61-Year-Old Grandmother Is Oldest Female Commander At Basic Military Training Centre

“Eh my grandmother can run faster than you!” is something that many recruits hear during their National Service (NS). While many doubt the validity of the statement, this grandmother proves that there may be some truth to it after all.

Margaret Leon might seem like an unassuming grandma, but there is so much more to her. At 61, she is the oldest female commander at the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC), Pioneer shares.

She’s an encik in the SAF — a female one.

1WO Leon (left) with her family and grandson

61-year-old female ‘encik’ leads route marches

1st Warrant Officer (1WO) Leon is a Platoon Commander in BMTC.

Despite being in her sixties, her age does not hinder her from leading route marches while carrying a 20kg field pack.


She also gets down into the dirt to demonstrate how to dig a trench in the jungle.

61-year-old female ‘encik’ trains hard as an example

Apart from her ‘combat skills’, 1WO Leon is also as fit as it gets. In fact, 1WO Leon has attained gold for her IPPT every year — a prestigious award that eludes most SAF servicemen.

1WO Leon’s fitness is the fruit of her “pure hard work”. She trains thrice a week in the morning before joining her recruits on their morning run. Outside of work, she also exercises with her husband on the weekends.


Recruits are also spurred on by her fitness,

I’m doing the same exercises as my boys, so if they can’t do it, I’ll say, “Ancient lady can do, young boys cannot do?”

This, she says, motivates her “weakest boys” to do better.

Recruits see her as a “Mother Goose”

1WO Leon also goes the extra mile for her recruits even outside of training. She writes to them in their weekly reflections and sometimes gives advice too, which has touched many people. She even provides a listening ear for those who need it.

The 61-year-old says that she’s “blessed” to be able to make in difference in their lives and will continue to do so.

Extended her contract twice

When 1WO Leon was 55, she harboured thoughts of retiring but was asked to continue by her commanding officer, who says that she “always has a passion to impart her knowledge to the guys”. She went on to extend her contract twice.


In 2018, she volunteered to serve as an instructor at BMTC after 42 years of service in the army.

An inspiring role model to all

1WO Leon is a true inspiration and role model for many people, especially for recruits and trainees who are undergoing intense training.

Because if someone who’s 3 times their age can do it, there is little to no reason why they can’t.

1WO Leon also serves as an example that the SAF isn’t an organisation that is exclusive to males.

If you’re a female who is keen on a career in the SAF, give it a go! If an “ancient lady” can do it, so can you.

Featured image adapted from Pioneer.