It was a weekend unlike any other for Madam Patsy Chong.
The 61-year-old got to fire an SAR 21 rifle, tackle the standard obstacle course, go on a short route march and sleep in a military bunk.
She was among 103 women who "booked in" at Maju Camp in Clementi last Saturday for a women's boot camp to experience what national service (NS) is like.
The overnight camp, which cost $55 per person and saw more than 1,000 applicants vying for about 100 places, was organised by the Ang Mo Kio Women's Executive Committee. It was an initiative by the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (Accord).
Madam Chong was one of the oldest participants. But age and health - she is undergoing treatment for breast cancer - were no deterrent for the mother of four.
"I'm very glad I came. I can see that this is very challenging work," said the freelance enrichment teacher and active dragon boater.
"Even though I have three sons who have been to NS, they did not tell me much about what they do in the camp," she said.
Her favourite activity was firing the SAR 21 rifle. "It's heavy, and in order to shoot your enemy, your accuracy, judgment and focus all need to be there," she said.
The age of the youngest participant
The age of the oldest participant
For two days, the women got a glimpse - and taste - of NS life. They learnt how to evacuate injured platoon mates, how to navigate the standard obstacle course, and went on a short route march. They ate at the cookhouse and slept in military bunks.
The first day began at 10am and ended only at 11pm. The next day started early at 6am.
The youngest participant was 13 years old and the oldest was 64. The average age was 29. Some signed up with friends and family members, and a few brave ones came alone.
Athi Ramesh Athirah, 13, was encouraged by her father, a member of the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps, to join the camp.
"He asked if I was interested because I had already told him I didn't want a desk job and wanted to be a regular," said the Secondary 1 student at Raffles Girls' School.
Ms Joanna Portilla, chairman of Ang Mo Kio Women's Executive Committee, said the committee hopes to organise similar events in the future. Due to the overwhelming response for the camp, the organiser had to hold a ballot.
"Women form the backbone of support, especially when their husbands, sons or brothers go for in-camp training or are being enlisted," she said.
Senior Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman, who is co-chairman of Accord, joined the participants in a dialogue. "I'm happy that many of you come from different walks of life, different vocations, different professions, and what bonds us together is this strong desire to know more of what we can do to support NS," he told them.
Some said they booked out of the camp yesterday with a better appreciation of the demands of NS.
Balloon sculptor and event organiser Brenda Eng, 31, joined with her mother, sister and aunt. "We come from a female-dominated family. So now if my cousin brings home a boyfriend who is in the army... I'll tell my cousin that if he needs to go back and serve, then please (let him) go back and serve," she said. "Don't tell him to join our family gatherings because he might be super tired."