SINGAPORE - As a part-time lifeguard at the Ang Mo Kio Swimming Complex three years ago, Specialist Cadet (SCT) Tee Qian Jiang, 23, enjoyed the pool.
However, the avid swimmer was curious to try out diving, as he had heard it was tough, and he wanted to challenge himself.
So, after completing his National Service with the Singapore Police Force, he decided to sign on as a regular with the Naval Diving Unit (NDU).
On Tuesday, the specialist naval diver was awarded one of the 21 coveted Golden Bayonets at the 24th Specialist Cadet Graduation Parade.
The Golden Bayonet is awarded to top Specialist Cadet graduands from each vocation.
A total of 1,155 trainees graduated on Tuesday as specialists in the Singapore Armed Forces.
SCT Tee likened the 22-week cadet course to a rollercoaster ride with "lots of ups and downs".
"It was definitely tough and stressful," he said. "But my batch-mates and I kept motivating each other. We don't call each other friends, we're more like buddies, brothers with whom we've built very strong bonds."
The ceremony in Pasir Laba Camp in Jurong, which was reviewed by Chief of Defence Force Major-General Perry Lim, also saw 94 Specialist Cadets receive the Silver Bayonet, which is givento other top performing graduands.
One of them was SCT Amanda Thea Tan Hui Xuan, a 20-year-old army intelligence specialist.
The youngest child of a chef father and IT manager mother said she had considered becoming an army regular ever since she was in secondary 4.
She credits her older brother and cousin, who are both also army regulars, for giving her the courage to sign on. "Many people ask me why, as a woman, I joined; but I say, why not? I'll never know how it is until I try," she said.
SCT Tan, who sails, swims and plays sports like netball and badminton in her free time, added that a military career fits her active lifestyle.
As the only woman in her infantry course, and one of just five in the entire cohort, she felt she had "something to prove". She recalled pushing on and not dropping out during a 32km route march, even though she was suffering from a shin splint and back cramps.
"If I didn't give up, (my coursemates) would be less prone to giving up too."
Armour specialist and fellow Silver Bayonet recipient SCT Muhamad Zuhaily Hamran, 19, agreed that the course tested his mental resilience.
"We lacked sleep, and it was physically and mentally draining, but I learnt a lot about teamwork," he said.
As for SCT Tee, graduating also means he can now watch Ah Boys to Men 3: Frogmen, the Jack Neo film about training life in the NDU.
"I deliberately didn't watch it before because I didn't want to spoil the surprise of what I'd have to go through. I just wanted to enjoy the experience for myself."