Men treat us like one of them, say SAF women

SINGAPORE - Women combatants in the Singapore Armed Forces say the male-dominated workplace is a conducive environment for doing well and progressing in their careers.

About a third of the 60 women who sign on with the SAF every year receive study awards and scholarships for their tertiary studies, said the Defence Ministry.

This also puts them on track to be groomed as commanders and leaders in the top military brass. The women who spoke to The Sunday Times said they have not encountered any discrimination from their male colleagues.

Military Expert 2 Jayanthi Armugamm, who signed on with the navy in 1997, said she was never made to feel like an outsider when she was the only female in the combat medic training course.

"The boys treated me like one of them and made me feel comfortable... They were very supportive and we helped each other out," said the 34-year-old mother of two.

While she admits that she does not outperform the bigger-sized men in physical training, she has held her own in medical emergency drills.

"My only limit is my physical ability... In everything else, we are equals and fair competitors," she said.

Infantry officer Nur Atiqah Ahmad Rosman, 25, agreed, and said today's battlefield requires as much mental and intellectual power as brawn.

"A lot has got to do with positive attitude and mental strength. Size does not matter," said the pint-sized platoon commander from the Officer Cadet School, who gave birth to daughter Nur Alesya, her first child, on July 9.

And being a mother in the SAF does not disrupt the servicewoman's career progression.

Major Neo Su Yin, 33, a mother of one and commanding officer of the navy's patrol vessel RSS Dauntless, said: "I never felt I was at a disadvantage or marginalised when I was pregnant. I was still given many opportunities and moved ahead in my career."

Some women, like artillery instructor Angeline Wong, have also impressed commanders with how they handle volatile situations.

Staff Sergeant Wong, who signed on with the army when she was 17, is one of six women who have done tours of duty in Afghanistan.

During her deployment in 2010, she and her team risked being hit by enemy artillery and rocket attacks.

The 29-year-old said a rocket shell landed only 100m from her.

Senior Warrant Officer K. Chandran, who was in the war-torn region at the same time, said the cool-headed women appeared to have "a calming effect" on the men.

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