Learning to Lead, Excel and Overcome

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14 Sep 2020 | MILESTONES

Learning to Lead, Excel and Overcome

// Story by Gabriel Lee

// Photos by MINDEF & Courtesy of OCS and 2LT Wong

English 华文
Born in Singapore but brought up in Hong Kong, 2LT Wong became an officer despite facing challenges adapting to the new environment initially when he returned to serve NS.

He received a rude culture shock when enlisting into National Service (NS) in October last year, having never stepped foot in Singapore.

"I didn't understand...the slangs, or how people viewed different situations. I always felt like the odd one out, like the ugly duckling in the corner."

But like the ending of a fairy tale, the self-proclaimed ugly duckling has become a swan: 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Jerome Wong, who was raised in Hong Kong, commissioned as an Officer at the 118/19 Officer Cadet Commissioning Ceremony held on Saturday. He also clinched both the coveted Sword of Honour and Golden Bayonet awards.

2LT Wong (second from right) together with his close buddies at his BMT Graduation Parade in December 2019.

The 18-year old said that he was fortunate to have found great friends in his section mates in Basic Military Training (BMT). "(They) went out of their way to write a little notebook with Malay slangs or Singlish phrases just so that I could understand the language and culture better."

Physical training-wise, the Best in Physical Training Award recipient, who was previously a member of his school's cross-country team and the captain of the Hong Kong national skiing team for the under-18 category, excelled.

However, 2LT Wong didn't thinking about aiming for the Officer Cadet School (OCS) till much later. "It was only towards the end of BMT that my Platoon Commander shared with me about OCS and his experience in OCS. That made me realise I wanted to pursue a journey of leadership."

Post-BMT, 2LT Wong was selected for OCS on account of his budding leadership attributes and excellent physical fitness. However, he got another "shock" there: Adjustments would be made to his nine-month training as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite having to train in smaller functional groups during his officer cadet course, 2LT Wong found the training to still be realistic. Pictured are officer cadets from his 118/19 batch training their Urban Operations competencies at Exercise Panther Strike in August. [Photo: OCS]

These included training in smaller functional groups to minimise interaction among the Army's 183 officer cadets. However, 2LT Wong maintained that training in OCS was still realistic.

"The biggest difference we had from previous batches was that while training was held on a smaller scale due to the COVID-19 measures. The essence of why we trained never changed. We trained to be officers, better soldiers, better men and better people overall."

The mental challenge posed by the rigorous training, however, got to the Infantry Officer.

Recalling his most memorable experience leading his team in a local exercise, where it was his first time being appointed as the Exercise Platoon Commander, he admitted that the experience was quite stressful as his peers had high expectations of him.

What made matters worse was that everything the team planned for fell apart when they were on the ground. "Little things would cause hindrance to our movements, and it was quite a mess."

Admitting that he felt disoriented throughout, he only overcame the mental duress with the help of his platoon mates, who took him aside and encouraged him to focus on the mission at hand.

Eventually, 2LT Wong was able to lead his team to a swift and decisive victory.

"That experience was a defining moment for me, because even though my peers and I hailed from different backgrounds, our goals were the same: To commission...as Officers at the end of the nine months. Hence, we helped each other to tide through this difficult period."

The parents of 2LT Wong, who are in Hong Kong, posing virtually to affix the 2LT rank on him.

Not having his parents with him during his journey in OCS also made training more stressful. But today, 2LT Wong's parents, who are staying overseas, are proud of how far he has come.

"Although my parents were not able to come down to my commissioning in person, they are incredibly proud of me. They texted and called to tell me how tears flowed from their eyes when they viewed the livestream of my commissioning ceremony on Facebook."

2LT Wong, who will be studying Industrial Design at the National University of Singapore after his two-year stint in the military, is also extremely happy with his own performance, not having expected himself to adapt so well to a completely foreign environment.

"I saw it as a duty of mine to return to Singapore to serve NS. When I was younger, I didn't see myself as a Singaporean because despite holding a Singaporean passport, I never lived here.

"But my mother would always remind me that I am Singaporean. Now, having passed through the gates of OCS, had I known what serving NS would be like, I would have rushed to enlist."

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