Mum who renounced UK citizenship enlists with SAF, says hardest thing is being away from daughter

Lim Min Zhang
The New Paper
July 2, 2018

After turning up on enlistment day at Maju Camp on June 11, TV host Kelly Latimer was almost sent home because her hair was not of a uniform colour.

Undeterred, the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps volunteer (SV) dyed her hair black in an unconventional place - a car park.

"It was my fault and I was given an hour to rectify it or else I'd be sent home," the British-Chinese fitness enthusiast, 31, told The New Paper.

"A 15-minute frantic search, a botched dye job in the car park by my dad and a quick rinse in a toilet sink and I was good to go."

She was one of the 73 SV trainees who were presented with a formation patch to signify the completion of their two-week basic training on June 23 at Maju Camp.

Being away from her husband and daughter was "hands down" the hardest thing about enlisting.

As she was breastfeeding her 18-month-old daughter, she had to pump milk and store it in a freezer twice every day.

On why she wanted to serve, SV(T) Latimer said she felt a duty to protect her country as a new citizen, having renounced her UK citizenship two years ago.

For SV(T) Basu Bedashruti Mitra, 38, overcoming the SAR-21 weapon handling test - on the fourth day of training - was a major challenge.

"The fast-paced instructions on weapon stripping, assembly and Immediate Action drills seemed unfathomable," she said.

That night, the permanent resident who has lived in Singapore for 12 years, told her company commander about her worries as a slow learner. He reassured her that he would not leave anyone behind as long as they did their best.The manager at RHT Corporate Advisory woke up at 4am to review her notes and was coached by the company commander, before she cleared her test.

As to why she volunteered, SV(T) Basu said her daughter, 10, had asked her whether only men did national service.

She told TNP: "This set me thinking - on one hand, women want to be treated equally as men, and on the other, when it comes to national service, we conveniently take a back seat under the pretext of 'we don't have to do it'.

"I thought that I was not setting the right example for my daughter (if I did not serve)."

SVs typically serve 14 days a year. After completing basic training, they do further training as required for their roles.

More than 700 people have enlisted into the corps since 2015.

Check out more photos of Kelly Latimer in the gallery.

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