milestones in a recruit's journey, to be handed the responsibility of protecting the nation.
// Story by Benita Teo / Photos by Kenneth Lin
A sea of green along the coast of Changi Beach is not a sight you would normally encounter.
The recruits of Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) School 3's Raven Company were gathered on the sand, where they would be taking their next big step as soldiers – receiving their rifles in the Weapon Presentation Ceremony.
The ceremony marks a significant milestone for the recruits. By being entrusted with the Singapore Assault Rifle – 21st Century (SAR 21), they were also handed the responsibility of defending Singapore and her people.
Lest we forget
The ceremony on 14 Jan was special for many reasons.
It was one of few Weapon Presentation Ceremonies to take place outside of a military camp, allowing families of the recruits as well as the public to witness the revered event.
The location of the ceremony was also highly significant.
To most young Singaporeans today, the story of Changi Beach may be nothing more than a chapter in their history textbooks, a place known as one of the sites of the Sook Ching Massacre during World War Two (WWII).
But buried deep in the sand and sea is the memory of the dark days when their forefathers suffered tremendous hardship under the hands of the Japanese military.
By taking on the mantle of Singapore's defense at this historical site, the recruits were pledging to never let the horrors of war be repeated. They would also remain steadfast in upholding Singapore's way of life for their loved ones.
The recruits of Raven Company marched to Changi Beach from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Ferry Terminal. They had set off at the break of dawn, travelling over sea from BMTC in Pulau Tekong.
The ceremony is held early in the morning, as a tribute to our forefathers who had lost their lives in defence of the country and did not live to see another sunrise.
Senior Lieutenant Colonel Mohd Nizam Bin Yahya (pictured above, at podium), Commanding Officer of BMTC School 3, reminded the recruits of the heavy responsibility they will now shoulder as soldiers of the SAF.
"Today, you receive more than weapons; you inherit a set of responsibilities that extend beyond the battlefield… By mastering the technical aspect of this instrument, your responsibility is to embody the principles that represent duty, honour and unwavering commitment."
"With this weapon, I will defend my country, Sir!" Recruit (REC) Muhammad Danial Husaini Bin Mohammed Nafis (pictured above, foreground, left) received his rifle from Platoon Commander (PC) 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Muhammad Izzat Bin Ranlee.
When presented with their rifles, the recruits display their resolve and commitment to the nation's defence by responding in a strong voice and snatching the rifles from their commanders with firm hands.
"The rifle is a symbol of the responsibility we have to uphold the safety and security of the country. Now, with the rifle in my hand, I feel a sense of pride. It's time for me to step up and defend the country," said REC Hang Yi Zhen (pictured above, foreground, right).
"Knowing that Singapore had once fallen to our enemies, we cannot let our guard down; we must do whatever we can to preserve our independence," said REC Muhammad Dani Amsyar Bin Abdul Rahman (pictured above, left), 19.
Remembering Changi Beach's tragic history will also serve to motivate him through the tough training, he added.
"Each and every one of us feels that extra sense of responsibility to uphold our duty (to the nation). Even though it (our National Service journey) might get tiring at times and we might get lost and forget why we do this, this will remind us that we are here to preserve Singapore's future."
REC Grizelda Sng (pictured above) held on to the State Flag while leading the company in the Weapon Creed. The rest of the soldiers placed their hand on each other's shoulder (pictured below), forming an unbroken chain to the flag on which they pledge their allegiance.
"This is a big milestone in their transition from civilian to soldier. They must now learn to be independent and take care of their rifle," said 2LT Izzat. The 22-year-old is the PC of Platoon 2.
He also had these words of advice for his young charges: "My hopes for them are the same ones I had for myself when I was a recruit: seize the opportunities you are given, learn something new, get to know yourself better.
"And be happy, because if you enjoy what you're doing, the journey will become easier."
"The rifle is a symbol of the responsibility we have to uphold the safety and security of the country. Now with the rifle in my hand, I feel a sense of pride. It's time for me to step up and defend the country," said REC Hang (pictured above, centre).
The 24-year-old has had a desire to join the SAF since her polytechnic days. After graduating from Nanyang Technological University, where she majored in Psychology, she decided to take the plunge and chase her dreams.
"My father, uncle and younger brother had all served in the SAF – in fact, my uncle is a retired Unmanned Aerial Vehicle pilot. They shared their positive experiences and told me how it could help me in my personal development.
"I wanted to experience all this for myself one day. After university, I knew it was my last chance to sign on. If I don't do it now, I might regret it."
Present at Changi Beach to witness the ceremony were (pictured above, from left) REC Hang's cousin Chung Ting Ting, brother Hang Hao Kuang, mother Feng Xue Yuan, father Hang Fu Juan, aunt Hang Yoke Juan and uncle Chung Seng Chua.
Her father shared some pearls of wisdom with her: "Being a soldier and carrying a rifle will come with both good times and tough times. Now that you have taken on this responsibility, do your best to protect the country. And enjoy the experience!"
To REC Dani's (pictured above, second from right), having a rifle is like having a buddy he can depend on: "The rifle is one of the most integral pieces of equipment to a soldier. It's my responsibility to guard it and make use of it properly. I should take care of it the same way I take care of my buddy."
There to show their support were his father Abdul Rahman Bin Hussain (right), mother Napsiah Nordin (second from left) and younger brother Muhammad Nazriel Asyraaf (left), who were snapping photos excitedly during the ceremony.
REC Kowshik Renganathan (pictured above, second from left), 19, admitted that he'd been nervous about enlisting, but his buddies have helped him with adjusting to the military life.
"Once I got to know my bunkmates, things got better and I became more comfortable. Now I wake up every morning looking forward to the day's activities."
His growth is also evident to his family, who were all smiles after seeing him in the No. 4 uniform for the first time and witnessing the Weapon Presentation Ceremony.
"We're very proud of him, we can see the change in him already! Within a week, he's more mature," said his mother, Meena Sangumani (left).
"I'm proud and blessed to have him serving the nation – we've been citizens for 20 years, and he's the first to serve National Service. We're happy for him, and excited to be here with him today," she added.
With them are REC Kowshik's dad Renganathan Govindasamy (right) and elder sister Preethi Renganathan (second from right).
Think Basic Military Training is like what you see in the movies, where the sergeants are yelling at everyone all the time? REC Danial (pictured above, second from left) wants to set the record straight.
"The sergeants do scold us if we mess up, but it's not like what the movies make it out to be!" he said with a laugh.
"I've enjoyed my time so far. It's an eye-opening experience, going from living your own life to following the strict schedule set by the commanders – what time we go to sleep and wake up, when we eat, how to fall in.
"It's life-changing, but for the better, because we learn a lot of important values and skills that will be useful in our everyday lives," he explained.
With him are his father Mohammed Nafis (centre), elder brother Muhammad Hazwani Danish (second from right) and mother Mariah Amri (right), as well as Assistant Company Warrant Officer 3rd Warrant Officer Tan Yao Long (left).