Former nurse Lim Gek Swee surprised friends and family when she announced that she was signing on with the navy as a combat medic specialist earlier this year.
"My family was hesitant in the beginning because, after all, this is a male-dominated environment, but they've been supportive," she said.
ME1(T) Lim, who spent three years as a nurse at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, decided to join after learning about the opportunities to expand her medical knowledge and go on humanitarian missions.
Yesterday, she was one of 22 cadets awarded the coveted Golden Bayonet at the 25th Specialist Cadet Graduation Parade, becoming the first military medical expert from the navy to be given the honour.
The Golden Bayonet is awarded to the top Specialist Cadet (SCT) graduands from each vocation. A total of 1,126 SCTs from the Singapore Army, the Republic of Singapore Navy and the Republic of Singapore Air Force graduated as Specialists of the Singapore Armed Forces following a rigorous 22-week course.
ME1(T) Lim, 25, described the course as fun but challenging, as female cadets are subject to the same standards as men. "We have to carry the same combat load and walk the same distance as the guys, so it's physically taxing, but you get respect from them if you can show that you're capable."
Fellow Golden Bayonet recipient SCT Wong Jun Wei, an army infantry regular, said his biggest challenge was loosening up around his younger peers. The 27-year-old said: "Most of them are 18 and 19, so I had to learn not to be too serious when I talk to them, or they'll think I'm (an) 'uncle'."
The parade at Pasir Laba Camp, which was reviewed by Minister of State for Health Lam Pin Min, saw 84 cadets awarded Silver Bayonets.
Army infantry SCT Muhammad Ashaari Ramli, whose older brothers are a firefighter and a Guardsman, was one of them. "My brother won the Golden Bayonet before, so I wanted to be like him. I trained hard and still feel blessed to get Silver," said the 19-year-old. "When I get married, I want my son to see that Dad has a lot of awards, so he will be proud of me."