First in family to enlist, learning to lead
//Story by Thrina Tham / Photos by Amos Chew
It was his first outfield exercise and 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Jerrald Capuno Caballa had to resuscitate an unconscious casualty as part of a simulation.
"All we could hear were questions asking if we knew what we were doing, and we were only given a few minutes to prepare for the medical procedure."
The 21-year-old specialist cadet was being tested on his skills in a frontline emergency. It was also his first time in a Battalion Casualty Station.
Despite the stress, he put his training into use and successfully helped the medical officer in preparing the equipment and resuscitating and stabilising the casualty.
The first in his family
For 3SG Caballa, this was one of the highlights of his time during his Specialist Cadet Course (SCC).
He was among 942 cadets who graduated as Specialists and Military Experts of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) on 18 May. They included 819 from the Singapore Army, 48 from the Republic of Singapore Navy and 75 from the Digital and Intelligence Service.
The graduation felt especially sweet for 3SG Caballa – the Filipino and 2nd-generation permanent resident is the first in his immediate family to enlist for national service (NS).
While he had cousins enlist before him, they did not go through the four-month long Emergency Medical Technician Specialist course that was part of his SCC.
Though he felt a lot of uncertainty going in, he said that training with his buddies made the course fun. This also helped keep the morale high when training got tough during outfield or force preparation exercises.
3SG Caballa, whose mother tongue is Tagalog, also picked up bits of Mandarin and Malay from his course buddies.
One of his friends also cheekily learnt the sentence "mas mabilis ang mga kamay ko" from him, which translates to "my hands are faster than yours", to poke fun at him when they had to quickly prepare an intravenous drip.
Leading during a live firing
Fellow graduand 3SG Abdul Alim Bin Iskandar Dzulkhairi Kajai shared similar sentiments that it was his coursemates that made his NS fun and unforgettable.
The Artillery specialist had to pick up and remember new procedures in working with his weapon system – the Belrex Mortar.
"We had to learn formulas to calculate our mortar bomb trajectory so that we could aim the mortar… It was rewarding to see the results of our math at work during our live firing – something we don’t really get to observe in daily life," he said.
The 21-year-old also took on the role of detachment commander during a live firing exercise.
"I had to give command and control over my crew operating the mortar tube, making sure they do things safely while communicating with my Platoon Commander – all while live bombs were going off (in the background)," 3SG Alim recalled.
He must have done well as he was awarded the Silver Bayonet at the graduation parade – given to top cadets in the cohort.
The 55th Specialist Cadet Graduation Parade was reviewed by Senior Minister of State for Finance and for Transport, Mr Chee Hong Tat.
Addressing the graduands, Mr Chee said that they were entrusted with the duty to lead those under their charge.
"Inspire those under your charge, and create an environment for your people to reach their full potential. Be your team’s pillar of strength to plough through hardship and adversities," he said.
"You will need to make difficult decisions at times, but do so with the best interests of your team, and lead with empathy."