Setting a high bar

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13jun20_news1
13 Jun 2020 | PEOPLE

Setting a high bar

// Story by Benita Teo

// Photos by Chua Soon Lye and courtesy of 2LT Mukundan

English Melayu
Proud parents: 2LT Mukundan's parents pinning the officer rank epaulettes on his uniform.

Being the older sibling often means having to set an example and paving the way for the younger ones to follow. For most people, it's the usual things like doing well in school, nailing that first job or getting your driving license on the first try.

For newly-minted Republic of Singapore Navy officer 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Mukundan Malaiya Maran, it's showing his younger brother what it's like to be an elite soldier in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Last year, the 22-year-old naval diver had invited his brother to attend his Combat Diver Course (CDC) graduation parade. "He found the ceremony very memorable and shared with me that he wanted to be part of an elite unit too," said 2LT Mukundan.

His younger brother, Specialist Cadet Trainee (SCT) Aanandan Malaiya Maran, got his wish and is now training to be a commando leader.

2LT Mukundan (centre) at his CDC graduation parade on 20 Sep 2019, together with his younger brother SCT Anandan (right), who enlisted in January this year, and eldest sister.

How did his parents feel, to have both sons serve their National Service in elite units? "My parents were surprised!" he said.

"Since I enlisted first, when I got into the Naval Diving Unit my mom was worried about the challenges I might face. But after seeing me go through the training, she saw that the safety measures are stringent and we have the knowledge we need (such as emergency drills) before we go through the training.

"When my brother enlisted, she was more confident knowing how the training would go. They understand that it's an achievement for the both of us to be in these units."

Although the brothers are in different vocations, 2LT Mukundan is happy to give tips to his younger brother: "Whenever he has to go through any physically tough training, I will give him advice on how to improve.

"Given that commandos and divers both have to work under pressure, I tell him to be mentally tough and keep going, and to be calm and collected."

There is some friendly rivalry between the brothers, which they use to push themselves to achieve more. "We compare scores whenever we take the Individual Physical Proficiency Test and try to outdo each other," he explained.

"It's fun because we push each other to do better but I'm the faster runner!" quipped 2LT Mukundan.

Chief of Navy Rear-Admiral (RADM) Aaron Beng (right) presenting 2LT Mukundan with the ceremonial sword at his commissioning ceremony on 12 Jun.

Leaders in an unprecedented time

2LT Mukundan was commissioned as an SAF officer on 13 Jun. Like the 373 others commissioned with him, he was in the middle of the 38-week Officer Cadet Course when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

He had embarked on the four-week Midshipman Sea Training Deployment (MSTD) in late January, when the situation took a turn for the worse. The ship he was on, Landing Ship Tank RSS Endurance, was unable to dock at overseas ports. They worked around this by sailing and training in the South China Sea instead.

"Because we could not dock and take our shore leave, we had very little recreational time. Instead, we continued with our duties (throughout the sail)."

"It's important for us to carry on with training even through the pandemic," he explained.

"From the perspective of a diver, the clearance diving groups are still carrying out their duties and making sure that no threats harm our maritime security."

"The maritime security of our country is very important – it's Singapore's lifeline."

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