Still you, but better

Actions
https://www.mindef.gov.sg/web/wcm/connect/pioneer/f0d2c645-deac-4b63-ba51-a7d6360bde8c/26nov20_news1-photo1.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE.Z18_1QK41482LG0G10Q8NM8IUA1051-f0d2c645-deac-4b63-ba51-a7d6360bde8c-no3Dzbl /web/wcm/connect/pioneer/f0d2c645-deac-4b63-ba51-a7d6360bde8c/26nov20_news1-photo1.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE.Z18_1QK41482LG0G10Q8NM8IUA1051-f0d2c645-deac-4b63-ba51-a7d6360bde8c-no3Dzbl /web/portal/pioneer/article/regular-article-detail/people/2020-Q4/26nov20_news1
/web/portal/pioneer/article/regular-article-detail/people/2020-Q4/26nov20_news1
26nov20_news1
26 Nov 2020 | PEOPLE

Still you, but better

//Story by Benita Teo

//Photos by Chua Soon Lye & courtesy of SCT Lee

English 华文

Golden Bayonet recipient Specialist Cadet (SCT) Michael Lee may be more comfortable making music than shouting commands, but he's learnt to come out of his shell and take charge when the situation calls for it.

SCT Lee's (left) specialist cadet journey has taught him to draw on others' strengths to overcome his shortcomings and become a better leader. And he has his buddy SCT Ng (right) to thank for this.

"I see how NS (National Service) inspires people with different personalities to work on themselves and become better, without changing who they are," said Republic of Singapore Navy Marine Systems Specialist SCT Lee.

It was a statement made by his instructor during Basic Military Training (BMT), but it has stuck with him all through his training as a specialist cadet. "He said that in NS, you don't have to change who you are. What NS allows everyone to do is to improve and to learn."

That resonated with SCT Lee, who would be one to understand how difficult it is for someone to change their personality.

The soft-spoken 19-year-old admitted to being shy and disliked raising his voice. He was more comfortable playing the viola in his junior college's string ensemble than standing in front of men and shouting out commands.

SCT Lee (front row, second from right) playing with the Raffles Institution string ensemble.

"But in NS, there were more situations that required this, like giving commands in a parade or relaying messages when you are out in the field. I wouldn't say that I'm very comfortable with it now, but NS has taught me to work on my shortcomings. It's allowed me to find my voice and let go of my inhibitions so that we can function as a group."

Being a soldier has taught the shy and soft-spoken SCT Lee to shed his inhibitions and take charge as a leader. The Golden Bayonet he is holding is testament to his growth.

He also credited his fellow specialist cadets at the Naval Military Expert Institute (NMI) who taught him the importance of teamwork and working with people from all walks of life.

He recalled undergoing the firefighting and damage control training, where they had to work in teams to repair a damaged ship that was quickly flooding. The task was physically demanding, and the teams had to support each other while tackling the additional challenges that were being injected during the training.

"Being forced to collaborate to solve issues brought us closer together. It taught us to communicate our ideas and have open conversations so that we can identify our course of action, decide our direction and solve the problems."

Like night and day: Buddies SCT Lee (left) and SCT Ng are polar opposites, but that has meant more opportunities to learn from each other and develop new skills.

Opposites attract

One friend that he is grateful to have made in his specialist cadet journey is his buddy, SCT Xavier Ng, 19. The pair met by chance and paired up as buddies, before realising that they were schoolmates in Raffles Institution.

However, that's where their similarities end. Unlike him, SCT Ng is a natural leader who is always ready to step up and organise people into different roles when the situation calls for it.

"Xavier is not afraid to speak up when he thinks something is wrong. He may come across as obstinate, but he can connect with people easily to get over the differences and resolve misunderstandings. He is one of the people who inspired me to be more assertive and more self-assured," he said thoughtfully.

"Being in the Navy is about self-leadership and being responsible for your duties on board ship. The survival of the group is dependent on everyone's contributions."

SCT Lee's parents affixing the chevrons on his uniform. Since enlisting, he has become more confident and is no longer the shrinking violet he used to be, and he has also become more independent.

Staying operationally ready and vigilant

SCT Lee received his chevrons on 25 Nov, at Changi Naval Base – one of the venues for the decentralised small-scale indoor parades held from 25 Nov to 3 Dec. He was one of 758 soldiers to become a Specialist in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) as of 3 Dec.

The Golden Bayonet he received is testament to the growth he has made in his journey to becoming a full-fledged Specialist and leader.

The journey has not been the easiest one for SCT Lee and many of his peers. He enlisted in February this year, just before the COVID-19 situation in Singapore took a turn for the worse. In fact, he was one of the Full-time National Servicemen whose BMT was disrupted because of the circuit breaker measures.

At NMI, training on board ship was staggered due to the safe distancing measures. SCT Lee and his cohort had to make the most of their time training efficiently in smaller groups and at the staggered timings. They also had to get used to working in the hot and stuffy engine rooms with their masks on.

The specialist cadets watching Ms Sim’s address at the parade.

Reviewing Officer Sim Ann, Senior Minister of State for the Ministry of Communications and Information, and Ministry of National Development, addressed the graduands in a pre-recorded video message.

Highlighting the challenges Singapore would be facing in a post-COVID-19 world, she called on the graduands to pick up important leadership lessons from their seniors and predecessors on responding in a pandemic.

"For me, one of the biggest takeaways is that leaders must always be ready for the unexpected," she said.

"So as leaders in this new environment, the most important attribute is to be able to adapt and respond to change, to think out of the box, and to be prepared to make decisions based on imperfect information, monitor the execution and adjust the plans when necessary."

Training and serving his NS in the middle of a pandemic has given SCT Lee a renewed sense of purpose.

"National defence remains a priority, because the pandemic does not diminish security threats. It is necessary to remain vigilant and maintain a constant state of operational readiness in order to ensure the smooth running of the SAF in time to come."

Suggested Reading
Master of Stealth Feature
Master of Stealth
PEOPLE
16-Apr-21

COL Teo Chin Leong has made a fruitful career working on one of the Navy's most mysterious platforms – the submarine.

Warrior in the SAF
Cover story
Warrior in the SAF
PEOPLE
15-Mar-21

Naval officer Captain (CPT) Jalyn Soh, 28, shares her thoughts on sailing 67 days straight for an overseas deployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, and why she sees herself as a warrior in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Restructuring for sharper training, stronger navy Feature
Restructuring for sharper training, stronger navy
OPS & TRAINING
09-Mar-21

As part of a recent restructuring, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) has established new flotillas with an enhanced emphasis on targeted training to helm niche capabilities.

Self-driving unmanned vessels to patrol S'pore waters Feature
Self-driving unmanned vessels to patrol S'pore waters
OPS & TRAINING
02-Mar-21

The upcoming Maritime Security Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) will provide the Navy with a persistent presence at sea using less manpower.

Despite Tourette's, he hopes to lead and inspire others
Despite Tourette's, he hopes to lead and inspire others
PEOPLE
17-Feb-21

The uncontrollable twitches first started for 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Dexter Choo at the age of 14. Back then, he did not understand what it was – and neither did his family and friends.

Maritime security capabilities strengthened Feature
Maritime security capabilities strengthened
OPS & TRAINING
26-Jan-21

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) is adding a new flotilla with a range of vessels to respond more swiftly and appropriately to expanding maritime incidents.

Writing his own NS stories
Writing his own NS stories
PEOPLE
22-Jan-21

In the first of PIONEER's "Back to Serve" series, meet India-born 3SG Thirunavukkarasu Karthikeyan who used to listen to his father’s stories about National Service (NS). Now, he is living out his own unique NS story.

From auditor to sailor Feature
From auditor to sailor
PEOPLE
13-Jan-21

In the first of PIONEER’s “From Desk to Field” series, Major (MAJ) Lee Jia Pei shares why she ditched her job in the auditing industry to join the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN).

What keeps our ships sailing Feature
What keeps our ships sailing
OPS & TRAINING
07-Jan-21

It takes courage to go into battle. But you can’t get far without weapons, rations and reinforcements. The Naval Logistics Command (NALCOM) forms the backbone of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), providing engineering and logistics support to ensure its ships stay fighting fit.

2020: SAF Year in Review Feature
2020: SAF Year in Review
COMMUNITY
30-Dec-20

While many may be glad to say goodbye to 2020, there has been some bright spots in this rollercoaster of a year. PIONEER takes a look back at positive and uplifting MINDEF/SAF stories as Singapore soldiers trudge on through the COVID-19 pandemic.