“Ang Moh” Singaporean served NS, guess who complained?

By December 19, 2017Current

TL;DR – There’s just no pleasing some people.


Even though Max West, who is half-American and half-Singaporean Chinese, grew up in Singapore, he had been isolated from the “authentic” Singaporean culture. That’s because he studied in the Singapore American School. So when he enlisted in national service (NS), he stuck out like a sore thumb.

He was just one of two “ang-mohs” in his batch at the Naval Diving Unit.

As if that’s not bad enough, Max didn’t know much Singlish or Hokkien. His Malay wasn’t any better. He was arrowed to be the class-in-charge during their first week of Basic Military Training (BMT). So he had to give commands. Yes, in Malay. But his  pronunciation of the Malay drill commands was so poor that everyone burst out into laughter.

He could have just given up. Slacked off. Bochap. Idle. But he didn’t. He bia (worked) very hard. And eventually became an officer.

Now Max is studying in Princeton University. He often gets asked he would return to serve should war break out in Singapore. He replied:

“Singapore is my home, and the Singapore military is the one that gave me the most meaningful experience of my life. To defend my country is an honour, and I will defend it without hesitation.”

Max sounds more Singaporean than some Singaporeans I know. At least he’s made the most of his NS and contributed in his way to building this nation during 2.5 years.

Eh wait. Why 2.5 years?

NS not 2 years only meh? You see ah… Max was so siao on (read: enthusiastic and zealous to the max) that he volunteered to extend his NS by six months.

Yeaps, he’s definitely Singaporean by any accounts, and deserve respect. His story is one to be celebrated.

Max went on to publish a book on his army days, How to Forge a Frogman, and he’s seen here at a book signing event (via)

Some people are just negative…

But apparently not everyone thinks so. This was a comment left on the ST’s Facebook post about Max:

Comment left on ST’s Facebook post about Max West

In case you can’t see the image, it says:

“FT Son always be officer. Local always be 3SG and men. Thanks for the recognition”

That comment really triggered me. There are so many things wrong with that comment.

How did that person conclude that “FT Son” always become officers? Does he have the statistics to back that up? I am sure there are some Singaporeans with foreigner parents who don’t become officers during NS. And I definitely know some “locals” (yes, born and bred here in Singapore) who are officers, so his comment that “Local always be 3SG and men” is confirmed wrong.

Thankfully got reasonable replies

And, as a reply to that comment pointed out, no one gets handed the rank of an officer just like that. It is earned  through your blood , sweat and tears. That stupid comment demeans the thousands who worked hard to become officers.

Also, as another reply pointed out, we don’t just give recognition to officers. The reply said:

“Officer, specs and man all play different roles. They are all equally important as a Singaporean son. We respect commanders not only because of the rank and chain of command, but also their capability and sacrifices. Inversely there are many man at critical roles. Man (drivers) are the ones moving the army, they are the one administering first aid when the doctor is not around. They are the one bringing food rations for the entire battalion. So no. Every role is important and every one of them are done by our Singaporean sons.”

And that’s a fantastic point.

What did the comment mean “FT Son always be officer”? So what if Max is the son of an FT? He’s Singaporean. He did his national service. He was in NDU. That’s a super tough unit to be in. He probably shed sweat, tears, and even blood in the service of Singapore. Does that still not make him Singaporean?

We really don’t need such negativity

Singapore certainly doesn’t need any more comments like the one he made.


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Author CRC

Working on a startup is a scary crazy process. To destress, I write random stuff.

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