For two weeks, Ms Siti Khairunessa Abdul Kadir did not tell her mother that she was picking up basic soldiering skills in Maju Camp. Instead, the 30-year-old nurse lied that she was overseas on a volunteer mission.
It was only yesterday that Ms Siti, in her green fatigues, revealed what she was really up to - leaving her surprised mother in tears but filled with pride.
She was among the first 226 military volunteers who successfully completed their two-week basic training and became newly minted "soldiers" of the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC).
They comprised women, first-generation permanent residents and new citizens, all of whom are aged between 18 and 45 and not liable for national service.
At a parade held at Maju Camp yesterday, the volunteers stood up straight with hands clasping their rifles in the blistering heat, while loved ones and friends took photographs and cheered them on.
Among those in uniform was Dr Janil Puthucheary, an MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC. The 43-year-old Malaysia-born doctor, who became a Singapore citizen in 2008 before entering politics three years later, signed up to be a security trooper.
The volunteers received their berets from the SAFVC commander, Colonel Mike Tan, witnessed by Minister of State for Defence Mohamad Maliki Osman. Also present were army chief Perry Lim and senior SAF officers.
The trainees will have to spend one or two more weeks familiarising themselves with duties required for one of the 17 vocations they have been assigned to. These include roles such as defence psychologists, medical trainers and security troopers who are armed with rifles and patrol key installations like Changi Airport.
After training, the volunteers will be required to serve up to seven days a year.
Ms Siti, who signed up as a medical trainer, said she kept her parents in the dark because she did not think she would make it through the course.
"I didn't want them to get too excited," said Ms Siti, the second of five children, who added that joining the volunteer corps fit in with her habit of volunteering.
Also wanting to pitch in for the nation's defence was Switzerland- born Singapore permanent resident Philip Von Meyenburg.
The entrepreneur, who has been here since 2007, said he signed up as a security trooper because "you don't get security handed over to you on a plate".
Dr Maliki said he was heartened by the volunteers' "high spirits", adding: "From what I see on their faces and, they said, 'We experienced far more than we expected... It was tough, it had to be tough, we want it to be tough' - that is the kind of thing they were asking for."
The volunteer corps was one of 30 recommendations made by the Committee to Strengthen National Service.
Ms Siti's mother, Madam Rosimah Salam, 55, said: "This girl is always full of surprises... But I'm so proud to see her in uniform and holding a rifle and doing something great for Singapore."
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