Online portal launches series on SAF's unsung female heroes

Ms Deborah Tan (right), founder of online lifestyle portal Material World Singapore, with Mrs Judy Kong, who joined the Singapore Women's Auxiliary Naval Service during Konfrontasi, a period of violent conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia, which i
Ms Deborah Tan (right), founder of online lifestyle portal Material World Singapore, with Mrs Judy Kong, who joined the Singapore Women's Auxiliary Naval Service during Konfrontasi, a period of violent conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia, which included Singapore at that time.PHOTO: DANIEL NEO FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

NATIONAL service (NS) is usually seen as the Singaporean male's rite of passage.

But a group of women wanted to tell the other side of the story and pay tribute to the "unsung heroes" who contribute to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in their own way.

In celebration of SAF50 - or 50 years of the SAF - a team at Material World Singapore, an online lifestyle portal for women, has launched a series of activities and feature articles to salute these female heroes.

The portal features interviews with women who have contributed to the SAF. A finale tomorrow will involve some of the women who have been invited to share their stories.

"Nation-building is not just the responsibility of our men. Women have a role to play too," said Ms Deborah Tan, 36, founder of the portal.

She hopes to demystify the culture of NS and to broaden the definition of "achievements" to include the sacrifices of servicewomen as well as the daughters, wives and even grandmothers of servicemen.

One woman featured is Second Warrant Officer (Ret) Tina Goh, 66.

The former professional dancer joined the SAF's Music and Drama Co when she was 18 but an injury led her to give up dancing just six years into her career.

She was heartbroken, but stayed on in an administrative role to nurture the young men under her charge.

"My time in the SAF gave me a passion for youth development," said Mrs Goh, who now works with young athletes.

Another woman featured on the portal is retired teacher Judy Kong, who joined the Singapore Women's Auxiliary Naval Service during Konfrontasi, a period of violent conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia, which included Singapore at that time.

Mrs Kong, 67, signed on as a volunteer in Secondary 4 and underwent basic training under the British Royal Navy.

She learnt foot drills and weapons handling, and thereafter served as a radar plotter.

She hopes her story might inspire more young women to join the traditionally male-dominated field. "We have prominent women in all vocations, why not in the armed forces too?"

rkurohi@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2015, with the headline 'Online portal launches series on SAF's unsung female heroes'. Print Edition | Subscribe