Commando training changed his lifeCommando-turned-medical officer Captain (CPT) (NS) (Dr) Ramesh Wijaya shares the life lessons he learnt from being part of this elite force.
//Story & Video Koh Eng Beng
//Photos Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of CPT (NS) (Dr) Wijaya & Singapore Army
He was planning to study engineering after completing his full-time National Service (NS) in 2002 but when the day came, then-Corporal (CPL) Ramesh Wijaya decided to make the switch to study medicine.
The reason? He found out what he really wanted and had learnt the importance of putting the nation before self during his NS as a commando.
"Being in the Commandos taught me two important things. First, I definitely could not deal with an office job because I’m the type of person who needs to walk around.
"The second is the importance of NS and public service. There are many people in our country who silently go about their roles to keep our country running. There is a quiet satisfaction in this that appeals to some of us," explained CPT (NS) (Dr) Wijaya. The 39-year-old is currently a consultant surgeon with Changi General Hospital.
Since graduating from National University of Singapore in 2007, he has stayed in the public service, serving in various public hospitals.
And instead of calling it a day when he completed his Operationally Ready NS in 2012, he extended his NS under the ROVERS (Reservist on Voluntary Extended Reserve Service) scheme – in a different role as a commando medical officer.
He has served as a ROVERS for eight years, guided by a deep sense of duty to the country. For him, it's also about giving back, having gained much from his training as a commando.
Living by Commandos' values
As a commando, CPT (NS) (Dr) Wijaya went through some of the most gruelling training in the SAF.
He added that he has gained more than just tactical skills and fitness from NS – the Commando training has shaped the way he lives his life.
"That mental fortitude and resilience that (the Commandos) inculcate is something that I always use... (It) brings out the best that you have within yourself to contribute in the best way that you can."
He explained: "The mental strength and resilience to do the correct thing even in the most fatigued condition is crucial. We always train ourselves to do the necessary tasks...not only to the point of perfection, but also to the point of muscle memory.
"This combination of physical ability and mental fortitude fosters good habits and culture. For example, the need for rehearsals is a habit I've brought with me as a surgeon. I endeavour to rehearse mentally before every surgery and try to pick up potential problems to troubleshoot if necessary, even before knife is to skin."
Since enlisting in 1st Commando Battalion, he has strived to live by the values of the Commandos and give his best in his duties or tasks.
He was the Best Trainee in the 120mm Mortar Operators Course during his Full-time National Serviceman (NSF) days. As an Operationally Ready National Serviceman (NSman), he was the Sword of Honour recipient for his NS Medical Officer Cadet Course in 2015.
In his civilian job as a doctor, he received the Eastern Health Alliance Caring Awards (Gold) in 2015 for his effort in patient care.
"The discipline to make sure that you are always doing what needs to be done, even when you work long hours or have to do a long surgery – that is something that, thanks to Commando (training), I've been able to hone from an early age," he said.
Now as a medical officer in Headquarters Commando, CPT (NS) (Dr) Wijaya uses his medical expertise to help develop Special Forces Medicine – an area of military medicine providing medical support in a resource-strapped and tactical environment where there is possible close enemy contact.
He also serves as an Honorary Aide-de-Camp to President Halimah Yacob. His role is to help organise state events and receive guests who include senior officials and foreign dignitaries.
Curious about what CPT (NS) (Dr) Wijaya does as a military and civilian doctor? Check out the video as he shares more about his NS journey: