From NZ to S'pore, from ah boy to officer

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11 Mar 2024 | PEOPLE

From NZ to S'pore, from ah boy to officer

// Story by Joshua de Souza / Photos by Chua Soon Lye & courtesy of 2LT Wescott

English 华文
2LT Lee (centre) is joined by his parents at his commissioning parade on 9 Mar. His father (left) had flown in from New Zealand the night before.

Enlisting for National Service (NS) can be a daunting prospect for any young man. For 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Wescott Lee Rui Zhang, it was even tougher as he had spent most of his childhood and teenage years living abroad in Canada and New Zealand.

Thanks to strong family support, the 20-year-old has managed to not only navigate the challenges faced in returning from overseas for NS, but excel.

On 9 Mar, he was one of 211 cadets commissioned as full-fledged officers. His parents, Dr Lee Teng Hong and Mdm Jessie Ng, were there to view their son's proud moment – in fact, his 63-year-old father had especially flown in from New Zealand the night before.

Jubilant celebration: 2LT Lee was among the over 200 cadets who graduated in a commissioning parade on 9 Mar.
"I'm thankful to my family for their love and support, and to Singapore for the honour and privilege to come back and serve my country," says 2LT Lee, a Sword of Merit recipient.

Our Ah Boy to Man

The youngest in his family (he has five elder sisters!), 2LT Lee was born in Singapore, and moved to Canada in January 2008. The family later moved to New Zealand in 2017.

In December 2022, 2LT Lee returned with his mother, who wanted to help him readjust to living in Singapore.

"He left Singapore at a young age, and we felt it would be difficult for him to return alone. My wife decided to return as the primary support for him," shared Dr Lee.

2LT Lee remembers during a visit back to Singapore in 2015, his mother had picked the Ah Boys To Men movies to watch during the flight.

"After watching the Ah Boys To Men movies, he asked very enthusiastically when can he join the army," the 59-year-old stay-at-home mother said. "I told him, well, you got to wait another eight years more."

Taking every opportunity

Upon enlistment in March 2023, 2LT Lee took his parents' advice: to take every opportunity that comes and to do everything with a positive and open mindset.

"I know it's compulsory for Singaporean males to serve, but I viewed it as an opportunity to serve the country I was born in," he said.

"I have the privilege of coming back, reconnecting with my roots and my extended family, also to meet new people and develop myself."

Rising up to challenges

In June 2023, 2LT Lee entered Officer Cadet School (OCS). But he was never far from family support, with his sisters and father coming to Singapore whenever they could.

Through OCS – where cadets take on different appointments to have opportunities to show and develop as leaders – 2LT Lee found himself learning a great deal in terms of "soft skills" such as discipline, time management and mental fortitude.

During his summary exercise, which 2LT Lee recounted as his "most memorable episode in OCS", he was surprised when the instructor appointed him as the platoon commander for a mission.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. It was a real test of my level of critical thinking. However, I had an amazing team with me and I'm glad we were able to achieve the mission objective safely and on time."

His parents have certainly noticed a difference in 2LT Lee, who will be posted to Chong Pang Camp as a Platoon Commander 2nd In Command.

"In the last one year, we saw Wescott rise to different challenges in NS and learning leadership skills," said Mdm Ng.

"We are thankful for this opportunity given to him and are so happy to see him embracing the armed forces in such a positive way."

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