A trip to Changi Naval Base during his Basic Military Training (BMT) days turned out to be a defining moment for 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Daniel Elfian Bin Mohd Nasir's life.
He remembers touring the frigate RSS Stalwart during the trip – this was where he became interested in the warship's armaments as well as the role that the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) plays in defending Singapore's waters.
The eye-opening experience inspired him to sign on with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) as a naval officer. "Being able to patrol our waters and safeguard the country from external threats gives me a sense of fulfilment, which is what I want from my career," said the 22-year-old.
Riding out the tough times
It was not all smooth sailing for the budding Naval Officer as he had to juggle a demanding load of theory and practical lessons during the Officer Cadet Course, especially during his Naval Foundation Term.
He recalled: "There was a lot of theory, assessment and studying involved… We had to learn all about ships, navigation, and the Rules of the Road, which is essentially like a Highway Code but for ships.
"On top of that, we had to do our physical training as well. It was really physically and mentally demanding."
This carried on for his maiden sail during the Midshipman Sea Training Deployment (MSTD), when he set sail on Landing Ship Tank RSS Persistence for 26 days.
For example, he had to attend scheduled lessons on top of performing 4-hour watch duty on the bridge, where midshipmen took on different roles in the bridge team. Being away from his loved ones also took a toll mentally, added 2LT Daniel.
He was able to overcome these challenges with support from his commanders and cabin mates. "We pushed each other on, we made jokes to liven up the mood… We tried to help each other out as much as possible as everybody is going through the same thing."
"We were all (literally) on the same boat, it was definitely a very memorable experience."
Learning to lead
Reflecting on his journey in becoming an officer, 2LT Daniel said his biggest takeaway was learning how to lead.
During the Naval Internship Term, he had the opportunity to be the second Officer-of-the-Day on littoral mission vessel RSS Sovereignty, where he was responsible for aspects such as the ship's maintenance and security the entire day. There, he learnt the ropes from the ship's Officer-of-the-Day.
On the type of leader he hopes to be after commissioning as an officer on 10 Jun, 2LT Daniel said: "I hope to be people-centric and approachable, while ensuring that standards of the ship are maintained and missions are successfully completed."
Fellow graduand and combat engineer officer LTA Nastassha Tan Lee Ann also echoed similar sentiments on the leadership lessons that were impressed upon her.
The Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) officer shared the physical challenges she faced and how her commanders motivated her throughout the course.
"In our line of work, we sometimes have to wear a bomb suit which weighs about 27kg, and we have to perform multiple tasks while wearing the suit. It was pretty heavy but my instructors were always be around to make sure that I was still able to carry on with my training, and always had my safety in mind.
"From them, I have learnt how to take care of the well-being of my fellow combat engineers," the 26-year-old said.
Inspired to serve
She also spoke about how her cousin, Senior Lieutenant Colonel (SLTC) Elizabeth Soh Yen Chu, encouraged her to join the SAF and helped her in choosing her vocation.
"When I shortlisted two Army vocations, my cousin approached the specific Formation mentors who are part of our Army Servicewomen's Network to share with me on the vocation types and their career pathways… and that's how I got really interested in the EOD unit and joined them."
SLTC Soh also expressed her delight when LTA Tan decided to join SAF as a career. "I was happy and proud that Nastassha meant it when she shared that she wanted to join the Army. After all, it is not an easy choice; she could have chosen other career paths which are not as physically demanding."
On 10 Jun, 2LT Daniel and LTA Tan were among 370 cadets who were commissioned as officers in a parade held at SAFTI MI. Of the graduands, 269 were from the Singapore Army, 50 from the Republic of Singapore Navy and 51 from the Republic of Singapore Air Force.
After being commissioned as officers, 2LT Daniel will be pursuing a degree in Social Work at the National University of Singapore, while LTA Tan will serve as Platoon Commander at 36th Battalion, Singapore Combat Engineers.