‘I was eager to serve further’: The SAF soldiers with no qualms about extending their service


1WO (NS) Surindranath finished his NS liabilities in 2008 and extended his service, soon becoming a regimental sergeant major (RSM) taking charge of several companies in a unit.

He now does about 30 days of ICT each year as a brigade sergeant major – an even higher appointment overseeing several units – of the 56th Singapore Armoured Brigade.

As a volunteer NSman, the current administration manager at Kheng Cheng School still gets paid his usual salary during ICT.

“Of course, on my part, I also make sure that before I go for ICT, there are proper handovers, making sure that things that need to be done are all settled,” he said, calling it a “two-way thing”.

“I am also thankful for my fellow colleagues who have volunteered to cover my duties in my absence.”

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JUGGLING COMMITMENTS

Nevertheless, 1WO (NS) Surindranath acknowledged that he had doubts about extending his service, pointing to the uncertainty around getting used to a new appointment.

“You really don’t know what’s in store for you. As you go up, the journey to a certain extent becomes a bit lonelier; you have less people to talk to,” he said.

“When you’re coming up as a CSM, you can still find out from people certain things. Even then there’s only like four or five CSMs in the unit … Becoming RSM, you’re the only one in the unit. Who are you going to go to for help?

“I did share that these are the things I need help with. Of course, they were all very supportive. There was quite a bit of mentorship from above, which is what I am doing in return as well.”

There were also some concerns beyond his professional life, having to balance his time between his civilian job, NS and family commitments.

“My children were both toddlers at that time and required much attention. I had to manage my time carefully, and thankfully received strong support from my family,” he said.

Still, he recalled his daughter and son, then aged four and one, feeling proud when they saw him in uniform.

“Especially when they were youngsters, they look at you like you’re a hero. That’s very encouraging and uplifting,” he said, adding that his family also attended several of his parades.

STILL SCORING IN IPPT

As a brigade sergeant major, 1WO (NS) Surindranath ensures that the units under him conduct training properly. He also gathers feedback from the ground and listens to his soldiers’ challenges and concerns, saying this is important to keep up their morale.

“I always believe in leadership by example. So if you ask somebody to go there at 7am, you jolly well be there at 7am, not strut in (late) just because you have authority,” he said.

“I think this is one of those things that are very important when dealing with our soldiers. Because we have to respect them. Everybody’s time is important.”

For the same reason, he also completes his yearly individual physical fitness test (IPPT) – achieving a silver award – even though he does not need to.

“I think fitness should be an extension of our lifestyle; it shouldn’t be just to pass the IPPT,” he said.

“That’s what I tell my soldiers too. If you keep yourself healthy, you will have less problems downstream.”



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