Women who sign on

This post is written due to The Straits Times publishing an article today titled “Woman makes SAF history“. You might be tempted to read it as though a woman has made SAF become a history, but that is not the case. The said woman in question is a best cadet in the Specialists Cadet School, which I guess means something like a Golden or Silver Bayonet in our time? The summary of the article is presented at the end of this post.

I think she deserves some form of respect for her choice. I assume there is no need to discuss the issue of gender, lest I be labelled sexist. But there are other factors that made me feel some sort of admiration and respect for the lady in question.

First, the lady is already at age 31, not like any NSF who served at age 19. The physical condition of the body probably peaks at 20 and starts to deteriorate after that. Ask any reservist personnel. I went back to reservist last July and I was 24, having spent the past 3 years in university with minimal physical activity other than the occasional run and IPPT tests. I know my body isn’t as strong or fit as I was at 19, and the physical effort is consuming away energy and determination at a greater rate than before. To ask me to sign on in a combat role when I am 31, well, I just cannot visualize it. If this is not passion, then I don’t know what it is.

Second, the lady took a pay cut just to join the SAF. How many people are actually willing to do that? To be serious, many people do not even contemplate the idea of signing on in any of the three forces, because of stereotypes like: “Once you get in, you can’t come out easily. You do not have any relevant skills transferable from SAF. People who go in cannot make it in the outside world.” And many guys have bad experiences in NS period which made them more resistant to sign on. In addition, the outside world seems to pay so much more, and in a practical society such as ours, we will go for the job that pays more.

Seriously, those are valid concerns any job seeker would have. Pay, mobility, relevance in industry. To actually decide that “Hey this is the life that I want”, at that age, and having a proper job for so many years is just something admirable to me. I think it is time people stop being cynical of the efforts of those who eventually choose to pursue a military career and realize that the bad superiors they met in NS are not representative of the entire organization as a whole.

AFTER spending 13 years working in civilian suits, advertising account manager Shaline Tan decided to don green fatigues – she gave up her job last year to join the military.

As a 30-year-old then, she was the oldest recruit to ever go through basic military training.

On Friday, the specialist cadet made history again – by becoming the first-ever woman to bag a best cadet award in the Singapore Armed Forces’ Specialist Cadet School.

Military Expert 1 Tan, 31, was one of 953 newly minted Third Sergeants and military experts who were in yesterday’s graduating cohort.

The graduation parade, held at the Pasir Laba Camp, was witnessed by nearly 3,000 guests, including Chief of Defence Force Neo Kian Hong and army chief Chan Chun Sing.

Like her peers, ME1 Tan underwent training in leadership, combat skills and weapons-handling during a 22-week course before earning her new rank.

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