When he began his career at 17, navy man Richard Goh thought he would never do better than his two O-level passes.
But at the age of 45, he found himself hitting the books again - in Australia, for a fully-funded graduate certificate in maritime studies.
"More than 30 years ago, I knew nothing about computers, and many years later, I have had the opportunity to operate one of the state-of-the-art frigates we have," said the 54-year-old, who holds the rank of military expert 5 (ME5).
ME5 Goh was among more than 500 military personnel across the three services in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to receive certificates of promotion at a ceremony at the Ministry of Defence yesterday.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Perry Lim presented the certificates to 399 officers, 76 military experts and 44 warrant officers.
The promotions will take effect from tomorrow.
ME5 Goh will move up to the ME6 rank. The highest rank a military expert can hold is ME8.
He said his family has had to make sacrifices when he spent long periods away from home. During a 11/2-month exercise to Australia, his wife called him to say his son, then three years old, was holding a picture of him and saying he missed his father.
His son is now 24. ME5 Goh also has a 21-year-old daughter.
Major Veronica Tan, 38, was one of 18 women promoted, and is now a lieutenant-colonel.
When she signed the contract to join the army 14 years ago after graduating with a business degree, she did not tell her family. She was worried they might have reservations about a woman joining the military service.
She kept it from her family for a month. She said she was surprised when she finally broke the news and they accepted it immediately.
Now, Maj Tan is the commanding officer of the 48th Battalion Singapore Armoured Regiment, with 550 personnel under her.
"I shouldn't have gone through that one month of suffering," she said with a chuckle.