He came out tops after seizing second chance

Mr Muhammad (far right) with fellow commissioned officers (from left) Kishan Kumar Thamilchelvan, Koh Jack and Ms Lee.
Mr Muhammad (far right) with fellow commissioned officers (from left) Kishan Kumar Thamilchelvan, Koh Jack and Ms Lee.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

From his first day of national service, Mr Muhammad Khalid Mohamad Sukri, 23, knew he wanted to become an officer leading men in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

But he did not make the cut after basic military training and was sent to Specialist Cadet School instead.

After becoming a section commander in 2nd Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment (2SIR), he excelled in his missions and so impressed his superiors that he was asked if he would like to be recommended for officer training.

This entailed extending his national service by six months, but he said "yes" immediately.

Yesterday, the 23-year-old's voice boomed across the Safti parade square as parade commander for his cohort.

He was also awarded the Sword of Merit, an award given to the top 10 per cent of a graduating cohort.

The air force's Ms Laura Lee, 21, received the Sword of Honour as the best performer of the batch. She is the first female trainee in her Ground Based Air Defence vocation to get the honour.

Ms Lee was determined to join the air force after attending a career seminar in junior college, but was told repeatedly that there were no vacancies available. When a slot opened up last year, she decided to sign up, putting her university studies on hold.

Despite her diminutive 1.58m frame, she more than pulled her weight in training in a vocation that operates heavy duty surface-to-air missile systems, winning the Best PT award for physical fitness.

She hopes this will inspire more women to make the leap to join the SAF. "There are still some in society who see protecting the nation as more of a male's job than a female's," she said.

"But I hope that seeing what I've achieved will really encourage other females who want to come here to just go ahead and do so."

Yesterday's commissioning parade marked the completion of 38 weeks of rigorous training for 547 newly commissioned officers.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Permanent Secretary (Defence) Chan Yeng Kit, Chief of Defence Force Perry Lim and other senior Ministry of Defence officials and SAF officers were also present at the parade.

Lim Yan Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2016, with the headline 'He came out tops after seizing second chance'. Print Edition | Subscribe