SINGAPORE - Specialist Cadet Dela Cruz Carl Stephen Linao grew up watching war movies and harboured an ambition to be a soldier.
It was reinforced at age 13 when he had his first exposure to national service during a visit to Pulau Tekong with his family, who are from the Philippines.
The year was 2009 when he became a Singapore citizen.
Today, the 23-year-old is a newly-minted ground-based air defence systems specialist in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).
He was among the 1,000 cadets who graduated as full-fledged specialists of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) on Thursday (May 23)at a ceremony at Pasir Laba Camp in Joo Koon.
"Throughout my journey in the Specialist Cadet School, I felt that Singaporeans are very welcoming to foreigners like me from different backgrounds," said SCT Dela Cruz, who plans to sign on as an air force engineer, having obtained a diploma in Aeronautical and Aerospace Technology from Nanyang Polytechnic.
"This is important because it builds the social fabric in Singapore and we set aside our differences to just focus on our mission, which is to defend Singapore," he added.
His interest in the SAF was piqued by the experiences of his older brother, 25, who signed up as a regular in the Army Deployment Force after completing his national service.
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong, who reviewed the 39th Specialist Cadet Graduation Parade, said in his address that as leaders of the SAF, they are entrusted with the lives of soldiers under their charge.
"You shoulder the responsibility of leading and inspiring the soldiers under you to safeguard and ensure Singapore's sovereignty. Ensure that they train well, learn their craft and do it safely," he said.
"Many would say that the acme of war is not to fight, and we hope that we will never have to. But we live in a very complex world, and we have to prepare ourselves. Not only to deter, but to fight and win when the need arises," he added.
The parade marked the completion of the 22-week course that developed the leadership and combat skills of the specialist cadets, as well as deepen their expertise in their respective vocations.
Family and friends as well as senior SAF officers like Commander of the Specialist and Warrant Officer Institute, Colonel Marcus Tan, and SAF Sergeant Major, Chief Warrant Officer Teo See Keong, were also at the ceremony.
SCT Muhammad Thaftazzani Mohammad Tayib, 19, who received the Golden Bayonet award for being the top trainee, said he learned that a combat medic does more than just being on standby for emergencies.
The full-time national serviceman plans to sign on with the Singapore Civil Defence Force as a paramedic or a firefighter.
"We're not just a medic, but also an infantry-trained soldier, so we need to learn how to fight, treat and prioritise who to treat first, especially in situations of mass casualties," he said.