SINGAPORE: In a remarkable display of determination and commitment, a 27-year-old former human resources professional successfully transitioned from the corporate world to a commissioned officer in the Singapore Armed Forces.

Ms Zhang (transliterated from Mandarin) told Lianhe Zaobao that her decision to pursue a military career was inspired by her late father, whose dream was to become a soldier. Due to skin problems, he could not meet the military’s standards and chose a career in law enforcement instead.

Recalling her childhood memories, Ms Zhang shared, “My dad liked to watch war movies, and I would watch them with him, so I was interested in uniform work since I was a kid.”

Despite her initial concerns about her physical readiness and the age gap with her peers, Ms Zhang drew inspiration from her cousin, who had become a regular soldier and decided to embark on a new path. She told the Chinese daily, “My family also supports me, and my mother told me that my father will be excited for me. I took this step bravely to commemorate my father, just like fulfilling his wish back then.”

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To prepare for the military, Ms Zhang committed to rigorous physical training, including running and sports. Surpassing her own expectations, she won a silver medal in the Physical Fitness Test (IPPT) during the early days of her military service. Within months of starting the Armed Forces Officer Cadet Course, her physical fitness reached new heights, earning her a gold medal.

The 38-week Officer Cadet Course was a demanding journey that tested the limits of Ms Zhang’s combat, planning, and leadership skills. Despite the challenges, she emerged as one of the 16 female officers out of the 460 officers commissioned at the Officer Cadet Graduation Ceremony at the Singapore Armed Forces Military Training Institute (SAFTI) on Saturday (9 Dec).

The Officer Cadet Commissioning Parade was reviewed by President Tharman Shanmugaratnam, who stressed the importance of fostering a world where the rule of law prevails and urged the graduates to lead the next generation of National Servicemen.

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He said, “The simple truth is that the strength of our military lies ultimately in our people… as newly commissioned officers, remember the motto that you have embraced throughout your cadet course: to Lead, to Excel, and to Overcome.”

The parade marked the conclusion of 38 weeks of intensive training at the Officer Cadet School, preparing the newly commissioned officers for command, instructional, or staff appointments in the SAF. Ms Zhang’s remarkable journey serves as an inspiring testament to the pursuit of one’s dreams and the ability to overcome challenges, no matter how unconventional the path may be.