First female ranger in the SAFCPT Yap Hui Jun pushed through weeks of food and sleep deprivation to graduate from the SAF's gruelling Ranger Course in her second attempt.
//Story & video by Thrina Tham / Photos by Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of Our Singapore Army & CPT Yap
She always loves a challenge, but Captain (CPT) Yap Hui Jun had never faced one like this. Last year, she signed up for the Singapore Army's gruelling Ranger Course.
Here – in what's reputed to be the toughest course in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) – trainees go through intense combat leadership missions that put them through rough "war-time" conditions.
While facing food and sleep deprivation, they take on missions including airborne and amphibious operations, terminal air guidance, live firing and a field exercise.
CPT Yap failed to make it past the second of three phases in the 65-day course back then.
The tenacious 27-year-old re-enrolled into the 50th batch this year – and on 16 Oct, became the first female to graduate from the Ranger Course.
"I wasn't up to Ranger standards (last year). But this time, I put in more effort in terms of planning and understanding Small Unit Tactics – how to fight, raid and ambush," said CPT Yap, on what she did differently.
"I prepared and I was also able to carry on more load (this time round). This is how I could help the detachment."
Equal among the men
Cutting a lean and petite figure when PIONEER met her for her graduation ceremony at Pasir Ris Camp on 16 Oct, CPT Yap admitted that she did not know she would have to shave her head for the course.
"It was a small sacrifice I had to make because I really wanted to join the Rangers. But it was definitely not easy because I had long hair before that," said the Army Intelligence Officer.
She added that the shaving was for hygiene purposes as ranger trainees would go for days and weeks without showering during outfield missions.
"So if you look at the bright side, you won't be so depressed about it," she said with a laugh.
Being botak (bald) was not the only way she was treated equal to the men.
"You do the same amount of things the guys do – a 20km combat march is still a 20km combat march. You don't walk less, you don't carry anything less," said CPT Yap.
This included carrying equipment like the General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG) and MATADOR (Man-portable Anti-Tank, Anti-DOoR) while doing a casualty evacuation exercise.
"As a female, you may even face more things (mentally) than the guys because you have to prove yourself worthy of being a Ranger. Gender doesn't come into play in the Ranger course," she added.
It probably comes as no surprise that CPT Yap has always been athletic.
She was in the National University of Singapore's (NUS's) Aquathlon team and continues her own daily training till today. The sport consists of continuous running and swimming over various distances.
A Platoon Commander with the Officer Cadet Training Wing, Intelligence Officer Cadet Course, she often joins in training and exercises such as interval fast marches with her men.
If you're wondering, yes, she's a 100-pointer for her Individual Physical Proficiency Test.
"The Ranger course is not for the faint-hearted… You volunteer yourself for the course and you need to be ready for anything," she said, on the discipline she puts in her training.
On why she decided to sign on with the SAF, CPT Yap said: "People contribute in different ways to the nation; and I feel that wearing green is my calling. This is how I contribute back to society."
How does CPT Yap feel to be the first female Ranger? And why did she volunteer for the toughest course in the SAF? Find out here: