In Singapore, a male would usually need to serve two years of National Service (NS) before he is operationally ready.
Going through NS is something no Singaporean male can “siam” as it is compulsory due to the Enlistment Act.
Not even for Dr Kenneth Mak, who might be familiar to most as he was on screen most of the time when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its worst.
For those who are still trying to remember, Dr Mak is the Director of Medical Services in the Ministry of Health (MOH) and was the one who constantly gave us daily updates on measures, numbers and plans to tackle the pandemic.
Beyond his very important role as the Director of Medical Services, Dr Mak is also Colonel in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) as well as a Trauma Surgeon.
The man was recently featured in PIONEER, the magazine we all never subscribed but still receive regularly.
Prior to his departure as an NSman in March 2021, Dr Mak served 27 years in the SAF, even volunteering to extend his NS twice, which adds up to another additional 14 years of NSman duties.
Dr Mak is truly the personification of patriotism.
Roles in the SAF
During his NS life, Dr Mak had various roles, which required many different skillsets.
Some notable roles included being the deputy division medical officer in Headquarters of SAF’s 3rd Division from 1994 to 2000 and Commander of the SAF’s logistics support group.
Furthermore, in 2020, Dr Mak also became the Chief of Staff in Headquarters Combat Service and Support Command.
Now, remember: he’s an NSman, and in 2020, he was also fighting COVID-19 on top of his NS duties.
When asked about the importance of NS, Dr Mak told PIONEER that NS had taught him the importance of resilience, which in his case, helped him with his role as the Director of Medical Services.
He further added that the ability to face different challenges also allowed him to step out of his comfort zone, which helped him in managing the COVID-19 crisis.
Extended Service to Contribute More
Usually when people finish their 10 cycles of ICT, they would be happy (or not so happy since there won’t be any more paid chalets) and leave the force.
However, a handful of people just like Dr Mak continues to voluntarily extend their service to contribute more to the nation.
For Dr Mak, he extended his service because each time a milestone came, he saw new opportunities to contribute to the SAF, which he states is the main driving force for his motivation.
Other factors includes the camaraderie he had with his “bros”, stating that working alongside friends and buddies made NS very enjoyable.
Thankful to the SAF
As the Director of Medical Services, Dr Mak was tasked to advise the Multi-Ministry Taskforce and other government agencies in crafting strategies to tackle the pandemic situation.
This role also allowed him to work closely with the SAF and build a close-knit relationship with them.
During pandemic, the SAF helped with the efforts in combating the pandemic by providing manpower in the areas of packing, contact tracing and many other very important jobs.
This allowed the nation to persevere and overcome many tough challenges, which Dr Mak is thankful for.
Still Contributing to the SAF
Dr Mak’s resilience and determination is highly admirable, this is especially so when asked if he was still involved with the SAF even after relinquishing he roles in the army, to which he replied yes as he was still part of the Medical Advisory team.
One thing that Dr Mak wish to have more of was time with his family. He mentions that due to the nature of his job and his commitments, he did not have much time to spend with them.
However, he says that he is thankful, especially to his wife, who is now a housewife, for being understanding and always being there for their kids.
If you’re confused over what ICTs and NS in the army are, watch this to the end:
In the meantime, we’ve a question…how many watches would he receive for his service?
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