Women Now

What’s it REALLY like to be a woman in the Singapore Army; 4 women’s stories

It’s the 21 century and Singapore women are making their mark in just about every corner of the working world, including in the Singapore Army. Here are the stories of 4 intrepid Singapore women who have jobs they love


What’s it REALLY like to be a woman in the Singapore Army JIAYAN 

For Lee Jia Yan, coming from a less well-to-do family did not stop her from pursuing her goals. It led her to a career that helped her fulfill her academic dreams and desire to travel the world; and enabled her to interact with people from all walks of life.

However, it wasn’t an easy start. During her time at school, it was especially difficult to focus on her studies as Jia Yan held a part-time job as a waitress. She recollected: “My father was the sole breadwinner for the family. When I was old enough, I worked part-time to help alleviate my father’s financial burdens.” Through hard work, sheer determination and discipline, Jia Yan struck a balance between school and work. Whenever she had time to spare, she also sought to improve her linguistic skills by reading English newspapers and books. Jia Yan excelled in ITE and went on to pursue a Diploma in Information Technology with Singapore Polytechnic.

A close friend in the polytechnic knew about her family’s financial situation and encouraged Jia Yan to consider seeking support through an academic sponsorship. Despite her anxieties and concerns about not being able to meet with the standard requirements of a sponsorship, she persevered and pursued this opportunity.

When Jia Yan visited a Singapore Army roadshow held in her school, she learnt more about the various career prospects and unique opportunities offered by the Singapore Army. With the added knowledge of the educational sponsorship schemes, she was more comfortable to apply for it; embarking on a one-of-a-kind profession. It was through the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Polytechnic Sponsorship, Jia Yan’s school fees were taken care of.

Upon completing her diploma, Jia Yan enlisted with the Army where she served various appointments over a period of ten years. Currently a 3rd Warrant Officer, she candidly shared, “I’m not quite sure where I’ll be if I didn’t join the Army; perhaps I’d be job hopping in search of new and exciting experiences? But what I do know is that I would not be here today if not for my friend’s advice to apply for the SAF Polytechnic Scholarship. I’m now physically and mentally stronger, and I’m armed with good leadership skills and more resilient than ever!”

After working for eight years, becoming a platoon sergeant in an Operational Unit, going through a variety of vigorous vocational trainings and completing the arduous Combat Skills Badge course; Jia Yan got bitten by the study bug again. This time, she took up the opportunity to do a part-time degree in Human Resource Management with UniSIM. With the privilege of the CLASS Degree Framework and the Continual Education path, she was fully sponsored for her tuition, examination and textbook fees. On juggling between work and school, the bubbly Singapore Combat Engineer Trainer said that, “I have inspirational bosses! Not only did they motivate me to pursue my studies but have also allowed me the flexibility to organise and prioritise my time for studies. Atop of the sponsorship fees, I’m given a 12-day annual study leave – which is extremely helpful.” 

But it is easier said than done. Jia Yan dedicates much of her evenings attending night classes and weekends in completing her assignments, while her peers are out and about catching up with family and friends. The Trainer for Engineer Training Institute remains optimistic and embraces the fact that she can be exposed to various human resource management systems adopted by other organisations, so that she can value-add to her department.

Beyond the academics advances the Singapore Army that Jia Yan has benefited from, she is also thankful for being able to travel to countries like Australia, Germany and the US during overseas exercises. As part of her work, Jia Yan has the opportunity to interact with and influence people of all ages ranging from 18 to 50 years old. She recounted several times where she felt a great sense of achievement for successfully changing the perspectives of young men serving National Service and encouraging her older colleagues to view situations from a broader perspective. 

“At the end of day, I’m so glad that I took the step to learn more about the Singapore Army. If I hadn’t, I’m quite sure that I would not be as happy and fulfilled in my career as I am today!”


What’s it REALLY like to be a woman in the Singapore Army FARHANA

Farhana Rosman was convinced that she would make a significant difference to the organisation in her first job – and she did. But little did she expect that the organisation too, would be able to create an impact in her life. As her elder sister was also with the Singapore Army, Farhana realised that national service and defence should not be limited to men. Four years on and she couldn’t be happier. “With every batch of soldiers that I get to witness become operationally ready, I know that I have done my part in strengthening the defence of Singapore.” she shared humbly.

Instilling discipline and conducting trainings aside, Farhana also allocates time in strengthening the rapport with her soldiers. “As a Platoon Sergeant, it’s my duty to change the common perspective of the Army from merely being a place of regimentation to it being a commitment to strengthen the defence of our nation. It is also an organisation that protects our loved ones. If these soldiers aren’t going to fend for their families, then who will?” explained Farhana impassionately. At the same time, she also places emphasis on her soldiers maintaining close ties with their family members despite being in camp. She recalled the many occasions witnessing the strong sense of pride between her soldiers and their families during the ORD ceremonies. “When I get to see how proud their parents are, it makes me feel contented because I know they spent time doing something good for their loved ones.” said the nurturing Platoon Sergeant.

Farhana also finds alternative ways to bond with her soldiers – over food. “(Food) always bond people because it would break the ice and get everyone to share and chit-chat. It also helps keeps tediousness off your mind after a day of hard work and training.” She adds, “We’re working together for 12 hours and we have to communicate effectively; so it makes sense for us to create a tight bond amongst ourselves!”

Despite her passion for interaction with others, Farhana admits that managing young men from all walks of life has its challenges too. In the initial stages, a large majority of them would usually be unfriendly, shy or nonchalant; which at times makes it difficult for Farhana to carry out her duties. She also shared that there would always be pockets of soldiers trying to talk their way out of completing tasks. However, she stresses that showing them respect was of utmost importance. Not only does she invest time in holding personal conversations with them, but also observing their mannerisms and body languages to understand them as a person instead of an object. This has led Farhana to become someone for her men to confide in, be it Army-related issues or personal problems.

As much as she has impacted others, Farhana has also come to realise that being with the Singapore Army for the past four years has effected positive changes in her. She shared that constantly pushing herself physically and mentally during road marches, trainings and exercises has aided her in developing stronger willpower and determination – the two key characteristics required for leading and training men.
She has also grown to be accustomed to thinking on her feet in her unit – 9th Singapore Infantry Regiment, Farhana is one of those responsible for protecting and guarding the vast array of assets that lie in Jurong. Through preparation for these tasks, she has learnt to be flexible in dealing with potential contingencies. 

On whether she feels that she has made the right decision to become a specialist in the Singapore Army, Farhana smiles and says, “I know I won’t be able to find this experience of guiding and influencing different groups of people elsewhere.”


What’s it REALLY like to be a woman in the Singapore Army JULIANAH

What may be perceived by many to be stringent was in actual fact what gave Julianah Jamal the polar opposite – flexibility. A career in the Singapore Army, that is. Within a short span of five years, she functioned as a Team Manager in the SAF Sports Association Football Team, pursued a Masters in Counseling, attended the Guards Conversion Course and is now a Battalion Logistics Officer. All thanks to the recommendation of her ex-colleague in the Institute of Mental Health and her own gutsy spirit, Julianah has obtained a wide yet unique variety of experiences.

When she first joined the Singapore Army, she was part of the team responsible for the supply chain – ensuring that combatants have sufficient logistics support. Two years, later Julianah decided to embark on something different in her career with the Singapore Army, by applying for an appointment with the Guards Formation. 

In a different environment, Julianah was still involved in logistics - the only difference was in the mode of operations. She shared that the Guards Formation allowed her to participate in more military exercises and gave her greater exposure. With great enthusiasm, she added, “I prefer being on the ground where the action is! It suits my personality more.” Julianah’s exposure to a different work environment in the Guards Formation helped her understand the roles that the Singapore Army’s sub-units play, and how they integrate to achieve the Singapore Army’s mission. Equipped with a deeper understanding of these two vocations, Julianah is convinced that it has benefitted her on both personally and professionally.

This confident woman explains that in the Singapore Army, officers are rotated in a timely manner to different jobs to enhance their learning experience and gain exposure. But more than just job rotational opportunities, she is also able to fulfill other adventurous pursuits like the Basic Airborne Course. “I like how jumping off a plane 1,000 feet from the ground, is also part of my work – that looking down and knowing that the only thing stopping you from body planting yourself is a parachute.” said Julianah. The next course she’s looking to conquer would be the Combat Skills course involving a 32-kilometre route march, crossing rivers and weapon handling tests.

On whether she is satisfied with her career choice, Julianah flashed a wide smile and said, “Right now, I don’t see any other organisation that would make me feel this happy. I like the flexibility, where I don’t have to stay in one appointment for too long. It keeps me going.”


What’s it REALLY like to be a woman in the Singapore Army RYDIA

When she was the only employee managing all conference-related activities in the Asia-Pacific region for a leading global commodities provider, Rydia Liang dealt with several high flyers in the oil, gas and precious metals industries and created plenty of opportunities for herself. But none of that was enough to keep her in that job. An appointment as Platoon Commander in the Singapore Army’s Combat Engineers Formation granted her a strong sense of purpose. Rydia saw that the Singapore Army was an organisation that truly appreciates its greatest asset – its people. “The Singapore Army is both a people- oriented and task-focused organisation.” shared Rydia with great enthusiasm.

With life-long learning and continuous improvement as two key career criteria for Rydia, she was delighted the Singapore Army offered numerous developmental courses and opportunities to aid in deepening knowledge and sharpening skills. In her case, Rydia successfully completed the Officer Cadet Course, Engineer Officer Cadet Course and the Engineer Commander Course. The seven-week long Explosive Ordnance Disposal Commander Course (EODCC) became one of Rydia’s most memorable experiences as it kept her at the edge of her seat. Rydia was expected to pass three theoretical tests as well as a series of practical tests. One of the most challenging tests for her was when she was required to identify numerous explosives ordnances with acute accuracy as any minor slip-up will cause her to be out of course. Running long distances in an Explosive Ordnance Disposal suit while clearing an obstacle course were also tasks she had to complete as part of her course. 

On the topic of the Army being male-dominated and often mistaken as being unsuitable for women, Rydia appreciates that the Singapore Army understands the different physical and psychological aspects of both genders and that its people equally. She said, “(In-service personnel) should be proactive in correcting the general misconception that the Army is catered for males. We should focus on educating the public that both genders can and will make significant contributions to the organisation.”

Aside from the Singapore Army providing Rydia with life-long learning and continuous improvement opportunities, it has also granted her time to pursue her personal interests. As an avid diver who has clocked approximately 160 diving trips, Rydia’s structured work-rest training rotation timetable allows her to take days off on low-key periods for her underwater expeditions. Rydia candidly shares that she would not trade this job for the world and said, “At the end of it all, investing in people is much more enriching for me than investing in finances.”

Sarah Grace Lee is a writer for the Army Recruitment Centre. For more information about joining the Singapore Army, go to www.mindef.gov.sg/women


Looking for some more inspiration? Read our story 7 of Singapore’s most successful women tell us the one piece of advice they wish they had known earlier in their careers or this story 6 fears to overcome if you want to succeed in life