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Overcoming adversity to shine in SCDF

WO2 (NS) Muhammad Ridzwan Bin Baharudin (left), seen here at an event with DC Daniel Seet, Deputy Commissioner (Operations & Resilience), SCDF, says the sense of discipline that was instilled in him during NS helped him as an adult.

Two SCDF NSmen who have overcome tremendous challenges during National Service (NS) and in their personal lives, share how grit, determination and heaps of support have been crucial in helping them to succeed.

TEXT: KEENAN PEREIRA

PHOTOS: WO2 (NS) MUHAMMAD RIDZWAN, CPT (NS) KYAW THET TIN

When we ask CPT (NS) Kyaw Thet Tin and WO2 (NS) Muhammad Ridzwan Bin Baharudin about how NS has impacted their lives, both point to the discipline that NS has instilled in them.

“Before NS and even during my first few months of service, I was still not very mature,” reveals Ridzwan, 35. “But the physical training and drills made a difference. Faced with these challenges, I felt the urge to mature and take charge.”

Ridzwan’s sense of maturity proved to be crucial when he became a father four years ago. “My daughter was born with Down’s syndrome. Finding a way to take care of her while maintaining an adequate income was quite stressful initially,” recalled Ridzwan, who works as a senior technician at a major oil and gas company.

STEPPING DOWN, STEPPING UP AND DIVERSIFYING

Eventually, Ridzwan’s wife decided to give up her job as an administrative assistant, even though the forgone income was substantial. This allowed her to care for their daughter at home. “But that also meant that I had to step up and contribute more by taking up more overtime shifts. We also started a business on the side, so that we could grow our finances.”

He credits his time in NS for giving him the discipline and motivation to do the best for his family. “In NS, we are taught to do our best for the country and our loved ones, so there were many parallels when it came to doing my part for the family.”

It is something that Kyaw, 32, understands very well too. He is new to fatherhood – his son was born in October 2023. “It’s a lot more work than I thought it would be,” he jokes. “But I’m glad that my wife and our extended family have been a rock through it all, helping us to cope.”

Kyaw is a harbour pilot with PSA Singapore, continuing his seafaring ways that began while in NS. “Actually, it was my time as a marine firefighter that got me interested in harbour work,” he reveals. In his present role, he pilots ships to safely berth in Singapore.

TRANSITIONING TO LEADERSHIP

Both men share the common experience of transitioning from a follower to a leader. “It was a bit of a shock for me,” said Ridzwan, who will soon be appointed as Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) at 21 Rescue Unit. “As a RSM, I will play a more active role in managing people, overseeing their discipline and overall preparedness. This will require a gradual mindset shift.”

Kyaw recalls the early days in which he first took on a leadership role. “I had to remind myself that I am responsible for the safety and welfare of the 180 or so NSmen under me in the fire station. Their ages range from 21 to their 30s. When they come for reservist, I encourage them to do their best in their IPPT. ‘Do it once and do it well’ is my mantra.”

Kyaw went on to receive the NS Excellence Award (NSEA) in 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2021. Ridzwan also received the accolade in 2017 and 2019. The award recognises good performance during In-Camp Training (ICT) or NS training courses. Both men credit their units for being supportive, with commanders who are willing to go the extra mile in providing mentorship and guidance.

Ridzwan recalled how fortunate he was to have his unit’s support when his daughter was first born. “Back then, she had so many appointments at the hospital. It is not easy to manage a child with special needs alone, so I would ask my Commanding Officer for time off to assist my wife. I was very grateful for his kind understanding and was inspired to do the same for my men.”

Now that he has become a father, Kyaw could better appreciate the challenges faced by other fathers in SCDF. “When my men need to take care of their children or bring them to medical appointments, I am more understanding. After all, we are family too. And family comes first.”

LOOKING AHEAD

CPT (NS) Kyaw: I want to be the best version of myself in every sphere: as a father, as a worker, as a husband, as a son, and as an NSMan.

WO2 (NS) Ridzwan: I want to make my family proud.

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