To most, becoming an officer of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) would already be a huge honour. But for 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Muhammad Ilham Rizqullah Bin Rohaizad, being commissioned holds special meaning for him as he is now the first in his extended family to become an officer.
Although the 21-year-old had held leadership positions in his polytechnic's National Cadet Corps and Silat Club, 2LT Ilham set his sights on qualifying for Officer Cadet School (OCS) only when he was undergoing Basic Military Training (BMT).
"I didn't put much thought into it when I was in school. The point that I wanted to become an officer was in BMT, when I realised that I wanted to step up to lead the men under me," he said.
2LT Ilham's uncle, who was exempted from National Service (NS) due to an illness, was also a key factor in his decision to work towards qualifying for OCS.
He said: "My uncle shared with me the experiences of his friends who have been through NS, as well the experiences of his friends (who are still serving). I felt motivated hearing their stories of how they made it into OCS despite the stringent selection criteria. I wanted to challenge myself."
Support by friends
Although 2LT Ilham did not face much difficulties in adapting to the physical training in BMT as he had trained prior to enlisting, the physical training in OCS was on a whole different level.
"The physical training in OCS was tough. We had to do 4km endurance runs before progressing to 6km runs in order to acclimatise our fitness. We were also pushed by our OCS instructors to attain the Gold Award for our Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT)," 2LT Ilham recalled.
He added: "The lowest point during my time in OCS was when we had to carry heavy loads during a five-day exercise. We were all very exhausted and I had wanted to throw in the towel.
"I managed to pull through with the support of my peers. They were the ones who had my back and who were constantly supporting me. I didn't want to disappoint them," he said.
Speaking of peers, 2LT Ilham's time in OCS was particularly memorable. This was because he had enlisted with the Guards through a mono intake, and going to OCS meant getting to interact with cadets from various other units.
"I wanted to experience these nine months with other cadets, regardless of what Formation or unit they were from. In the SAF, we'll be working with people from other units anyway," he said.
2LT Ilham remarked: "I know that the friendships I forged in OCS with cadets of different races and religions will make it easier for me to work with others as a leader of the SAF in the future."
His mother's pride
2LT Ilham, who hails from a single-parent family, says that his mother was very proud of his accomplishments. "I'm the only child, so she has all her hopes pinned on me to do my best."
Going ahead, 2LT Ilham plans to sign on as a Regular and to continue serving the nation as a Guardsman. "I want to contribute to the defence of my country and make my mother proud."