BEING selected just last Friday to lead the People's Action Party (PAP) contingent in its march at the National Day Parade (NDP) was a surprise for first-time Member of Parliament (MP) Patrick Tay.
"I was shocked as I never imagined myself being part of an NDP marching contingent again," he toldmy paperin an e-mail interview.
Mr Tay, 40, marched in the Officer Cadet School contingent at the NDP during his full-time national-service days.
Still, the MP for Nee Soon Group Representation Constituency (GRC) said he was "elated to be selected and given this opportunity, as it is a proud moment for me and my fellow party comrades".
Despite the short notice, he was quickly brought up to speed by his trainers and led the march at last Saturday's NDP National Education (NE) show.
However, it was difficult for him to have to turn down requests to attend grassroots events over the next few weeks to prepare for the Aug 9 parade.
Among the challenges he faces in leading the 42-man PAP contingent is keeping the right pace and footing.
But he noted that "being in uniformed organisations for many years and knowing most drill commands help a great deal". Mr Tay was with the Singapore Police Force from 1995 to 2002.
The notice to be the contingent commander went to Mr Tay after Mr Alex Yam, 31, who was originally chosen for the role, was advised by his doctor last Friday that he was medically unfit to march.
Mr Yam, an MP for Chua Chu Kang GRC, suffered an arm injury earlier this year. He was initially selected because he is a first-time MP and a Young PAP adviser, said Mr Teo Ser Luck, chairman of Young PAP.
Mr Teo said Mr Tay was asked to stand in due to his marching experience while in the police force.
Among the reserves for the role of contingent commander is Ms Tin Pei Ling, 28, an MP for Marine Parade GRC.
Mr Teo had asked Ms Tin to try her best and cover for Mr Yam. She agreed but had, "very early on, made clear that she could not commit to some of the critical rehearsals", said Mr Teo.
While Ms Tin has not marched before, she told my paper that she began practising earlier this year and has attended full-day Saturday rehearsals.
"I know that it takes a lot of practice to perfect the march, but the time spent is all worth it," she said, adding that being able to march was an honour.
While she was briefly out of sync when marching at the NE show on July 14, Ms Tin recovered quickly. She explained her "pace was slightly fast" and "she could not hear the counting of steps from the back for a while".
But Ms Tin said she immediately changed her step when someone in the contingent told her about it.
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