First, a woman in love - now an officer as well

SINGAPORE - Former communications executive Loh Ying and her boyfriend had dated for only four months before they had to be apart when he enlisted for national service in 2010.

His life in green, however, not only brought them closer but also changed her life in a way she never expected.

On Saturday, she became one of 307 newly minted Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officers at a commissioning parade at Safti Military Institute.

The 24-year-old also graduated top in physical training in her cohort of field artillery cadets.

Second Lieutenant Loh told The Sunday Times that it was her boyfriend, now an air force officer, who inspired her to sign on with the SAF.

"Whenever he came out of basic military training, he would share with me stories about the training and camaraderie," she said. "For girls, we always wonder what goes on in the army."

The former national dragon boater said she witnessed first hand how her shy man began to come out of his shell and grow in confidence while he was in basic training and Officer Cadet School (OCS).

The lure of a career change to build her character and join in the esprit de corps of the armed forces proved too much to resist. Last year, she bit the bullet and joined. "I wanted to experience his positive experience for myself," she said.

For another graduate, making it through OCS meant battling setbacks few could imagine, far beyond the gruelling jungle exercises.

In March, just two months into his cadet course, 2nd Lt Muhammad Idris Sadli's mother died from cancer after battling Von Hippel-Lindau disease, a rare genetic condition that makes sufferers more prone to tumours. But worst was to come. In July, his 19-year-old younger brother succumbed to leukaemia.

"I felt totally lost. I didn't want to face the world," said the 21-year-old. But remembering his mother's pride at his entering OCS helped him grit his teeth and plough ahead.

"I just didn't want to disappoint her, so I carried on... Whatever problems you face, there's always a bigger problem that others are facing."

The commissioning parade yesterday evening was reviewed by National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan.

In his speech, Mr Khaw reiterated that Singapore's peace and prosperity are made possible because of the country's strong military defence. He called on the newly minted officers to instil in the full-time national servicemen (NSFs) under their charge "why we need a strong defence and national service".

"Many (NSFs) have grown up in a period of relative peace and stability. They may not understand why we need a strong defence and NS," said Mr Khaw.

"Help them find their commitment to NS... Instil in them the belief that they can play a part in defending our home and our way of life."

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