Dream Come True
The road to West Point was exceptionally long and weary where having a strong mental fortitude played a bigger role than physical fitness. They were evaluated based on their academic performance, leadership potential, physical aptitude and character. The never-ending contests for marathons, spartan relays, pull-ups and sit-ups were done almost daily to select the best candidate.
Academically, he needed to score his SATs as a prerequisite for West Point and consistently maintain a GPA of 3.9 for each test and exam. Additionally, he had to sit through numerous IQ tests, reminiscent of the MENSA tests he took in KYS. Suhanraj shared that SATs would have to be the most challenging test he had to go through.
Nowadays, almost all interviews are conducted in a controlled environment with chairs ready for us to sit and panic in. Back in Suhanraj’s days, he had to answer his interview in a plank position while answering questions followed by 50 push-ups until the next question. This unique style of interviewing was designed to see who would break under pressure in unbearable conditions.
To his surprise, his dream came true that year when he was awarded a scholarship to study at West Point. The newly minted graduate was overjoyed as studying abroad did not even cross his mind previously. After his appointment, Suhanraj braced himself for his next gruelling chapter in the US and dedicated himself to make Malaysia proud.
Earning the scholarship did not mean that Suhanraj was free from performing his best; he had to be at the top of his game at all times. He added that it was no surprise seeing candidates in the batches below him leaving the academy as they were unable to maintain the minimum requirements.
He recalled his fondest memory was seeing his parents in the crowd during his Graduation and Commissioning Ceremony at Michie Stadium, West Point. He recalled experiencing an overwhelming rush of happiness and comfort knowing that his family supported him throughout his entire journey; reminders of whom he wanted to protect.
Leading By Example
After West Point, he returned to Malaysia to serve his nation. The adrenaline-junkie focused on specialising as a military parachutist, or in other words, a paratrooper. Prior to being an instructor of combat, he also earned the distinction of being Jumpmaster where he trained and taught techniques for jumping from airplanes.
Apart from training to parachute in operations, Suhanraj made it his goal to visit schools and inspire changes from within. As a student, paratrooper and instructor, he teaches his soldiers through experience and by implementing techniques he had brought with him.
He was unlike any other instructor as he did not often lead from the front. Due to parachuting and jumping activities, he noticed that his knees were weaker than before which slowed him down during sprinting training. Although his students now outrun him, he reminds himself that leaders do not necessarily lead from the front. Instead, they lead by example.
“In order to thrive in this field, you have to be able to embrace the pain and toughness.”
Suhanraj mentions that observing the unwavering loyalty and brotherhood in his troops remains the highlight of his career. He came to realise that he treasures them to an extent where the people next to him became the people he wished would never be hurt.
Honesty and Developing Character
“A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do.”West Point’s Cadet Honor Code
The above 12 words that have stuck with him until today create a baseline of honest behaviour and nurture a culture that supports character growth. He added that it focuses his attention on the ethical aspects of every situation and then to “choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong” whenever faced with a difficult decision.
He stressed the importance of including a good character in the package as being the top student among your peers but having a bad attitude will not make the cut in any career. In his journey, bouts of discipline and tolerance are a necessity.
His expectations, ambition and character development have become his everyday fuel. He plans to pass on knowledge, resourcefulness and professionalism onto his students in their forthcoming duties.