SINGAPORE - Standing on the bank of the Kallang River one early Saturday morning, full-time national serviceman Kok Yao Xiang, 20, cut a dashing figure in his uniform.
His fresh demeanour belied the fact that he had been up since 4am that day, to prepare for a rehearsal for the 21-gun salute ahead of the first preview for the National Day Parade (NDP) on July 22.
During the NDP on Aug 9, four 25-pounder howitzer guns on board the Mobility 3rd Generation (M3G) military raft will fire 21 times in salute to the president as a military honour.
"I feel very lucky to be chosen as one of the few individuals to take part in this year's NDP," said Corporal First Class (CFC) Kok, who is taking part in the annual parade for the first time.
There are more than 60 people who work behind the scenes to ensure the presidential gun salute goes smoothly. The gun detachment crew which CFC Kok is part of, for example, is tasked with loading and firing the 25-pounder blanks.
In addition, the M3G raft is operated by combat engineers to bring the presidential gun salute closer to the audience.
The M3G raft is formed by five amphibious vehicles, which link up to form a raft in the water. Land rovers are then used to tow the ceremonial guns on board the raft.
To mark NS50, which is the 50th-year milestone of national service in Singapore, the first round from each of the four guns on board the M3G raft will be fired by operationally ready national servicemen. The rest of the shots will be fired by full-time national servicemen.
It would be Third Sergeant (NS) Lim Yew Aik's first time taking part in the presidential gun salute component of the NDP - a role he had been gunning for.
3SG (NS) Lim, a traffic light system maintenance engineer, has taken part in the NDP twice previously - in the marching contingent and as a marshall.
"I'd always wanted to fire the gun, and I am honoured to be part of the presidential gun salute," said the 42-year-old. "My two sons, aged eight and six, are also excited about my participation. They told me they want to see me on TV."