Commando, techie & YouTube entrepreneur

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13 Oct 2022 | PEOPLE

Commando, techie & YouTube entrepreneur

// Story by Thrina Tham

// Photos from CAMOKAKIS: Whole Lot Fall In & courtesy of Julian Tay

English 华文

In just two years, Julian Tay grew his own tech channel to 29k subscribers. The YouTuber revisits his Commando roots as a guest star in new reality series CAMOKAKIS: Whole Lot Fall In.

Mr Tay during his red beret presentation ceremony in 2011 (left). The YouTuber, who was formerly with NOC, started his own channel in 2020.

You would think that Julian Tay thrives under uncertainty.

At 21, he was fresh out of National Service (NS) without a diploma or a degree. Freelance photography and videography jobs helped get him by as he tried to make YouTube videos for a living.

Two years later, he was scouted by Night Owl Cinematics (NOC) and started making content for them.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Mr Tay started his own YouTube channel amid the nationwide circuit breaker. Many sleepless nights passed as he worried about whether it would take off. Today, the channel has over 29k subscribers.

Mr Tay (right) revisits his Commando days along with fellow former Commando, 883FM radio DJ, Ben Lee (left), and host Laanya Ezra.

Now, he makes an appearance on television as a guest star in CAMOKAKIS: Whole Lot Fall In. This new reality series, which sees local celebrities and influencers take on challenges in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), is airing on Channel 5 and online on meWATCH.

The 30-year-old, who was a Commando during his NS, is busy with new tech launches and events but agreed to a video interview over Discord. The platform – popular among gamers – is also where he has a community of tech enthusiasts and viewers who interact with him and one another.

From dropout to YouTube entrepreneur

Never good at school, Tay was always interested in gaming and tech. At 18, he dropped out of SHATEC when he realised that being a cook was not for him. He then taught himself how to film and edit videos through watching YouTube.

His foray into tech content – a defining part of his personal brand – came by accident.

"Back in NOC, Ryan (Tan) said 'Hey Julian, can you build me a PC?' because I was the tech guy in the office. So, since I was going to build a $4,000 PC, why not create content? That's how it all started."

Tay's first video on PC building that found success. He is self-taught in building computers.

The resulting video, uploaded in November 2016, now has over 173k views. Its success surprised Mr Tay, and encouraged him to do more in NOC and, subsequently, on his own.

"If you asked me what I'm proud of, there's not one particular project but I'm happy that I built up my community of viewers over the last two years in my channel," he reflected.

Ready to fight when called upon

Mr Tay, who held the rank of Corporal First Class, is unabashedly proud of being an ex-Commando – though he claims he was "the worst of the best" in the elite unit.

While serving his NS, he was airborne-trained, demolition-trained, and participated in a battalion mission overseas where he travelled on foot for over 70km outfield.

Mr Tay (far right) taking part in Exercise Chandrapura, an annual bilateral exercise between the SAF Commandos and Indonesian Armed Forces Special Forces Command.

His In-Camp-Training (ICT) days were no less exciting.

In his final ICT cycle this January, the Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) were called to support their junior Commandos as "enemies" in their outfield training.

"You make us lao jiaos (Hokkien slang for veterans) do three nights outfield; we all complained. But I realised even though we complained, when it's time to fight, we really fight," said Mr Tay.

Mr Tay's fellow Commando NSmen reporting for their final ICT at Hendon Camp (above and below). The photos were taken by Mr Tay.

Their assistance would help prepare their juniors to do better in their Army Training Evaluation Centre, or ATEC, evaluation.

"On the last night, when we were supposed to do the counter attack, we went into the jungle – proning, crawling and shooting – and gave a good fight."

Mr Tay even filmed and edited a video of the exercise, to mark the last ICT and end of the NS journey for his batch of NSmen.

Mr Tay (first row, left) during his last ICT with his fellow Commando NSmen. He also produced a short video for his batchmates to commemorate their milestone.

Similar training, different experience

In CAMOKAKIS: Whole Lot Fall In, Mr Tay can be seen taking on aircrew training in Episode 3, where – mini spoiler alert! – he does not make it through the challenge on the Human Training Centrifuge (HTC).

"I get motion sickness very easily. The moment I stepped out of the HTC, the sickness came," said Mr Tay on the training that puts pilots through the extreme gravitational forces experienced during flight.

"Even though I failed, I'm glad I did it; it's something you don't normally get to do."

Mr Tay (left) takes on aircrew training in Ep 3, along with host Laanya Ezra (centre) and 987FM radio DJ, Avery Aloysius.

He makes a reappearance in Episode 7, where participants go through the Basic Airborne Training by the Commandos, including a ground drag as part of parachute landing.

"During my time, three guys would pull you as you do your drill. I was with Paul Foster (one of the hosts and team leaders) so I asked him, 'You're going to pull me right?' and he looked very confused.

"When we went to the trainer system, I realised there's now a machine that pulls you!" said Mr Tay.

"Even though I've been through airborne training before, it was still a new experience. The training was definitely a lot more efficient; it's a great thing."

CAMOKAKIS: Whole Lot Fall In airs every Wednesday, 8pm on Channel 5 and online on meWATCH.

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