Going Beyond The Call Of Duty

by Patrick Liew on September 18, 2011

During my talks, I would sometimes ask the guys, “How many of you looked forward to going to the army? How many of you were excited about becoming a soldier?”*

Oftentimes, I would only get blank stares in response. Some of them I suspected might think I was crazy to consider that as a possibility.

Although serving the army had become a rite of passage for Singaporeans, many still abhorred the idea of being drafted as a uniformed personnel.

To the Chinese, this was particularly hard to accept. There is a Chinese saying that ‘A good son should never serve as a soldier.’

I decided since I did not have a choice, I would make full use of my time.

I was committed to live up to the HSR maxim, ‘Anything worth doing is worth doing with passion and excellence.’ I would love the army and serve it to the best of my abilities.

As I look back as a retired soldier, I am proud that I had a wonderful time. I have learned so much from military trainings. I believed it has made me a better person.

I was very blessed to be selected to undergo the Officer Cadet School (OCS)’s training, one of the toughest military trainings – physically, mentally and emotionally. It started me on my journey to become an officer and a gentleman.

However, there is a dark side to the OCS. Despite good plans and intentions of the leaders, there were many unprofessional practices and ill-treatments.

I have seen many immatured officers abused their authority and relished torturing their men. They seemed to believe their job was to tear the men apart and put them together to be better humans.

Sometimes, they broke the men and left them in pieces. Like Humpty Dumpty, these men might not be put together properly again.

I am thankful for these inhuman and other trainings. They helped to improve my patience, tolerance and perseverance. I needed to develop these qualities to survive and succeed in an imperfect and unfair world.

Because I chose to play up the positives rather than dwell on the negatives, I benefitted from the many virtues in the army.

Yes, there were many strengths and advantages in serving the armed forces. Sadly, it was the few black sheep that have sought to spoil the image of a great organisation.

However, I realized even in the worst situation there were invaluable lessons to help me improve my mental fortitude and character.

There was a military exercise that I would never forget for the rest of my life.

We had to conduct a search and ‘destroy’ mission to reach the ‘enemy’s position,’ flush the ‘enemies’ out, and run all the way back to base camp.

We were on the move literally for about 24 hours. And I had to carry a heavy 84 mm recoilless rifle and subsequently, carry a ‘wounded’ soldier on my back most of the way.

It was a feat that I would never thought was possible but I did it. The army gave me many such opportunities to confirm that I operated way below my potential.

Military trainings proved that our Creator has blessed each and every one of us with a vast potential. It reinforced in my mind again and again that I could achieve far more than I could ever dream or imagine.

When I responded positively to every problem, it inspired me to push myself beyond what I thought was my limit. I could run the extra mile and stretch myself to scale new heights.

For example, while training to be an officer, I was also appointed to be the editor of the OCS’s magazine. In addition, I was also asked to organize many social functions. These involvements took up a lot of my time and energy and added undue pressure to my highly-stressed life.

For many nights when my mates were asleep, I would still be working deep into the night to complete my military and extramural assignments. It was just me slogging away with a lighted candle in the midst of darkness.

I had little sleep and had to work extra hard – but my spirit was not broken. I surprised myself by doing well in the OCS and even managed to enjoy myself.

I also discovered; as I went through every challenge, I needed to be cool, calm and collected. In that way, I would not make unwise moves.

By being emotionally stable, I would not only make better decisions, I could also lead my men in a more effective way and to achieve better results.

The army taught me in practical ways how to be a good leader. I learned that it was not good enough if my men obeyed me because of my rank and position.

I needed to love and serve them. I must win their hearts so that they would charge passionately with and behind me against the ‘enemies.’

I have to lead by example and that is the best way to inspire my men. I must lead myself before I can lead others.

It began with simple acts of kindness, care and concern. For example, during meal times, I would make sure my men’s stomachs were fed before mine. I must always have their interests in my heart.

I realized if I reached out to be a friend, my men would also stretch out their hands of friendship to me. These friendships have enriched my life more than any modern day comforts.

Do you know my reservist mates still meet regularly and our camaderie continue to remain strong even though we have completed our service more than twenty years ago?

We made the tough military life a fun-filled, exciting and memorable experience. And, boy!, I had so much fun.

The OCS was modeled after the West Point Military Academy in USA and adopted the same motto, ‘Duty, Honour and Country.’

This motto has left an indelible impression on my heart. I should have a sense of duty to the people around me.

I aimed to live my life with honour. I endeavoured to serve my country well because I owed a lot of what I have to her.

So, until the next battle against evil, this is Captain (Ret) Patrick Liew flying off.  Up, Up, And Away! ….


*All male Singapore citizens and second-generation permanent residents who have reached the age of 18 are liable to be conscripted as full-time National Servicemen.

It does not matter where we come from, we should always be proud and ready to serve our country.

I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

Please go to ‘Notes’ found below my profile picture.

Visit my Inspiration blog at http://liewinspiration.wordpress.com

Visit my Transformation blog at http://hsrpatrickliew.wordpress.com

Please read them and continue to teach me.

Life is FUNtastic!


Question: How can we go beyond our normal call of duty when we are assigned a task?


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