Not garang* but still gung-ho

Not garang* but still gung-ho
Ms Stephanie Tan.
PHOTO: The New Paper

When she told her parents that she would be undergoing Basic Training, they were against the idea.

"At first, they chided me and wanted to stop me," said Miss Stephanie Tan, 19.

It would only be two weeks of army life under the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC), but her parents were worried for their daughter, whom they felt was "demure, vulnerable and feminine".

Miss Tan, a Ngee Ann Polytechnic international business student, said: "They felt that I am timid since I would scream at the sight of a cockroach. They feared for my safety.

"They felt that those in military have to be brave and garang (Malay for fierce) and that was the complete opposite of who I am."

But Miss Tan, who told her parents a day before undergoing a mandatory medical check-up, managed to convince them.

She starts her training today as part of the fourth batch of volunteers. The first batch enlisted in March 2015.

She said: "I reassured them that I was capable of taking care of myself and that I wanted to experience something new and different.

"I guess all parents love their kids and would be worried if their daughter told them she wanted to volunteer in the army."

Her father, Mr Steven Tan, 49, who is self-employed and who also has a son, aged 17, said: "We are proud that Stephanie is volunteering to play her part to protect and serve our nation.

"We also hope she will be able to take on new challenges... and overcome them during her training."

It helps that Miss Tan's best friend and course mate, Miss Lye Zi Hui, will be joining her.

Miss Lye, 20, said she felt it was "only fair" that she serve the nation that "has provided me with so much".


Although both girls do not exercise regularly, they are looking forward to the training.

In Basic Training, volunteers will be equipped with basic soldiering skills and knowledge. They will be trained to fire the Singapore Assault Rifle 21, or SAR21, and learn individual fieldcraft to adapt to the field environment.

The programme will culminate in a field camp.

Miss Tan thinks she will enjoy the stint and will discover a "stronger" side of herself.

She is not bothered by the possible physical challenges, although she confessed with a laugh: "I have a phobia of acne and I am afraid of getting breakouts from the training."

Miss Lye hopes the tough training will help her "grow as a person".

She said that some of her male friends mocked her for volunteering, calling her "overly patriotic" and "stupid".

But, she said: "People's opinions don't matter as long as I believe in what I am doing. Haters are gonna hate."

This article was first published on March 21, 2016.
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