Malaysian students head to the US service academies

Ready to learn and serve: Newbill and Mejar-Jen Zaidan (both in the centre) taking a photo with (from left) Qarin Loqman, Zarif, Edlan Mikyad and Muhamad Danish during the send-off ceremony in Kuala Lumpur. — ONG SOON HIN/The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Coming up close with the country’s armoured vehicles and vessels, and watching soldiers in action inspired a group of young Malaysians to join the nation’s armed forces.

Now, their passion to serve the country, outstanding character and excellent academic performance at the Royal Military College (RMC) and National Defence University of Malaysia (UPNM) have earned them places in the United States service academies.

There, for the next four years, they will undergo academic studies, particularly in the sciences, and military training to become future Malaysian military officers and leaders.

Kuala Lumpur native Edlan Mikyad Ahmad Syamly, 20, said hearing the stories from his uncle, who is a commando, jumping from high altitudes and into the jungle, inspired him to one day join the elite parachute regiment of the Malaysian Army.

The student from UPNM has been accepted by the US Military Academy in West Point, New York.

He said he felt like he had “been granted a golden ticket to study at the prestigious service academy”.

Fellow UPNM student Zarif Mohd Zamrin, 20, said he aspired to be an air force fighter pilot upon being commissioned into the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

A dream he has harboured since first seeing “a beast” of a fighter jet back in Form Four.

Zarif, who comes from a small family, also said he never thought he would get the chance to study abroad.

He said he “ran around the corridor” when he got the news that he had been appointed to the US Air Force Academy in Colorado.

Muhamad Danish Imran Zainudin, 18, also felt like he got the call to serve in the armed forces the day he saw a battleship as a little boy.

The eldest of four siblings from Kulai, Johor, graduated from RMC, where he was Sjn Putera within his company and a chairman of the school’s English Debate Club.

One of those selected from RMC, Qarin Loqman Safriza, 18, said: “It has always been my dream to be a marine engineer and hearing about working with battleships when you join the navy sparked my passion.”

The multi-talented high achiever was awarded the Commandant’s Award and led his company as a Senior Under Officer to win the Commandant’s Company Award.

He is a student leader, plays competitive national and international tennis, possesses a French language diploma and plays the clarinet in his school’s wind orchestra in music competitions.

He said he planned to study naval architecture and marine engineering at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

US Embassy Kuala Lumpur chargé d’affaires Michael Newbill said less than 20% of international applicants from 69 countries were selected for the 60 spots available at three of their service academies.

During the send-off ceremony for the students at the Official Residence of the US Ambassador to Malaysia yesterday, he said the students would have the chance to serve in military missions during the summer and other free time, either at sea or on land.

“All four of these young men have earned these positions based on merit,” he said, adding that 36 Malaysians have graduated from the US service academies since 1971.

“Historically, Malaysia has done very well in terms of admissions to the service academies over the years. There are five there right now,” said Newbill.

Malaysian Armed Forces Defence Operations and Training assistant chief of staff Mejar-Jen Datuk Zaidan Atan said they had always viewed the US service academies as the most prestigious and highly competitive training institutions in the world that provide professional education to future military leaders.

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