Identical triplets commissioned as SAF officers

(From left) Identical triplets Phuah Wei Yuan (combat service support), Phuah Wei Ke (infantry), and Phuah Wei Deng (infantry) have graduated from the 38-week OCC.
(From left) Identical triplets Phuah Wei Yuan (combat service support), Phuah Wei Ke (infantry), and Phuah Wei Deng (infantry) have graduated from the 38-week OCC. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Part of a cohort of 582 cadets, two will serve in the infantry while the other will be a logistics officer

It is all for one and one for all for the tightly knit Phuah triplets, Wei Yuan, Wei Deng and Wei Ke.

The 20-year-olds, who all attended Raffles Junior College and used to share a mobile phone, depended on one another for support when they went through basic military training and later officer cadet school at the same time.

"If one of us feels stressed, we can talk it out with the others. Or if we are really angry, we can rant to one another," said Wei Ke.

The identical triplets were among the 582 cadets who were commissioned as Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officers at the Safti Military Institute yesterday evening.

Among them were 454 officers from the army, 66 from the navy and 62 from the air force. The commissioning parade was reviewed by President Tony Tan Keng Yam.

For the Phuahs, being identical in looks led to a few mix-ups, including once when an instructor mistook Wei Ke and Wei Deng for each other, causing each to be scolded for the wrong reasons.

Another time, said Wei Ke, during an exercise in which his company was marching ahead of Wei Deng's, an instructor mistakenly thought that the former had fallen behind.

"The instructor scolded me, and asked me why I was so 'lag'. The instructor later laughed it off," Wei Deng said.

But being together had its advantages too. While Wei Yuan was posted to train as a logistics officer, Wei Ke and Wei Deng were both sent to become infantry officers, and they all exchanged tips on how to tackle an overseas mission.

Yesterday, President Tan called on the cadets - who had finished 38 weeks of training - to carry on in the same "indomitable spirit" of Singapore's pioneers to overcome new challenges on the horizon.

Noting the terror attacks in Jakarta last week, which killed eight and hurt more than 18, he said the security environment had become "increasingly complex and volatile".

"Even as we use technology to sharpen our war-fighting capabilities, it is the quality of leadership in the SAF that remains the greatest determinant of its potential," he said.

For Ms Tracy Ong, 25, being commissioned as an air warfare officer yesterday was the culmination of a challenging journey that started during basic military training. "I weighed maybe 38kg when I enlisted. I was unable to do a lot of the tasks, such as mounting my full battle order, which was close to 15kg."

But a strong will and resolute mindset helped her to get stronger physically, she added.

As for the Phuahs, graduating together was especially sweet. Wei Yuan said: "I'm very glad all three of us made it. If one of us didn't, the other two of us would be very sad."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2016, with the headline 'Identical triplets commissioned as SAF officers'. Print Edition | Subscribe