SINGAPORE - As a 16-year-old, Mr Richard Goh failed all but two of his O Level subjects, and thought it would be the end of his studies.
Soon after, he joined the navy. Unexpectedly, this career path led him to hit the books again almost 30 years later, at the age of 45. Then, he travelled to Australia for a fully-funded graduate certificate in maritime studies.
Military Expert (ME) 5 Goh, now 54, said he is grateful for the chances it gives to late bloomers like him to learn and to climb up the ranks.
"More than 30 years ago I knew nothing about computers, and many years down the line I have been given the opportunity to operate one of the state-of-the-art frigates we have," he said.
On Thursday (June 29), ME5 Goh added another feather in his cap when the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) promoted him along with more than 500 other military personnel across the three services.
Both Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen and Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Perry Lim presented certificates to 399 officers, 76 military experts and 44 warrant officers at the Ministry of Defence on June 29. The promotions will take effect from July 1.
For ME5 Goh - who will be promoted to the rank of ME6 - his long career is not without some sacrifices, especially with long periods spent at sea. He found being away from his family difficult, and recalled a time when he was on a 11/2 month exercise to Australia.
His wife had called him to tell him that his son, then about three years old, was holding a picture of him and missing him.
Now, his son is 24 and pursuing a business degree while his 21-year-old daughter is working as a facility supervisor in the hospitality sector.
Among the promoted personnel are 18 women - one of whom did not even dare to tell her family when she joined the army 14 years ago.
Major Veronica Tan, 38, said she was afraid of what her family would say as it seemed to be such an unlikely and extreme career choice for a girl.
Nobody in her family comes from a military background, and for one month, she did not tell her family she signed a contract with the army.
But when she broke the news they accepted it immediately. "I shouldn't have gone through that one month of suffering," she said with a chuckle.
Now, she is the commanding officer of the 48th Battalion Singapore Armoured Regiment, with 550 men under her wing, and will attain the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in July. "I'm thankful that the SAF recognises my contributions," she said.