SINGAPORE - From the age of 13, Ranjitha Ramachandran was taken to army events like open houses, half marathons and unit dinners by her father, an army regular.
She saw the close bonds he formed with his men and how they greeted and thanked him for his training and guidance.
This year, the 21-year-old also signed up with the army and on Thursday (Nov 22), she was awarded a Silver Bayonet, which is given to the top cadets in the Specialist Cadet Course for exemplary performance in areas such as fitness and leadership.
"The biggest takeaway I learnt from my dad is his fighting spirit," said Third Sergeant (3SG) Ranjitha, whose 57-year-old father, First Warrant Officer (1WO) Ramachandran Pattani, has served in uniform for almost 40 years and pulled the family together when her mother died in 2008.
"Despite having all the odds stacked against him as a single parent, and a job that required longer-than-office hours, he strove on and did not falter in his duties, both as a father and as a warrant officer," she added.
3SG Ranjitha was among 926 specialist cadets - 889 from the army and 37 from the Republic of Singapore Navy - who graduated to become full-fledged specialists of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) on Thursday.
Sitting in the audience at the parade at Pasir Laba Camp was 1WO Ramachandran, a company assistant trainer at the Infantry Combat Training Centre.
"I didn't expect her to want to sign on with the army, nor to do so well to beat other guys (to win the Silver Bayonet), but today I'm proud," he said.
The parade, which marked the end of the 22-week Specialist Cadet Course, was reviewed by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport and Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng.
In his speech, Mr Baey said the SAF must continue to adapt to an ever-changing security landscape.
Efforts by the SAF to meet these challenges include the setting up of the Army Deployment Force in 2016 to counter terrorism, and its deployments to the defeat-ISIS coalition in the Middle East since 2014.
The Cyber NSF Scheme was also launched this year to employ the skills of full-time national servicemen (NSFs) with talent and expertise in the area to help defend against cyberattacks, Mr Baey said.
He also emphasised the role specialists play as leaders in the SAF, saying it "does not end with securing victory at the battlefield".
"Beyond that, you must also win the hearts and minds of your soldiers, inspiring them to work towards a common mission despite their diverse backgrounds, beliefs and personalities," he said.
3SG Ranjitha, who will be posted to the 5th Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment, said: "Being a female specialist means that I would have to work harder to gain the respect of my men.
"As someone who loves challenges, I believe this will give me the right motivation and sense of achievement that I aim to get from my career."