Serving his National Service in the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) has inspired WO(1) (NS) Charles Fakhri Baz to contribute actively to the community.
TEXT: ROY SIM
PHOTOS: KELVIN CHIA
Regardless of vocation, the two-year rite of passage for NSFs holds many lessons for Singaporean men. Just ask WO(1) (NS) Charles Fakhri Baz, who is now 33 years old. “I was posted to Paya Lebar Fire Station, where I learnt plenty of life lessons as well as life-saving skills,” he says, looking back at his time in SCDF with gratitude. “I also developed the know-how to think straight and lead under pressure.” He was a Section Commander at the station before being appointed Deputy Platoon Commander and eventually Company Sergeant Major (CSM) of the 21B Rescue Battalion.
The life lessons WO(1) (NS) Charles learnt led him to continue giving back to SCDF even after his scheduled Operationally Ready Date (ORD) in 2006. He extended his NSF term by two months to help the Force in its training mission in Qatar, where SCDF personnel assisted the Middle Eastern state in preparing for the 2006 Asian Games held in the capital, Doha.
WO(1) (NS) Charles’ commitment to service extends to the present: in 2017, he joined the Community Emergency and Engagement Committee of the Kreta Ayer Community Club (CC). He assisted by providing feedback and knowledge to shore up the CC’s emergency preparedness plans. As WO(1) (NS) Charles explains, these plans are key to preparing the community for a crisis of any kind. “In any crisis, the immediate response of the emergency authorities will be to focus on saving lives, reduce suffering and protect property, as well as the environment. Armed with these plans, the People’s Association and its network of Grassroots Organisations will be able to help stabilise the situation and assist the community to return to normalcy — in the shortest possible time.” When asked why he decided to share his expertise with the CC, WO(1) (NS) Charles replies, “I saw it as an opportunity to give back to the community after all that SCDF has taught me over the years.”
FITTING FITNESS INTO HIS LIFE
Another thing WO(1) (NS) Charles picked up from NS is a commitment to fitness. He vividly remembers his pre-enlistment medical check-up: He had just returned to Singapore after spending his childhood in the United Arab Emirates and had weighed a hefty 105kg. “I was classified as severely obese,” he tells Frontline. But through a strict diet and exercise programme with a personal trainer, WO(1) (NS) Charles emerged leaner and stronger, shedding some 20kg in under two months. This enabled him to change his PES status from BP to B — just in time to enlist in SCDF’s Basic Rescue Training Course. “I maintained that weight throughout my two years in the SCDF,” he says.
But as many would attest to, keeping a rigorous exercise regimen as a working adult is challenging. “The kilos have gradually crept back on,” shares WO(1) (NS) Charles, who is now an aviation product engineer. However, he is not discouraged and has started working out at a gym. Helping him stay on track is his wife of five years, who has also signed up for a membership at the same gym. “It’s nice having a gym buddy to motivate me, especially on those days that I feel lazy,” he says. WO(1) (NS) Charles makes it a point to visit the gym at least five times a week. He focuses on weight training, as he finds lifting weights enjoyable and helps him clear his mind. “Adequate rest in between sessions is important, so I focus a different body part every day. This gives the different muscle groups enough time to recover before the next training session.”
“Having good rapport with your teammates is especially important for a rescue unit because when we are deployed to a life-or-death situation, there is no time for indecisiveness or uncertainty.”
WO(1) (NS) Charles Fakhri Baz
WO(1) (NS) Charles has also found other “hacks” to help him keep the kilos off. For example, the avid cook enjoys creating treats that are packed with fibre and protein. “My favourites are protein pancakes and protein ice cream. I can enjoy the process and taste of baking, while avoiding high-calorie and sugary foods,” he explains, adding that he also practises intermittent fasting to boost his metabolism, mental clarity and concentration, as well as controls the amount of calories he consumes in a day. WO(1) (NS) Charles also gives credit for his weight loss and strength gains to his wife, who helps to prepare some of his meals.
Make Exercising Enjoyable
FOLLOW YOUR HEART
That’s the key to making your workout regimen sustainable in the long run, advises WO(1) (NS) Charles. “One of the best things I’ve learnt is to do what you like and skip things that you don’t — but find alternatives. I have always hated running, so instead of doing something I hate, I choose to brisk walk. I go on long walks, sometimes up to 10km, and I find it just as effective for burning off the calories.”
FIND YOUR SPACE
The advent of 24-hour gyms — and even private gym pods — means that working out in a space teeming with sweaty bodies can be a thing of the past. WO(1) (NS) Charles suggests working out either before dawn or close to midnight, when gyms are less likely to be crowded.