Fresh out of his National ITE Certificate (Nitec) course, then 20-year-old Kavin Timothy Trina Shanti had set his sights on becoming a commando.
He did not make the cut.
Undeterred, he decided to defer his national service twice for further studies and then try again.
Five years later, armed with a Higher Nitec and a diploma, he finally passed the aptitude tests and interviews to make it into the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Commando Formation in July last year.
"The commandos was the only place I wanted to be," Second Lieutenant (2LT) Kavin, 26, told The Straits Times on Tuesday.
Excelling in commando training, the full-time national serviceman (NSF) was selected for officer training in January this year.
He graduated this month alongside 352 other officer cadets in the SAF's 121st batch, and earned the Sword of Merit, which is awarded to the top 10 per cent of each officer cadet batch.
Due to Covid-19 safe management measures, the commissioning parade took place at decentralised ceremonies from Wednesday until yesterday.
A total of 286 cadets from the army, 33 from the navy and 34 from the air force were commissioned as officers.
2LT Kavin said student life in Singapore Polytechnic, where he studied aeronautical engineering and was involved in overseas community projects in Indonesia and China, prepared him for national service with younger peers.
He added: "Coming to the army at 25 was not the wrong move, as I had learnt how to be mature, and appreciate the things I have in this safe and secure country. If I had enlisted earlier, I would have been more ignorant and self-centred."
Similarly, 2LT Valerie Wee, 23, credits school life with influencing her military service. The army intelligence officer received a Best in Knowledge award.
"My elder sister encouraged me to go for it... I loved what I did, but felt the 9-to-5 job didn't suit me because I love to go out, explore and be adventurous," said the self-professed "sporty girl", who was a project executive previously.
Echoing her sentiment, freshly minted navy officer Akmal Rostam, 22, said: "Being in the navy is a lot of excitement compared with 9-to-5 office jobs."
The stint in Officer Cadet School broadened his perspective, said the events management diploma holder.
"Before joining the navy, I understood its importance to protect our sea lanes of communication, but didn't know how big a role NSFs played to ensure maritime peace and security." he said.
Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, who delivered a recorded video message to the new officers, said Singaporeans must be prepared for greater uncertainty in the external environment, especially surrounding the United States-China relationship and the Covid-19 pandemic.
"We must also be alert to emerging threats, including those in non-traditional security domains such as cyber security," said Mr Heng. "The SAF must continue to enhance its capabilities to address these diverse threats."