Joining the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) was not an easy decision for Officer Cadet (OCT) Rajesh Muthu S/O Ramanathan. For one, he had to convince his family and friends that it was the right choice for him as a medical student.
"Many people questioned me about my choice 'cos they were not sure what medicine in the SAF involves and I had to educate them (what military medicine was)," said the 19-year-old, who signed on as a medical officer.
When OCT Rajesh came upon the SAF Medicine Scholarship, he decided to go for as it was it allowed him to pursue his passion in medicine and serve the nation.
Going through Basic Military Training (BMT) and subsequently Officer Cadet School (OCS) further affirmed that he had made the right choice.
"Through my experiences in BMT and OCS, I felt that people put in a lot of effort in training for the defence of our country. The least I could do was to provide quality healthcare for them."
It was also during BMT that he heard about how the SAF Medical Corps was deployed to the Community Care Facility at the Singapore EXPO to look after recovering COVID-19 patients. This was a different challenge from the usual practice of military medicine.
"(If the need arises again), I want be there for the nation when we are needed as front-line workers," said OCT Rajesh, who will read medicine at the National University of Singapore.
"That was the reason I took up medicine in the first place. Being in the SAF, it's another set of challenges and it holds greater meaning for me."
Highest number of scholarships awarded
OCT Rajesh was among the 95 recipients who were awarded their scholarships in a virtual Defence Scholarship Awards Ceremony on 29 Jul.
Of the recipients, seven were awarded the SAF Scholarship, five received the Public Service Commission Scholarship (Engineering) – Defence and Security and 17 received the SAF Merit Scholarship.
Another five were awarded the SAF Engineering Scholarship while 18 received the Defence Merit Scholarship. In addition, seven received the SAF Medicine Scholarship and 36 were awarded the Defence Science and Technology Scholarship.
In the light of the COVID-19 situation, they received their scholarships from various Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and SAF representatives in their respective homes.
Speaking live at the virtual ceremony, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen said that he was heartened by the younger generation's interest in defence.
"Our surveys indicate a healthy and strong support for national defence, above 90 per cent!
"That our younger generation too have imbibed the need for Singapore to have a strong SAF bodes well for our collective future," said Dr Ng.
"A career in MINDEF and the SAF offers a premium and value proposition for those that fit its mission and character… I believe that the skill sets and values of personnel within MINDEF and the SAF hold value, and is transferable even after they leave for other vocations and career paths."
Becoming a competent leader
For SAF Scholarship recipient OCT Tang Tai Ran, a career in the military never crossed her mind until she chanced upon a Colonel giving a talk on Total Defence during her first year of Junior College.
"Seeing how he carried himself in front of the audience, how he presented himself and controlled the crowd really made me respect what he had in him (and) I wanted to become someone like him," said the 19-year-old Hwa Chong Institution alumna.
Since joining the SAF, she has learnt a lot and even changed her leadership style. Formerly a task-oriented person, she realised that being a people-oriented leader would help her better connect with her fellow mates.
"During BMT, I received feedback that the way I spoke to people or gave commands made many of them feel uncomfortable because of the way I phrased them," said OCT Tang, who signed on as an artillery officer.
That made her realise that she wanted to become a competent leader who is well-liked and cares for her soldiers. She added that the transition in leadership style also became easier when bonds were forged between her and platoon mates.
"Interacting with a wide variety of people taught me that the most you'll ever learn is not from books or missions, but from the experiences that people carry with them."
Going through BMT and OCS also made her realise the added responsibilities of being a scholar. "I (want to) prove myself as a leader who can serve everyone. I have also matured a lot in the process," said OCT Tang.