SINGAPORE-It took Red Lions member Second Warrant Officer (2WO) Russell Ong two years of skydiving before he got over his fear of heights and started loving the sport.

Recalling his initial motivation to skydive, 2WO Ong said it was the desire to fit in with the rest of his commando team that led him to take the leap.

“When you don the red beret, there’s pride,” said 2WO Ong, 39. “You just want to be a part of them, part of the family and to be able to be a skydiver,”

The commando has come a long way. This National Day, 2WO Ong will freefall with his fellow Red Lions from over 3,000m to land in the Padang.

Speaking to the press on Saturday (July 20), 2WO Ong said it took time – and experience-before he began to enjoy the thrill of skydiving.

“I just had to overcome it, I had the assurance of my instructor back then, so I jumped out knowing that I’m safe and fine,” said 2WO Ong.

He is part of a team of nine Red Lions, the Singapore Army’s parachutists, who will take part in this year’s parade. The team is led by First Warrant Officer (1WO) Melvin Ho, 46.

They will freefall out of the helicopter one by one, and come together in mid-air to form a ring by linking their arms together.

This traditional ring formation is known as a “bomb blast”, and “looks like a flower opening up”, said 1WO Ho. “This year happens to be our Bicentennial, so we wanted everything to be back to the good old days… so this time we thought we’d make it simple… just to get back the old memories.”

At a separate event with parade participants on Saturday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that commemorating the Bicentennial is just one focus of this year’s parade.

It will also feature the Merdeka Generation, in light of the Merdeka Generation package, he said at Suntec Convention Centre.

Dr Ng said it would be inherently difficult to try to portray 200 years through a show, adding that the parade is not meant to be the main event for the Bicentennial, as is too short. Said Dr Ng: “I think it’s a good balance, and I think the messages there resonate with what commemorating a Bicentennial means.”

Additional reporting by Lim Min Zhang