From relief teacher to army officer

CHALLENGE SEEKER: Newly minted2nd Lt Lai chose the army to "test her limits".

She underwent a year-long teaching stint and even has a degree in marketing.

But Fionne Lai has opted for military fatigues and, yesterday, became a newly minted Second Lieutenant after completing the 38-week Officer Cadet Course.

At 26, she was one of the oldest among the 553 officer cadets who were commissioned, and she will now work as a signals officer.

Although she took up only a three-year contract, she hopes to be a career soldier and remain in the job for "at least 10 years".

2nd Lt Lai has a diploma in information technology from Ngee Ann Polytechnic. She later went on to become a relief teacher at a primary school for a year.

After that, she studied for a degree in marketing at SIM University.

In the end, she chose the army as she wanted to "test her limits".

She told My Paper: "I wanted to look for a different set of challenges. All along, I've wanted to do some form of civil service, such as being a police officer, army officer or teacher to give back to society."

She acknowledged that, as a woman, the course presented some physical challenges to her, but insisted that it was "a matter of mind over body".

"There are difficulties, but if a guy can do it, I don't see why I can't," she said.

"When I told my friends that I had joined the army, they were shocked. The guys asked, 'Why put yourself through such a difficult career?'

"There are tough times, but I don't think that it's so tough that it makes me want to quit."

Her grit and independent streak are a result of her father's death from a heart attack a decade ago.

Her mother, who works as a facility manager, was later posted overseas for work, and 2nd Lt Lai was tasked with looking after her sister, who is three years younger.

But these tough experiences will help at work, she said.

"As an officer, there are many times when I have to make decisions," she explained.

"There are people under me, and there may be situations where their lives (are at stake), so I have to make the right decisions."

Yesterday's commissioning parade was held at the Safti Military Institute in Jurong. Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam was the reviewing officer.

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