I thought I deserved to be a Platoon Sergeant (PS). I’d been determined to be one since day one in BMT. For the past 8 months, I’d diligently studied all the tests, relentlessly stepped up to lead and earned myself a Silver Bayonet in Specialist Cadet School. Yet a month into my new unit, I didn’t make the cut.
Someone else was more composed under pressure, knowledgeable and he had a big heart for the men under him. At that point, my gut told me he definitely was the better candidate. “Give it to him,” I said. “He’s a better fit for the role than I.
Indubitably, I felt defeated. I am a go-getter and I badly wanted the appointment. But as much as personal recognition is important to me, there was no way I would put my own ambition over the good of the platoon. I got this far not by being selfish, but by putting the team first. Every step of my NS journey, be it field camps, route marches or PT, showed me that my team-oriented mindset was the right way to go. Still, I’d been driving myself towards this goal for so long, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. Who would I be, if not the leader I envisioned myself to be?
I had to get back to basics – the underlying values that I based my daily decisions on, that led me to push myself so hard for the past 8 months. As someone who is driven by challenging tasks, I set a new goal for myself, to learn my new role as a SATCOM Detachment Commander inside out. If I could not be the PS, then I would be the best Detachment Commander. Furthermore, as a naturally curious person, SATCOM systems were a perfect fit for me. They are highly complex and require a keen mind to trace and correct faults or provide alternative solutions. There was no time to feel sorry for myself–a challenge was ahead of me!
Although my operators entered the unit earlier and had more time training on our systems, I took it upon myself to learn our systems more intricately than any other. I dug out old manuals and fervently studied them, relentlessly probing my upper-studies for knowledge. With much effort and a positive attitude, my peers and seniors saw a vast improvement in my performance. As Detachment Commander, I constantly fine-tuned the team’s deployment standard operating procedure to maximize efficiency and reduce the time taken to set up. My humble and inquisitive attitude led me to learn broadly as well, allowing me to share information that was valuable and useful to other Detachment Commanders. The higher command team also recognised my strengths and have started to lean into them. I am now helping them work out a deeper understanding of existing platforms no longer supported under maintenance contracts.
However, competency is not the only important trait of being a leader. When my operators share their problems with me, I pay attention, rally my fellow commanders to resolve any conflicts or highlighting it up the command chain, and we work out a solution together. At the end of the day, the morale and wellbeing of my men is my responsibility as well. Through the long and hard days spent training shoulder to shoulder, we have become a cohesive asset to our battalion, but beyond that, a band of brothers who would lay down our lives for each other. And that, to me, is more important than any achievement I’ve attained in my service.
Even if I did not achieve my initial goal of becoming a PS, I achieved something I can be proud of. It was humbling to give up the PS appointment, but on hindsight, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. My role requires me to speak up without fear, act decisively in the midst of chaos, and lead my men with empathy. I listened to what my team needed, leveraged upon my unique skillset to add value to the team and aid those around me. I’m proud to have walked this path alongside my team to mature as a competent and compassionate leader in my own right. Of course, I still have much to learn, and unfathomable challenges ahead of me. I’m not stopping here – I am RELENTLESS.