From air stewardess to artillery officer

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12 Sep 2020 | PEOPLE

From air stewardess to artillery officer

//Story by Teo Jing Ting

//Photos by Ong Ji Xuan and courtesy of 2LT Chew

English 华文
2LT Chew gave up being a cabin crew to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Army.

She was living it up as a cabin crew – looking her best and flying to different destinations every day.

But 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Chew Shi Ling gave it up to pursue her childhood dream of becoming a soldier.

It all started when she watched a Channel 8 drama about a military family during her younger days.

"Not only did the drama portray the life of a soldier, it also showcased qualities and virtues they encompassed. I was intrigued and inspired by it, so joining the force has always been on the back of my mind," explained 2LT Chew.

A different send-off: 2LT Chew (front row, fourth from left) and her friends after her last flight as a cabin crew before enlisting.

Leap of faith

This thought remained with her even during her three and a half years stint as an air stewardess with SilkAir.

The 24-year-old was in her third year reading aviation management and services in Temasek Polytechnic when she first took up an internship with the airline in 2016. Upon completion, she continued flying until one fateful day when her crewmate asked her about her future plans.

"My crewmate asked if I was planning to stay as a crew for long or whether I was going to study. So I thought to myself: Am I going to sweep my dream under the rug and settle for what is comfortable for me right now?"

With that, 2LT Chew took the leap of faith and enlisted into Basic Military Training (BMT) on 1 Oct 2019.

2LT Chew (left) receiving her ceremonial sword from Chief Artillery Officer Colonel Adrian Teng.

Graduating with pride

On 12 Sep, she became an Artillery officer and was among the 240 cadets who were commissioned as officers that day.

Of the graduands, 183 were from the Singapore Army, 4 from the Republic of Singapore Navy and 53 from the Republic of Singapore Air Force.

In the light of the COVID-19 situation, they received their ceremonial swords at decentralised ceremonies organised at the Formation levels. The ceremonies were held at the SAFTI Military Institute.

The graduands watching Mr Lee's speech playing on screen during the ceremony.

Addressing the graduands in a recorded video during the ceremonies, Minister for National Development and Minister-in-Charge of Social Services Integration Desmond Lee urged them to always remember their responsibilities and values as Singapore Armed Forces officers.

"Today is an important milestone for you… You will face newer and heavier responsibilities, and hard knocks that test your mettle and character. You must lead with an officer's values: be humble, care for your people, and serve with purpose."

No regrets

Transiting from civilian to military life is never easy, and 2LT Chew expected the worst when she enlisted.

2LT Chew's instructor affixing the rank on her.

Fortunately, her sporty background – she was the captain of the badminton team during secondary school – and her BMT mates' constant encouragement helped.

"Being petite and having to carry almost half my weight and march long distances is physically and mentally challenging, but I'm glad I have friends who encouraged and motivated one another."

Her BMT mates were also surprised when they found out that she quit her job as a cabin crew to sign on. However, they understood after 2LT Chew told them that joining the Army was her childhood dream.

"Most of them felt the same way as me, as we all wanted a career that is meaningful and fulfilling."

2LT Chew (second row, far right) with her platoon mates at her BMT graduation in December 2019, with Ms Joan Pereira, who was the Reviewing Officer for the parade.

She added that her experience as a former cabin crew helped her get along with different people in the Army, as both involved meeting people from all walks of life. In addition, the strong sense of responsibility she developed from her previous job was also very relevant in her new career.

"My role as a cabin crew was to take care of the safety of passengers on the flight, ensuring their journey from one place to another is well-taken care of. As an officer, it is also my responsibility to ensure that the well-being of my soldiers is well-looked after."

2LT Chew also hopes that her experience will inspire others to follow their dreams, especially if they intend to sign on.

"Looking back, I'm glad I went ahead and take that leap of faith – from serving hundreds of people to serving the nation.

"I hope that in the years to come, I can be an inspiring leader for my soldiers and make their two years of serving National Service a fruitful and fulfilling experience."

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