What unfinished business does CFC (NS) Johnathan Chua have in the Naval Diving Unit (NDU), and what exactly is the '3-second legend' of NDU-lore?
Midway through his Combat Diver Course, Corporal First Class (CFC) Johnathan Chua was unceremoniously put out of course. The reason? He clocked only 9:17 min for his 2.4km run – three seconds shy of the Commmando/Diver's Gold timing. (Those three seconds are now the stuff of NDU-lore; more on that later.)
This was in 2012. Going below 9:15 min for 2.4km run and scoring maximum points at every Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) station was one of the five key criteria that all trainees had to fulfill before they could graduate as combat divers in the Naval Diving Unit (NDU).
"I went back to my bunk and cried," said CFC Chua, then a Full-time National Serviceman (NSF).
He explained: "If I really wanted something and I worked really hard for it, I would always achieve it. And I really worked very hard in NDU; I always trained when I booked out on weekends but yet I still failed."
Almost a decade later, he found himself back in NDU again – this time as a celebrity guest for the new reality TV show, CAMOKAKIS: Whole Lot Fall In. He joined local artistes and influencers to take on challenges that naval divers go through during training.
It was a chance for the 32-year-old to finish his unfinished business in NDU. Can he complete the challenges – now that he is older and flabbier? (The six pack abs from his naval diving days are a distant memory.) Catch the series on Channel 5 or online at meWATCH to find out how he fared!
CFC Chua said returning to NDU brought back fond memories. Some of his instructors were still in NDU and remembered him, and even the current NDU trainees had heard about him.
"Two of them asked me, 'Oh my god! Are you that three-second guy?" said CFC (NS) Chua.
Apparently, all these years, the instructors had been sharing his story with new trainees to spur them to train harder.
Looking back at his NSF days, CFC (NS) Chua said he was really upset about being dropped from NDU. "My instructor even gave me 'compassionate' days off (to grieve)," he said with a laugh.
He eventually shrugged off the disappointment, and continued to serve with conviction in his new role as a weapon systems specialist on frigate RSS Tenacious.
"When I was posted to the ship I was very keen to learn. I didn't want to waste my entire NS experience," said CFC Chua. He was trained to load the A-Gun and conduct flight deck operations, among other tasks.
His grit would serve him well in his entrepreneurship journey. In 2017, he co-founded GRVTY Media, a digital company that houses popular channels such as Vulcan Post, Millennials of Singapore (MOSG), and The Daily Ketchup Podcast.
Together with his co-founder Mr Jacky Yap, he led the company to survive the economic downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic. It even managed to pay out a small bonus to its staff.
"It was bad times like this that people needed the bonus most, not during the good times," said CFC (NS) Chua. "They were worried about whether they'd still have a job, whether their parents would lose their jobs."
GRVTY Media, which is also a creative agency, now serves big-name corporate clients as well as various government agencies. And earlier in June this year, Towerhill, the investment firm of Kiat Lim, son of billionaire Peter Lim, acquired a majority stake of the company for an undisclosed sum.
What motivated CFC (NS) Chua to do well was his 45-strong staff.
"I didn't want to let them down. I know how talented they are; they can easily find a job elsewhere and earn more money but they chose to hustle with me," he said.
Catch CAMOKAKIS: Whole Lot Fall In on Channel 5 and online on meWATCH.