Like father, like sonMWO Omar Bin Osman became an Army Regular as he wanted to make a difference to the lives of young soldiers. His son was inspired to do the same 20 years later.
// Story by Koh Eng Beng
// Photos by Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of MWO Omar
As a young sergeant, he stayed in camp every week day, training and looking after his soldiers. It was only on weekends that then-2nd Sergeant (2SG) Omar Bin Osman usually went home to be with his wife and child.
"In (a combat) unit, (we have) no choice lah. The training tempo was very high," said the then platoon sergeant in 6th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (6 SIR).
Today, Master Warrant Officer (MWO) Omar, 46, is the Chief Master Trainer in the Specialist and Warrant Officer Institute.
Although Lieutenant (LTA) Muhammad Zayan Bin Omar didn't get to spend as much time with his father as he might have liked as a child, he grew up being inspired by him.
The 22-year-old, who became an Army Regular last year, said: "When I asked my dad why he's always not home, he'd tell me that he goes to the jungle to train his soldiers, and that he's making a difference to the lives of these young men.
"I felt that what he's doing is noble; I grew up looking up to him. So ever since I was young, I wanted to sign on."
Proudest moment in the Army
MWO Omar enlisted for National Service in 1996. While serving as a section commander in the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC), he liked what he was doing and decided to sign on as a Regular.
He rose through the ranks, on the back of his sterling military performance – he was the distinguished graduate during his Joint Warrant Officer Course in 2008, and was selected to attend the United States (US) Sergeants Major Course in 2014.
But when asked what was his proudest moment in the Army, MWO Omar said: "It's when my son was commissioned as an officer! That was the highlight because every father wants their son to be better than him.
"Zayan has made me proud – first when he became the Company's Best Recruit during his BMT, and when he's commissioned. I think it speaks volumes of how (well) I had raised him."
After almost two years in the Army, LTA Zayan has gained a better appreciation of the tough work that his dad does for a living.
One such realisation came during an exercise in Officer Cadet School, where he had to dig trenches through the night. "That was really tough! (And this was) what my father had been doing," said LTA Zayan, now a platoon commander in 5 SIR.
MWO Omar chimed in, laughing. "Cannot compare lah. My time was worse – we had to dig a company command post trench that's 2m deep, 5m wide!”
This year's Father's Day, LTA Zayan would like to tell his dad: "I fully understand what you had to go through just to give me and my mum a home. I want to thank you for everything that you have done for us. I'll do my best to make you proud.”
Doing his duty as a father
Although he was often away during LTA Zayan's growing-up years, MWO Omar made it a point to spend quality time with him on weekends.
"What I did differently was that I told my wife, 'Every Sunday morning is father-and-son bonding time; the mother cannot join us!'" he said, laughing.
From morning till noon, the father and son would do fun activities that they enjoy, like jogging and cycling at East Coast Park. The rest of the day would be spent with the family.
MWO Omar – who has a second son, Muhammad Idraqi – credited his wife Suriya for looking after their children well. So for this Father's Day, he wants to dedicate the occasion to her as well as to all military wives out there.
"As a soldier, I want to wish all the mothers a Happy Father's Day too. When we are not around at home because of our training, the mothers have to stand in as a father figure for our kids, so we cannot forget them."