She's always up for a challengeCaptain (CPT) Julianah Jamal, 37, took the leap 10 years ago and joined the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) after spending a few years in the mental healthcare sector. Find out why she loves life in the military – from taking on the Guards Conversion Course to grooming the next generation of SAF leaders.
// Photos Kenneth Lin & courtesy of CPT Julianah
I was scared of out my wits when I had to go through the 2km coastal swim during my Guards Conversion Course (GCC) – I have a fear of water, and it didn't help that I was among the first few groups of trainees to start the swim.
Thank goodness we had life jackets on. I grit my teeth, stepped into the water and managed to complete the swim. With much encouragement and some "dragging" assistance from my other course mates, of course.
That was in February 2014. Back then, I was the Brigade Dy S4 in 7th Singapore Infantry Brigade (7 SIB).
It was the encouragement and support of my brigade commander that prompted me to take up the challenge of going through GCC – a move I had never imagined myself doing.
Earning the Guards tab
Although I was the only female in my GCC batch, I went through the same programme and met the same standards as the rest of the trainees.
From doing a 10km fast march to rappelling down from a helicopter to conducting back-to-back outfield missions for a week, my course mates and I accomplished everything together.
I could not have completed it without the support and camaraderie of my superiors and friends.
Taking on new challenges
Before joining the Army at the age of 27, I was a case manager in the forensics psychiatry department at the Institute of Mental Health (IMH) for about two years.
I was yearning for a change and my friend recommended me to join the military as I've always enjoyed sports and the outdoors.
When I decided to join the Army, I was already used to doing 10km runs and half-marathons as well as taking trekking trips. However, I was not prepared for the endless rainy nights for my first outfield in Basic Military Training – that was an experience that built my resilience, to say the least.
The SAF's build-up training method also helped to ensure that I eased smoothly into the regime.
What I enjoy about the military is the opportunity to be exposed to different experiences and areas of work. I was fortunate to be appointed as an Honorary Aide-de-camp (HADC) to the President in 2016 and have been serving as one since.
From emceeing an event in the Istana to learning about protocols and working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it has truly been a privilege to be an HADC.
When President Halimah Yacob and the new cabinet was sworn in in 2017, I was there to witness the event. It was an eye-opening experience as I got to see the event being conducted in person, instead of just simply putting a name or a picture to a ceremony.
Friends for life
Currently, I am a senior instructor at the School of Logistics in Army Logistics Training Institute (ALTI), where I train logistics officers-to-be. This includes giving lectures, guiding them outfield and supervising their physical training.
I believe that grooming the new generation is about empowering them with the right values and knowledge, to raise progressive and just leaders
While I like training young soldiers, it is my colleagues who make my job truly enjoyable.
Right now, I am working with a great bunch of Regulars and Full-Time National Servicemen (NSFs) in ALTI, who are always ready to lend a hand whenever I'm facing difficulties.
Even when I was in HQ 7 SIB, conversations with my colleagues were easy and we would always help one another out.
Pulling your weight
As a female leader in the SAF, I have seen women hold their weight among men, and this sets an example for others.
Today, women join the military without expecting any preferential treatment – the only concern they have is if they are performing well. We are proud of our work and always aim to achieve the best results.
It has been 10 years since I joined the Army. There have been ups and downs but I often find that you draw the most valuable lessons through difficult moments.
Every day is different. Every day presents a new challenge. This is what military life is about and this is why I like what I do.