Why I don’t regret leaving Australia to serve National Service in Singapore

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SC 2 Athalla Rajendra Prayata takes pride in the country he calls home, as well as his role in ensuring Singaporeans’ safety and security.

When I received the letter informing me that I had to return to Singapore to serve my National Service (NS), I knew that it was time to usher in a new phase of my life as a more responsible adult in the country where I spent my formative years.

I was born in Indonesia, but moved to Singapore when I was one, and am a Singapore Permanent Resident. My family and I lived here for 12 years before migrating to Australia, where I was exposed to a different lifestyle. There, I enjoyed outdoor activities amid natural landscapes such as mountains, beaches, and lakes. Nonetheless, I’m proud to call the Lion City my home. This is where I enjoyed growing up in a safe and secure environment, as well as built a strong academic foundation.

Despite having previously lived in the country, I am still trying to cope with its fast-paced and highly efficient environment. One of my biggest challenges has been communicating in Malay with my NS peers, as my mother tongue is Bahasa Indonesia. Inevitably, I tend to mix up both languages, much to the amusement of my Malay friends in Singapore and Indonesian relatives. I often watch Malay shows to get better at the language, though my sentences still include English words whenever I speak — it reminds me of Singlish!

While training at the Home Team Academy upon entering the Singapore Police Force (SPF), I had a close group of batchmates with whom I would joke around with to keep our spirits high. Thanks to their support, I was able to grow accustomed to the tough training regime and graduate from the academy.

I am currently a Community Engagement Officer of the Community Policing Unit at Tampines Neighbourhood Police Centre. Here, I help raise awareness of the latest crime trends and crime prevention measures by conducting house visits and delivering talks to the public. This posting has been a great opportunity for self-development as it has enabled me to further fine-tune my public speaking skills, which I had honed while hosting events and delivering speeches back when I was a student counsellor in Australia.

One of the highlights of my role as a Community Engagement Officer is conducting talks at schools. Evidently, it’s important for residents across all age groups to be aware of crime prevention tactics and the different ways they can reach out to the police when they require assistance. Being able to help prevent others from falling prey to crime gives me a true sense of accomplishment as it allows me to play my part in keeping Singapore safe and secure.  

Overall, NS has helped me to develop better social skills, understand my strengths and weaknesses, and grow out of my comfort zone. In fact, I often tell overseas relatives who are curious about NS about my eye-opening experience that has helped me to mature as an individual equipped with skills to overcome life’s challenges. They always look forward to hearing stories of my time there. Serving in SPF has taught me to always remain positive even in the toughest of times. Not to mention, it has provided me with practical working experience before I embark on my tertiary education.

Beyond serving NS, I’m happy to have been able to reconnect with the culture and people of Singapore. I look forward to exploring different parts of South-east Asia to broaden my horizons and learn about different lifestyles.

Interested in serving beyond your obligations? Consider the Volunteer Extension Scheme, which allows PNSMen who have completed their NS liability to continue serving beyond their statutory age. PNSMen (With NS liability) who have passed their statutory age of 40 years (Junior Officers) & 50 years (Senior Officers) may apply.

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