Straits Times Jan 14, 2006
SAF officer is top overseas cadet at Sandhurst

By David Boey

Defence Correspondent
ARMY officer Iskandar Abdullah, 20, has won top honours at Britain’s prestigious officer training school after he beat 26 other foreign cadets – including two young princes.

Second Lieutenant Iskandar clinched the sword of honour for the best overseas cadet at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, England at a passing-out parade last month.

Top honours at Sandhurst, which counts Sir Winston Churchill among its alumni, are hard to come by as it accepts only the cream of candidates handpicked to be British army officers and top cadets recommended by selected armies worldwide.

Fellow Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officer, 2nd Lt Michael Lui, 20, also performed well at Sandhurst. He was named best overseas cadet in academic subjects like communications studies as well as defence and international affairs.

Before they set foot in Sandhurst, the pair had to pass a rigorous selection process by SAF officers and had their performance at the Officer Cadet School (OCS) in Singapore scrutinised closely.

Of the annual cohort of about a thousand SAF officers, only two are sent each year to Sandhurst. There, candidates experience the high standard of training, quality military education and tough regimentation for which the academy is renowned.

The two army regulars were part of a cohort of 250 that included 27 cadets from 17 countries, among them princes from Bahrain and Bhutan.

The Ministry of Defence introduced the pair to the media yesterday. They returned recently from their year-long stint and are now posted to infantry battalions.

2nd Lt Iskandar was the first SAF officer in 14 years to be named top overseas cadet at Sandhurst. The Bishan resident lives with his dad, a retired Public Utilities Board worker and homemaker mother and has a 33-year-old brother who is a technician.

He was a former head prefect of Victoria School and a staff sergeant in the National Police Cadet Corps.

He admits he had not contemplated a career in uniform until he attended OCS, where he found his calling after he learned the rudiments of military leadership.

Overall, 2nd Lt Iskandar was placed among the top 15 per cent of his cohort.

He had almost completed his OCS training when he was sent to Sandhurst.

Though almost a commissioned officer, he had to endure officer cadet training all over again with a full training day usually ending at 2am.

Inspections typically began at 5.30am, with Colour Sergeants shouting orders and sending cadets into a flurry of activity.

‘Everything that could be polished had to be polished to a shine,’ he said.

Military exercises took cadets to places like Cyprus and freezing winter marches over rolling hills in Wales.

Asked what kept him going, he said: ‘There were a lot of times when I felt like giving up but I remembered the standards and values that the Singapore army has taught us, and we persevered.’

With his Sandhurst award, 2nd Lt Iskandar hopes to study science at the National University of Singapore. The former St Andrew’s Junior College student did not make the grade the first time he applied.

He said the regimental life at Sandhurst also comes in useful at home.

‘We know how to wash, iron and fold clothes neatly. We’d make pretty good husbands,’ he grinned.

From: OldVic in the previous OVA Forum

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