Shaping up to be an SAF officer

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08 Dec 2020 | PEOPLE

Shaping up to be an SAF officer

// Story by Benita Teo

// Photos by Chua Soon Lye & courtesy of OCT Muhammad Idham

Officer Cadet (OCT) Muhammad Idham Bin Husni went from being an overweight recruit to a fit Infantry Officer. What's his fat-to-fit story?

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"Everyone has their own strengths. My fitness is not the best, but as long as you put in your best, your efforts will be recognised at the end of the day."

When OCT Muhammad Idham enlisted in October last year, he was overweight and struggled to pass his Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT). But the strict Physical Training (PT) regime in Basic Military Training (BMT), coupled with a strong desire to regain his fitness, pushed him to work hard to shed the pounds.

He eventually did well enough to make it to Officer Cadet School (OCS), where he was named Platoon Best, and achieved the Gold award for his IPPT. On 12 Dec, the 21-year-old will become an Infantry Officer in the Singapore Armed Forces.

OCT Muhammad Idham (left) receiving his sword at his commissioning ceremony at SAFTI Military Institute on 8 Dec. He is among 397 cadets who will be commissioned as SAF officers on 12 Dec.

Here are four interesting facts about OCT Muhammad Idham and his fitness journey:

OCT Muhammad Idham (in red) enjoying a game of soccer in 2016, when he first entered Polytechnic. He also played on the school’s futsal and touch rugby teams.

1) He's an avid sportsman

OCT Muhammad Idham wasn't always out of shape. He used to play futsal and touch rugby in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, where he was studying for his diploma in Marine and Offshore Technology. He also enjoyed catching up with friends over a game of soccer on the weekends.

However, the stress of his final year in Polytechnic took a toll on his health and fitness - he began staying up late to study and was snacking constantly. He did well and graduated with a 3.9 grade point average.

But he also gained 10kg from a trim 70kg, and was placed in the PES BP batch for obese recruits when he enlisted in October 2019.

OCT Muhammad Idham (front row, third from left) on Enlistment Day on 30 Oct 2019. He had put on 10kg from his sporty days in Polytechnic, and was placed in the PES BP batch.

2) He never expected to get into OCS

Back during his early BMT days, with his unhealthy BMI (Body Mass Index) and difficulty in passing the IPPT, command school had felt like an impossible dream. His goal was simply to get back to the weight and fitness level he used to have as a sportsman.

"It was definitely hard, doing PT three times a day. When I got the hang of it, I started doing static exercises like push-ups and sit-ups during my admin time."

Having a motivated BMT section helped – everyone was encouraging one another to work out during their free time, he shared.

Eventually, he went from just a Pass to a Silver in his final IPPT in BMT, and lost 13kg in the process!

After making it to OCS, OCT Muhammad Idham was determined to work even harder. To help him and others like him who were close to Gold, the instructors provided extra coaching such as additional PT, and nutrition tips like sticking to a strict mealtime schedule.

The progressive training also helped OCT Muhammad Idham to raise his fitness level safely and gradually.

"I would also go for runs on the weekends, starting with 2.4km and then moving up to 5km and more. Now, I'm running 10km every weekend. I also watch my diet and cut down on carbs."

On his second try, he finally achieved the long-awaited IPPT Gold!

Cadets listening to a pre-recorded address by President Halimah Yacob at their commissioning parade. "As leaders in these unprecedented times, you must embrace change and uncertainty, know when to…stay the course and forge ahead. In everything that you do, always show care and compassion for those around you," said Madam Halimah.

3) OCS taught him to be a better communicator

If you met the old OCT Muhammad Idham, you may not have liked him. He admitted that he was a blunt straight-talker who had no qualms about calling people out on their mistakes.

"In Poly, we had to do projects with different types of people. When our teammates did not do their work, we would just scold them, because it would affect everyone else's grade.

"When I came to OCS, I treated my platoon mates the same way because if one person messes up, it affects the whole platoon. I just wanted them to do better. But instead, they felt offended and thought I hated them."

OCT Muhammad Idham has his instructors to thank for helping him become better at communicating: "One of them pointed out that if I approached my men so bluntly, I might cause them to lose hope and motivation. It made me realise that my words could affect someone badly."

He has learnt to be more tactful in his approach, and in explaining his intentions to his platoon mates. "Now I understand there are different characters and proper ways to manage them."

Proud parents: OCT Muhammad Idham’s parents affixing the 2nd Lieutenant rank epaulette on his uniform. They have been his fiercest cheerleaders ever since he enlisted.

4) His parents are his biggest cheerleaders

Like him, OCT Muhammad Idham's parents were pleasantly surprised that he was able to make such a drastic improvement to his fitness and weight, as well as get into OCS.

He also has them to thank for keeping him on the path to a healthier lifestyle: "My parents have been supportive since I was in BMT. When I booked out during the weekends, they would remind me to go for my runs. They would also ask if I was coping with my training after transitioning to OCS."

Now, they have even higher hopes for him - to be not only physically competent, but also a good leader to his men.

"They know that I will have troopers under me, so they remind me that I need to be competent and maintain the standards. These soldiers are someone's children, and I must take care of them."

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