She has seen ships of all sorts coming and going around Singapore waters, but never that she’d imagine she would have the opportunity to be on one of them! Staff Sergeant Lim Zhi Yu Joie from Fairfield Methodist School (Secondary)’s National Cadet Corps (NCC) Sea Unit Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) experienced a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sail for ten days with the Republic of Singapore Navy. On her voyage from Cam Ranh, Vietnam, to Singapore, she faced challenges and victories that she could never have imagined on land. Joie shares her story.
As part of the Midshipmen Sea Training Deployment (MSTD), a mandatory course Navy personnel attend before being commissioned as Naval Officers, Joie and the other cadets discovered that what they had studied on the sea proficiency syllabus barely scratched the surface of live naval operations.
They learned firsthand how Navy personnel overcome obstacles faced on the open sea, such as evacuation procedures, plugging leaks, and firefighting. Seeing theory turn into practice was extremely rewarding for Joie.
She even witnessed live-firing exercises onboard, which awed her far more than the live firings she had observed before. “The walls around us and the floors beneath our feet shook with the immense power of each gunshot. The gunshots were deafening even from within the bridge of the ship where we stood watching,” she said, enthusing about the chance to see a missile successfully hit its target.
According to Joie, the friendly and warm atmosphere onboard the ship has encouraged her to make new friends with other cadets.
“I was apprehensive at first because I didn’t know anyone. Later I found out, everyone was feeling the same. There was only one female cadet other than myself and I recalled how she had stretched her hand out to me, introducing herself when we first met. We bonded right away and soon, we were inseparable,” said Joie.
The camaraderie onboard inspired her, showing her that the Navy provided a second family for everyone far from home. “It was a unique experience being thrown together from different walks of life,” she said, “but we returned to Singapore as a tight bunch.”
As the saying goes, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
The midshipmen and officers maintained their remarkable fitness with a robust physical regime, and the cadets practiced some exercises alongside them. One officer led them in jogging around the deck. The cadets, unused to running on a rocking ship, all grew nauseated, but they encouraged each other and persevered to complete their workout. The resilience they built then helped carry them through the whole trip.
“It brought a whole new side to physical training!” she said.
A Lesson In Graciousness And Gratitude
While preparing for an event hosted for the foreign delegates onboard the RSS Endurance ship, a midshipman left a strong impression on her. Close to midnight, when the cadets needed to prepare their dress uniforms for the event the next day, the midshipman sacrificed her few, precious hours of sleep to not only locate the necessary supplies but iron the clothes for them.
“I was touched by her kind gesture and extremely grateful,” said Joie smilingly.
To express their gratitude to the naval personnel for their hospitality and assistance, the cadets decided to perform a Freestyle Drill routine for them. They barely knew how to choreograph a routine from scratch and they struggled at practice sessions. From choosing a song, choreographing unique hand movements to match the music tempos and arranging drills to best fit everyone, it was hard work but the group pulled it off. Joie noticed the value of working as a team and how communication, understanding and respecting one’s view point is important.
A Rewarding Learning Experience
Through the years in NCC, Joie did not only gained friendships but she was grateful that she grew in character and learned more than in textbooks and classrooms. Initially, she didn’t even know that NCC (Sea) was offered as a CCA.
“I remembered being intrigued and Googling the CCA on the school’s website during the CCA selection period. I read about the plethora of activities that NCC cadets undergo such as scuba diving, live firing, kayaking and dragon-boat training. I was excited when I found out that I will be donning the pixelated blue uniform just like the Navy!” said Joie.
Joie also shared how her parents were initially concerned about the physical demands of the CCA but they eventually became very supportive after seeing the merits of the CCA on her.
“My parents were worried that I might return home too exhausted to start on any homework and reminded me about having a good balance between studies, CCA and time for myself,” she said.
For Joie, NCC has moulded her into the person she is today. She has gained invaluable experiences from overseas trips such as MSTD, hiking at Mount Ophir and learned lifelong values in the “Sea Ohana” annual Kayaking Competition as she competes against students from the other schools.
“In future, I would like to share my passion for NCC with other cadets. I want to serve as an Instructor for Freestyle Drills courses. Fear not and dive into the world of the NCC (Sea)!”