PHOENIX - Second Sergeant Joel Ong, 20, had been looking forward to when his full-time national service ends next February so he can continue his studies and pursue a potential career in the social services sector.
But over the last few days, he had fleeting thoughts about being an army regular.
His involvement in the ongoing Forging Sabre exercise was the trigger. He is the only NSF in the Artillery unit's STrike ObserveR (Storm) team which detects and marks out enemy targets for strike units.
Being involved in missions as a Storm team gunnery assistant and seeing how his actions led to enemy targets being destroyed by live munitions have made him more confident of his level of competency, said 2SG Ong.
And watching how his team and other Singapore Armed Forces personnel from the Army and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) work together has also raised his confidence in the military's ability to defend Singapore.
It has also piqued his interest to make it a career, said 2SG Ong.
"My interest has definitely increased. For many who sign on, the ultimate question is whether they are prepared to defend Singapore if war breaks out," said 2SG Ong, adding that he is asking himself the same question.
"Even if I don't pursue a military career, this experience from Forging Sabre will make me more competent in handling the equipment and less nervous when I return for my in-camp training," he told Singapore media on Wednesday (Dec 6).
Two other full-time national servicemen (NSFs) - which number around 10 per cent of the record 800 personnel involved in the exercise that comprises mostly regulars and operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) - also shared about the impact of their first-ever participation in Forging Sabre.
Corporal First Class Mohamed Farhan Mohamed Anwar, 25, said being involved in the live-firing missions of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (Himars) has reinforced in him the importance of taking safety procedures seriously.
"I would remind anyone - regardless of rank - to observe rules like pulling the curtain of the window in a Himars launcher before any firing mission to avoid being hurt if the window shatters," he said.
Similarly, Second Lieutenant Luis Lo, 21, who is the only operationally-ready NSF pilot of the Heron 1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), said he is now more conscious of even the smallest things like taking good notes.
"If the wrong information is communicated to other units, the whole mission could be jeopardised," he told reporters.
The opportunities provided by the exercise for him to interact with personnel from other units in the Republic of Singapore Air Force and the Singapore Army has also exposed him to a higher tempo of operations and new way of doing things, he added.
Despite being an NSF, he said many others like the regulars and NSmen have been patient and accommodating to him.
"They would go out of the way to explain things to me," he added.