Singapore Government

TAKING PRIDE IN YOUR WORK

Innovative ideas and solutions for stretching the defence dollar were recognised at this year’s PRIDE (Productivity and Innovation in Daily Efforts) Day.

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31 Oct 2014, 1630 hours (GMT +8)
At night, it can often be mistaken for an unidentified flying object (UFO) that will thrill sci-fi enthusiasts. But in reality, the 74K Aerostat is an important combat support asset that assists the US Army in maintaining their vigilant guard. It does not fire missiles, fly at high speeds or drop bombs. Instead, the 74K Aerostat floats casually in the skies - a helium-filled balloon anchored to the ground. Despite its unimposing appearance, the giant contraption (which resembles a plain white airship) plays an integral role in the military. Unlike the hot air balloon which is often used for recreational joyrides, the 74K Aerostat System is primarily a combat support element that serves as the main core of the United States (US) Army's Persistent Threat Detection System (PTDS). As the term persistent suggests, this aerostat can be operational for more than 20 continuous days, far longer than conventional surveillance aircraft. Aerostats also have the advantage of being less resource intensive to operate. With an operational radar range of over 160km and operational altitude of 1,500m, the aerostat provides soldiers with knowledge of the ground situation in real time, as well as communications assistance while remaining out of range of most enemy threats. How it differs from ground-based radars is that an airborne radar's low-level coverage is better because it is not obstructed by obstacles on the ground such as high-rise buildings. Developed by Lockheed Martin, the 74K Aerostat's low-level coverage, which allows it to detect surface and low-flying targets, also complements the surveillance capability of ground-based radars. Design and payloads The high buoyancy of helium (a gas much lighter than air) allows the aerostat to remain afloat. This aerostatic lift is what differentiates it from traditional aircraft which utilise aerodynamic lift - where a part of the aircraft is moving through the surrounding air mass to lift the craft. To maintain stability, the aerostat is always pointed into the wind. The wings and fins also contribute to the stability of the airship. As its name suggests, the entire hull volume of the 74K Aerostat is 74,000 cubic feet (2,100 cubic metres). As a combat support facility, the US Army's aerostat consists of multiple payloads that aid in its surveillance capabilities. One of these payloads is the AN/ZPY-1 STARLite radar. This small tactical synthetic aperture radar designed by Northrop Grumman is able to spot slight movements in the vicinity, as well as detect targets and track their movement. It is also equipped with an MX-20 payload, a long-range, multi-sensor, multi-spectral tracking system. The system can carry up to seven different types of sensors at a time, allowing the user to select which sensor to use depending on the operational requirements. Another sensor installed on the aerostat is the Unattended Transient Acoustic Measurement and Signature Intelligence Sensor, which can detect the point of origin and impact of missiles, mortars and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Supporting the warfighter The 74K Aerostat is anchored to a mooring platform, and through copper wires and fibre-optic cables in the tether, data gathered from the multiple sensor payloads will be transmitted back to the Ground Control Station for sense-making. Information collected will then be disseminated to US Army ground commanders via a network known as the Distributed Common Ground System-Army. This allows ground commanders to have a real-time perspective of the situation on the ground, facilitating decision-making and allowing peace-time operations such as convoy protection or countering IEDs to be more effective. Aside from transferring data, the tether also supplies power to the various payloads on the airship. System deployments Over the years since 2003, more than 60 PTDS aerostats have been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan by the US Army, and the system has evolved into a multi-mission surveillance platform equally adept at protecting convoys in transit as providing information on enemy troop movements. On the important role which the PTDS plays in the US Army, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Parodi, Product Manager for the US Army's Meteorological and Target Identification Capabilities, said: The PTDS has proven to be a great asset for soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines as well as our Coalition partners serving in harm's way. They have been instrumental in providing mission overwatch, detecting IEDs and assisting in the capture of numerous high-value targets and weapons caches. With the increasing use of aerostats and similar lighter-than-air systems in the military, perhaps the airship can finally gain recognition as an invaluable combat support asset and shake off its reputation as just another UFO.
31 Oct 2014, 1140 hours (GMT +8)
It was one of the most diverse groups of graduands at the Goh Keng Swee Command and Staff College (GKS CSC) Command and Staff Course (CSC) 2014 graduation ceremony, held at the Istana on 30 Nov. For the first time, three Senior Warrant Officers (SWOs) participated in the CSC (Executive) course. And out of the 207 graduands, there were 15 international officers from 11 countries - including the first from Myanmar - as well as an officer from the Singapore Police Force. Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen, who officiated at the ceremony, commended the college for developing exemplary military leaders who care for the country and the men they lead. He noted that the presence of the international officers and SWOs adds to the stature of our courses, and participants benefit from hearing their diverse views and experiences. (The participation of SWOs) in the CSC (Executive) course recognises the capabilities of our SWOs and the larger responsibilities that we have asked them to shoulder, he added. SWO Tamizh Kannan, one of the three warrant officer graduands, agreed with Dr Ng. He said that his experience in the Singapore Armed Forces - almost 30 years - was invaluable in helping him during the CSC (Executive). (My years in the army) has taught me resilience and has given me a lot of exposure. I was able to overcome (the challenges I faced in) this course largely due to all the past learning, training and exposure that the SAF has provided me with all these years. For Major (MAJ) Chuah Meng Soon, the top Navy graduand for CSC, his family's support was vital in helping him to do well. One of the largest challenges that I faced was time management. I was taking all six master's credits, so (it was hard trying to) balance the course's requirements and spending time with my family. I am really thankful for their support and understanding. On one of the biggest takeaways he had from the course, MAJ Chuah said: In our careers, we are usually being managed by our seniors, or managing our juniors. This course gave me the setting to hone my peer leadership as we were all of the same rank, yet had different areas of expertise which needed to be maximised. (I found that) peer leadership was…really about understanding the dynamics of your team - building trust and relationships. Among the 49 National Servicemen (NSmen) graduands was MAJ (NS) Ryan Tan Jian Yuan, who works as Head of Strategy and Enterprise Risk Management at Singapore Mass Rapid Transport. He noted that the level of commitment required from the NSmen was great, saying: CSC (NS) is a 10-month course, with the residential phase being five and a half weeks. We had many assignments and (often) had to stay late in camp. It was not easy, for sure. It takes you out of your comfort zone and puts you into a place where you have to learn and pass certain milestones. However, MAJ (NS) Tan had no regrets in going for the CSC, and said that it was exactly this environment of high standards which pushed them towards excellence. Personally, the hardest part was to understand the broader perspectives of those around me. I am an Armour officer by vocation, but through the course I came to realise how the different vocations, and even how the different Services, worked together. Also present at the graduation ceremony was Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Ng Chee Meng, Chief of Air Force Major-General Hoo Cher Mou, Chief of Navy Rear-Admiral Lai Chung Han, Deputy Commissioner of Police Hoong Wee Teck, and senior commanders of the SAF.
31 Oct 2014, 0915 hours (GMT +8)
Having lived abroad for more than half of his 20 years, Corporal (CPL) Niall Yang Sohan is an intriguing mash-up of east-meets-west. Following his diplomat dad around the world, he has lived in Jakarta (Indonesia), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and San Francisco (United States). He is now doing his National Service (NS) as a military policeman (MP). As an MP, he does anti-riot training, conducts spot-checks and is part of parades for visiting dignitaries. One of the things that NS has taught me is to persevere - you have to put effort into something to see it through, for it to bear fruit. My dad served NS in the Signals Formation. His stories about NS always made it out to be very tough. If anything, those stories only psyched me up for a challenge. Not like he shies away from difficulties. He speaks three languages - English, French and German - and is learning a fourth (Russian). He makes it a point to pore over Russian texts for at least two hours every Sunday and maintain his fluency in French and German. And did we mention that he is also an accomplished classical pianist? His next challenge is to read Economics at Stanford University in the US. And after that? I'll go to grad school. Beyond that I will take what fate gives me and play it by ear.
30 Oct 2014, 2300 hours (GMT +8)
Innovation has always been at the heart of the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), and this has enabled them to achieve more with less. Said DSTA's Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) Hor Gar Yin: The focus on innovation has empowered our staff to push technological boundaries and deliver cutting-edge capabilities to MINDEF (Ministry of Defence) and the SAF (Singapore Armed Forces). A recent example of DSTA's contributions to defence is the Multi-Mission Range Complex (MMRC). The first of its kind in the world, the MMRC is a three-storey indoor firing range complex which allows servicemen to conduct different shooting missions and scenarios. Soldiers can thus complete their day and night shoots within a day, as well as carry on with shooting practice during rainy weather. This development also helped to save up to 22 hectares of land by housing seven live-firing indoor ranges in one building. For their innovation management capabilities, DSTA was awarded the Innovation Excellence Award (I-Award) at the Raffles City Convention Centre on 30 Oct. This award is part of the Business Excellence Awards 2014 given by the Singapore Quality Award (SQA) Governing Council. Introduced in 1994, the Singapore Quality Award (SQA) is the pinnacle award for business excellence in Singapore. DSTA was among seven organisations which bagged the top awards this year. Other winners included Nestlé Singapore (Pte) Ltd - Jurong Factory, UOB Group Channels and Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Noting that DSTA worked innovation into our work processes by design, Mr Hor elaborated that their iLEAP (imagination, Leadership, Environment, Appreciation and Process) Innovation Framework provided a robust and systematic approach for staff to be innovative and come up with new ways to streamline processes and increase productivity. For its strong innovation culture and solutions, DSTA has several awards under its belt. On 29 Oct, it clinched the Most Innovative Project (Silver) Award at the Public Service 21 Excellence through Continuous Enterprise and Learning Convention. DSTA also helped to develop Decisive Combat, a serious game designed to develop critical thinking skills in junior military leaders. The game was named the Best Game in the Government category at the Serious Games Global Showcase Challenge held in the United States from 2 to 5 December 2013. The I-Award marked a key milestone in DSTA's journey towards excellence, said Mr Hor. Moving forward, DSTA will continue to harness the power of imagination in our staff…and we hope to motivate our defence engineers to seek new breakthroughs and innovative solutions to meet the defence needs of MINDEF and the SAF.
30 Oct 2014, 1700 hours (GMT +8)
Haze levels hit a record high last year, and Singaporeans rallied to help one another pull through the crisis. Information management and coordination were key in tackling the haze situation, and this was what inspired a team of Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) to create an award-winning mobile app for commanders to better communicate with parents. Team leader Corporal First Class (CFC) John Tan remembers how, when he was a recruit, all his Basic Military Training instructors were kept occupied by endless phone calls from concerned parents. I thought, why not create an app since everyone carries a smartphone nowadays, said CFC Tan, an Ops clerk in 10th Battalion, Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence (10C4I). By pushing newsfeed updates like cancellation of training (because of the haze) to parents, our commanders can be freed up to attend to pressing matters. In August this year, CFC Tan teamed up with five NSFs from Headquarters Commando for the inaugural Mobile App Challenge, and their eEngagement app emerged the winner. It allows commanders to update parents on their sons' training activities, cancellation of training, changes in book-out timing as well as other information. Parents can also submit questions which commanders can reply directly through the app. Jointly organised by the Ministry of Defence's (MINDEF's) Information Systems Division, and Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), the competition was open to all MINDEF and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel. CFC Tan and and co-team leader Lance Corporal (LCP) Tan Wei Yang received the award from Major-General (MG) (NS) Ng Chee Khern, Permanent Secretary (Defence Development), on 29 Oct at the 12th MINDEF Chief Information Officer (CIO) Seminar held at The Chevrons. In his address, MG (NS) Ng said the competition provided a platform for crowd sourcing of mobile app ideas and developing working prototypes quickly. A total of 125 entries were received. The top 10 teams were then each paired with a commercial developer to create a prototype of the app within a month. Navigation aid Among the apps are those which aim to improve operations within the SAF. For instance, a team from the 1st SAF Transport Battalion (1 SAF TPT BN) developed the Steering Force app to help transport operators familiarise themselves with their driving routes. Before setting off, these drivers can use the app to view approved routes to and from all SAF camps for each type of vehicle. They have to stick to these routes because heavy SAF vehicles such as the 5-ton trucks can only travel on certain roads. The app is useful because it is not possible for the transport operators, especially the newer guys who just completed their training, to be familiar with all the routes, explained team leader Captain Derek Liew, an Officer Commanding in 1 SAF TPT BN. Transport operators can also take snapshots of the odometer reading using their smartphones to submit their mileage record electronically. This will help to improve accuracy and cut down paper work. Faster dissemination Another notable app is Snap2Send, which is designed to speed up planning for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. Defence Executive Officer (DXO) Mr J. Srieedar from the SAF Mapping Unit noted that HADR mission planners often had to wait for up to two days for the advance party, also known as the needs assessment survey team, on the ground to fly back to Singapore with critical photos and information such as potential heli-landing zones, routes to reach the disaster zones and suitable sites for medical posts. However, speed is of the essence in such relief operations. With that in mind, he developed a camera app for users to send back photos - tagged with GPS coordinates - in real time. They can also describe the situation as shown in the photo and send the voice recording to the mission planners. As Wifi and 4G or 3G networks are often down in a disaster zone, the transmission is done via a portable satellite device that is paired with a smartphone or tablet. The information and photos are sent via satellite and the mission planners can view them in real time, said the 31 year-old mapping specialist. All top 10 apps will be considered for further development, and use in MINDEF and the SAF.
29 Oct 2014, 2130 hours (GMT +8)
It is easy to be beaten down by a problem and feel helpless in the midst of difficulties. But not Military Expert (ME) 2-2 Lim Zhi Cheng, who always looks for the silver lining in a dark cloud. Every problem I see gives me an opportunity to make improvements and do better, said the PS21 ExCEL (Public Service 21 Excellence through Continuous Enterprise and Learning) Awards Innovation Champion (Gold) winner. He is a Master Technician Trainer in 1st Army Maintenance Base. For his vision and far-sightedness, ME2-2 Lim received the prestigious award - the highest honour among the PS21 ExCEL awards - from Head of Civil Service and Permanent Secretary (Finance), Mr Peter Ong. The spark of an idea, together with the hard work of public officers, helps the public service to meet that challenges we face today and the issues that lie tomorrow, Mr Ong told award winners and attendees in his opening speech to the PS21 ExCEL Convention 2014, held at Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) on 29 Oct. PS21, the Singapore Public Service's change movement, encourages public officers to embrace change and work improvements, so as to keep the Public Service at the leading edge of contributing towards Singapore's success. Organised by the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), this was the first time that the PS21 ExCEL Convention was held in conjunction with MINDEF's annual Productivity and Innovation in Daily Efforts (PRIDE) Day 2014, which took place the day before in NYP. The Singapore Public Service's change movement, PS21 encourages public officers to embrace change and work improvements. As team leader, ME2-2 Lim shares his ideas with the rest of his WITS (Work Improvement Teams) members, who work together to bring these ideas to fruition. This includes the invention of a Fuel System Analyser (FSA), a project he worked on with his WITS team, Team STRYKER. Using a variable resistor controller, the FSA allows technicians to assess the parts of the Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle (BIFV) that are damaged without have to carry out trial-and-error tests. Previously, damage assessment entailed fitting various parts from a working BIFV into the damaged vehicle to determine the source of the damage. The team's solution cut down the time needed drastically from 600 minutes to just 28 minutes. The project received the Merit award in the International Exposition on Team Excellence, an annual event held by the Singapore Productivity Association. Working with the experienced innovator, who has won many MINDEF and Singapore Armed Forces WITS awards over the last two years, has provided Team STRYKER with valuable mentorship. Describing ME2-2 Lim's leadership style as teamwork-centric, Corporal First Class Kwoh Ji Wei, who has been in Team STRYKER since April 2013, said: He emphasises brainstorming as a team. On top of that, he delegates tasks based on our strengths, which makes the team even stronger. For The Maritime Security Team from Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), who won the Most Innovative Project/Policy (Silver) award for their National Maritime Security System, teamwork was taken to an even larger scale - that among ministries and agencies. Working closely with the Republic of Singapore Navy and other maritime agencies, the team developed the National Maritime Security System. The system's key feature is its ability to paint a common maritime situation picture by drawing upon and sharing information from the various agencies. Project Manager Chua Yat Seng explained that each agency has its own systems and databases, so it was a challenge for the team to fuse all the data into a common picture. In addition, the team developed an automated system that detects anomalies that could be signs of an impending threat. This has allowed security agencies to better monitor shipping, and provided greater lead time to respond swiftly to any potential maritime threats. All the hard work put into the project was well worth the effort when the system's capabilities were tested and demonstrated at Exercise Highcrest (a national-level counter-terrorism exercise), added his teammate, Head Capability Development (Networked Systems Integration), Mr Oh Khoon Wee. On DSTA's culture of innovation, Mr Oh noted that we believe in not saying 'no' - we always want to challenge the status quo by doing things better.
28 Oct 2014, 2200 hours (GMT +8)
The demands on (national defence) are increasingly more complex and sophisticated. The only way that MINDEF or the SAF can address these challenges adequately is if individuals within the organization come up with good ideas. Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen's message for the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) PRoductivity and Innovation in Daily Efforts (PRIDE) Day 2014 was simple and yet resounding: In the face of evolving and complex security threats, everyone has a part to play in coming up with ways of overcoming new challenges. Held at Nanyang Polytechnic on 28 Oct, this year's PRIDE Day award presentation ceremony saw more than 170 individuals, groups and units in MINDEF and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) recognised for their ideas and efforts in innovation, which brought about savings of $139 million for the organisation in the last financial year. A strong innovative culture and mindset According to Dr Ng, the key to enhanced productivity and innovation can be summed up in two words: culture and mindset. He added: My observation is that culture and mindset are better transmitted through living examples - better caught than taught. A formation-wide culture and mindset of innovation was exactly what helped Naval Logistics Command (NALCOM) clinch the top honours at this year's PRIDE Day awards. The formation won the prestigious Minister for Defence Award (MDA) for excelling in all components of the PRIDE Movement. While NALCOM's subordinate squadrons had won awards previously, this was its first win as a formation. Commander NALCOM Military Expert 7 (ME7) Andy Tay explained that across all levels of leadership, the commanders encourage people to do things better and do better things - to not be content with the status quo, but to constantly seek ways to improve. Noting that the formation adopted the philosophy of the farmer who shared his good corn seeds with others to improve the harvest, ME7 Tay added: We tell our people to share innovation ideas with those around them because this will spur innovation in other domains. Likewise for MDA (Innovation) winner, 6 Air Engineering and Logistics Group (6 AELG), cultivating an interest in innovation was essential to their win. Commander 6AELG ME7 Timothy Yap explained: To encourage lasting and sustainable innovation, we came up with the 'Three H' philosophy: Head-Hand-Heart. First, we must make sure that the people have the HEAD - knowledge and fundamentals of aircraft maintenance. Next is HAND, which refers to skills. And then there is HEART - we believe that everyone is important as far as innovation is concerned. Saving costs, saving lives In his speech, Dr Ng also noted the importance of each individual and working group's ideas and efforts: The organisation can only think as good as the people within it. And the ideas of small groups can often have a big impact on the organisation. Just ask Team Systemyst, comprising members from SAF Ammunition Command's (SAFAC's) procurement unit, Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and Headquarters Armour. They bagged the Savings and Value Enhancement Award for stretching the defence dollar with their project. Noticing the high cost of the 25mm training ammunition used by Bushmaster guns in infantry fighting, the team carried out market surveys to source for cheaper alternatives that would not compromise on training capabilities. Their efforts led to savings of about $4.4 million for the organisation. Said Ms Elenia Tay, a staff officer from SAFAC: What we do costs a lot so prudency is always (necessary). And every little improvement helps not only the formation, but me as well by making my workflow better. Sometimes, all it takes is a simple gesture from one person to change the life of another for the better. Mr Mohammad Rizal bin Leman, a Frontdesk/Registry In-charge from Personnel Command, found himself playing mentor when a full-time national serviceman (NSF) with autism was posted to work under him after Basic Military Training in 2012. His autism caused him to have difficulties adapting to his environment. But I helped him overcome his fear of serving NS (National Service). He is now more positive, and can even engage people, which he had trouble doing before. Even his father was shocked at the improvements he made while in NS! While honoured to win his first MINDEF Star Service Award, Mr Rizal humbly said that there are other better candidates that deserve this recognition. He added: I believe in reaching out to my staff and ensuring that they have the life-skills necessary for when they transit from NS to civilian life. I want them to overcome their barriers and feel proud of themselves. Creative solution to protect S'pore's skies 24/7 During the event, Dr Ng also announced that the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) would be deploying a tethered aerostat in a military camp next year. The new system, which will complement the RSAF's suite of airborne and ground-based radars, is expected to save MINDEF and the SAF approximately $29 million annually in operating costs. The 55m-long balloon system will operate from a height of 600m to provide a clear line of sight over Singapore's air and sea space. It is operated by eight ground crew members and will provide 24/7 low-level radar coverage with a range of up to 200km. On the reasons behind the RSAF's decision to install the Aerostat, Dr Ng explained: We need an effective early warning system from threats that could come by air and sea. The recent MH370 incident showed that international rules for civilian air traffic do not require planes to reveal their positions all the time. (This) means that each country must build its own robust air and maritime surveillance system.
27 Oct 2014, 1730 hours (GMT +8)
A six-member Military Transport Safety Review Panel (MTSRP) has commended the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) for building a robust transport safety framework, and harnessing technology to train its drivers. These were among the findings presented by the panel on 14 Oct, after conducting a safety review of the SAF's motor transport system in July and August this year. The review included visits to Kaki Bukit Driving Centre, Mandai Cross Country Driving Circuit, and Sembawang Camp. The panel was headed by land transport expert Associate Professor (A/Prof) Gopinath Menon, Vice Chairman of the Singapore Road Safety Council. Members included Mr Poh Key Boon, Executive Director of Transportation and Warehousing Division, Poh Tiong Choon Logistics Group; and Mr Shaun Tan, Vice President Safety, Singapore Bus Service Transit. Mr Poh is also Chairman of the Land Transportation Sub-committee of the Singapore Logistics Association. The MTSRP was commissioned by the Chief of Army on 31 Jul to review the SAF transport safety system and its driving training. This was part of the larger ongoing effort by the Safety and Systems Review Directorate to use external panels in conducting objective assessments of key processes that affect our servicemen. The MTSRP noted that the SAF faced a tough challenge, having to continuously train and employ large pools of young and inexperienced drivers for a wide range of missions, involving many types of vehicles. A lot of it has to do with the age of (the SAF) Transport Operators (TOs), said A/Prof Menon. At age 18 or 19, they are different from mature drivers. Furthermore, they are only with the transport formation for a short duration of time. He added: What is needed is for them to be trained not only to be aware of the dangers, but to understand them as well. The panel was pleased to see the strong command emphasis displayed by transport commanders, and the effort invested to build a robust safety framework that is aligned with industry best practices. Among the suggestions offered was that HQ Transport could consider further improving safety supervision at the Army Logistics Training Institute, where driving training is conducted. Another suggestion was to review the current Safe Driving Incentives to award smaller payouts more frequently, and give recognition not only to Transport Operators (TOs), but to transport supervisors as well, for accident-free driving. Team-based rewards could also be introduced to promote teamwork. To enhance transparency and maintain standards, the MTSRP recommended periodic audits of testing standards by external authorities such as the Traffic Police. It also recommended that Cat D drivers - those with less than 1,000km of driving experience - be more closely supervised. This recommendation drew on research which showed that close supervision of inexperienced drivers led to substantially improved long-term performance. The panel was impressed with HQ Transport's use of technology to improve safety and efficiency. Said A/Prof Menon: One of the biggest challenges is how to use technology to support the driver… However, I think that the Army is very much geared towards that, as it is very forward-looking. He and his team commended the Army on its investment in driving simulators which are especially useful for exposing inexperienced drivers to situations they have never encountered, such as the vehicle skidding on a slippery road, or people suddenly dashing out in front of the vehicle. A/Prof Menon recalled that, during his visits to the transport units, the TOs showed a strong focus on safety, and were always checking that the panel members were safely buckled up when riding in SAF vehicles. He said: I was happy when the Chief Transport Officer told me that the transport formation was not just training people for the Army, but also for their civilian lives. He added that his fellow panel members were so impressed that they showed interest in hiring the TOs for their own companies. A/Prof Menon noted, however, that the formation must constantly aim for greater safety. He said: There is an existing culture of safety within the SAF, but we must push it. The best form of safety is when people drive safely not because they have to, but because they want to.
27 Oct 2014, 1000 hours (GMT +8)
Serving as Aide-de-Camp to the President is an opportunity as distinguished and coveted as the gold aiguillette he wears. LTC Vincent Soh reminisces about his experience working for the most important man in the country. What does it take to be an Aide-de-Camp (ADC)? A love for taking on challenges and interacting with new people, says Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Soh. The personal aide to President Tony Tan Keng Yam has met people from all walks of life throughout his work, ranging from foreign delegates and local politicians to celebrities, national athletes as well as the regular man on the street. And it's easy to see why he is the right man for the job: Although we are meeting for the first time at a bustling cafe in the middle of town, his calm confidence puts this writer at ease. The 39-year-old speaks with a joyful ring in his voice and answers almost every question - no matter how difficult - with a hearty laugh. You have to be versatile, he said thoughtfully about handling guests and organisers at Presidential events. They all have different demands, expectations and working styles. The most challenging part of the job is in making sure that everyone emerges a winner. The right-hand man An Infantry Officer from 9th Singapore Division, LTC Soh has been serving as one of three full-time ADCs in President Tan's Office since 1 Apr 2012. In this current term, he is the only ADC from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), working together with the Singapore Police Force's (SPF's) Deputy Superintendent (DSP) Foo Jit Choon and DSP Tan Yi Chun. Appointed by the President, the ADC Office comprises three officers from the SAF and SPF. The full-time ADCs serve a term of about two years and are assisted by a corps of Honorary Aides-de-Camp (HADCs). While most ADCs begin as HADCs and learn the ropes by helping in events, LTC Soh was offered the full-time position from the get-go. I was interested and many people had encouraged me to become an HADC, but perhaps due to time and space issues, it never happened, he recalled. Later, I was told that I had been recommended for the full-time position. The position was vacant then, so I didn't get the usual two-month head-start training under my predecessor. But I spoke to former ADCs and senior HADCs to get a clearer picture of the job. Subsequently, I was interviewed by the President's Principal Private Secretary and finally appointed by the President's Office. All in a day's work Besides overseeing the day-to-day operations of the President's Office, ADCs support events hosted or attended by the President. For events graced by the President, we tend to the general administration, security and social needs of the President and work with the organisers to make sure that the protocol and proceedings are in order, LTC Soh explained. If the event is hosted by the President, such as the National Day Investiture, then we run the entire event. Our role includes programme organisation, guest and stage management, and even carpark and other logistical arrangements. We also ensure that guests feel engaged and that each event's objectives are met. He added: We work beyond typical office hours, especially for community events that often take place on weekends and Public Holidays. But at the end of the day, a successful event is worth the hours. I feel a great sense of achievement in my work. Istana memories Having worked closely with President Tan for more than two years, LTC Soh shared this about Singapore's Head-of-State: He is a very humble, down-to-earth individual. And he is appreciative of his staff. This year, we tweaked the format of the ADC Appointment Ceremony by integrating it with the Appreciation Dinner for the retiring HADCs. The President's first reaction was: 'Will the ADCS like this better?' He was not solely concerned with enhancing efficiency, but rather, wanted to ensure that the change would better honour our ADCs. Come end-October, LTC Soh will be completing his term as ADC and returning to the SAF. What will he miss most about his time in the President's Office? Definitely the friendships forged, he said, a tinge of sadness creeping into his voice. “No man is an island; you need to be a team-player, and you also need a good team. I have a good team here. But I will still be able to work with them, because all ADCs become HADCs after their term! he laughed, that distinct ring returning to his voice.
26 Oct 2014, 2230 hours (GMT +8)
The inaugural Maritime RobotX Challenge closed on 26 Oct with the 170-odd student participants going away with a greater appreciation and passion for solving complex challenges with technology. The participants, who came from 15 universities from five countries - Australia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States competed in outfitting a 16-foot long standard maritime platform - named the Wave Adaptive Modular Vessel or WAM-V - with sensors, computers, and software in order to complete missions such as autonomous navigation and control. Team MIT-Olin from the US emerged tops, winning overall first and a prize of $20,000. Second place went to Team Angry Nerds of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology from South Korea, while Team QUT from the Queensland University of Technology of Australia clinched the third spot. Held in Singapore at The Float @ Marina Bay, the first edition of the Challenge was jointly organised by the National University of Singapore (NUS) Faculty of Engineering, Science Centre Singapore, and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Foundation. Guest-of-Honour at the opening ceremony on 24 Oct was Major-General (NS) Ng Chee Khern, Permanent Secretary (Defence Development) and 2nd Permanent Secretary (Health). In his opening address, MG (NS) Ng highlighted the importance of defence technology research development (RD), saying: As a small city-state with no natural resources, Singapore cannot take what we have achieved today for granted. We therefore recognise that technology is a critical factor in overcoming our constraints. Elaborating on the importance of defence technology to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), he said: The SAF leverages on technology so that it can achieve its mission with less manpower resources. Professor Chan Eng Soon, NUS Vice Provost (Special Duties), and co-chair of the Maritime RobotX Challenge agreed with MG (NS) Ng, noting that Singapore has a need for Engineering talent. Hence, in his welcome address, he shared: We hope that today's Maritime RobotX Challenge will put the passion and fun back into Engineering. To all who share this passion for curiosity, discovery, and solving complex challenges, I appeal to you to hold on to this fire. Follow your passion, and you will not regret it. Passion was something that the participating teams did not lack. Said Mr Joey Lim, 24, from Nanyang Technological University's team Leviathan: I think that this challenge was a very good learning experience. No doubt it was very difficult, especially for a green team like us, but it was unforgettable. Mr Tamilarasan s/o Teyagarajan, from Team Sharky of NUS also had fond memories of the competition, though the journey was not entirely smooth sailing. The first thing I learnt is that nothing goes according to plan, he said. However, that taught us to think on the spot. Unforeseen challenges aside, this competition gave me a valuable opportunity to apply the academic lessons that I have learnt in the classroom to a real life situation. This competition also yielded many new opportunities to Mr Jaron Lee from the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). He said: This competition gave us exposure to very advanced technology that we do not usually come across in our undergraduate studies. For example, we usually work with small radio controlled platforms as compared to the WAM-V of this competition. As a result, one of the major learning points of this competition was how to keep things simple such that the mechanics and software were not too complex. The Challenge, which organisers plan to hold biennially, is an experiential learning platform that leverages science, technology, engineering and mathematics education, to promote and highlight the importance of Science and Engineering in the area of defence technology RD.
24 Oct 2014, 1000 hours (GMT +8)
Three men in their mid-30s. 3,500km across India in a tuk-tuk. Sounds nuts? You haven't heard the rest yet. Guys, I want to do something epic, something to mark where we are in life right now, as single men. This sentence was what ignited that spark of adventure in three men, taking them 3,500km across India in two weeks with nothing except a rickety tuk-tuk or automatic rickshaw. In August, the three childhood buddies flew to Shillong, India for the Rickshaw Run. There, they impressed the other teams by sprucing up their rickshaw, affectionately named RSS Lembu (Malay for cow), with speakers, batteries and handphone chargers. As they set off in high spirits, nothing could have prepared them for the adventure ahead. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger The first day really hit us hard, laughed Staff Sergeant (SSG) (NS) Nazeer Hussain, an advisor for an offshore company. It was like we were literally driving on the moon. There wasn’t even a foot of proper tiled road! The 33-year-old explained that there were potholes all over the roads, and avoiding these craters took keen eyes, fast reflexes and great manoeuvering skills. As the rickshaw was not in tip-top condition, speeding was a definite no-go. Instead of conquering 500km a day as planned, they had to halve their planned journey per day and travel at about 30kmh. One particularly memorable incident was when they went on a small road in the dead of the night, against the advice of a local policeman, because Google Maps said it was the right direction. This decision brought them face to face with a family of wild elephants, forced them up a very long and unstable 50-degree slope, and caused them to almost fall prey to a pack of wild dogs. Private (PTE) (NS) Mohammad Muneer Khan recounted that fateful night: There came a point where RSS Lembu wouldn't move at all. So we decided to camp there because it was just one and a half hours to daybreak. It was only at sunrise that we realised we had been sleeping in a cemetery! Just push on But to the 33-year-old managing director of a consultancy company, that sunrise was the best he had seen in years and it made the long, terrible night worth it. This trip made me realise that there were a lot of things I took for granted and it was the discipline and 'push-on' mentality I learnt during NS (National Service) which helped me survive this trip, said PTE (NS) Muneer, who was part of the underslung team in 3rd Battalion, Singapore Guards. SSG (NS) Nazeer, an ex-Regular from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, agreed. In NS, we are taken out of our daily life and thrown into a regimented environment. It pushes and strengthens you mentally, and this strength of mind (I developed) helped me a lot in the Rickshaw Run. With perseverance, they managed to reach their destination at Cochin within two weeks, well ahead of many other teams. Adventurers with a heart Besides a thirst for adventure, part of their reason for joining the Rickshaw Run was to raise awareness and funds for the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF). The trio held a fund-raising event on 27 Jun and, through activities such as performing as a band and auctioning off a painting they did together, managed to raise $2,500. CCF needs about $5 million yearly. That's why we decided to adopt the charity and help ease the medical expenses for families with kids battling cancer, said 34-year-old Lance Corporal (LCP) (NS) Kamal Mahtani, a sales director who served as a percussionist in the Singapore Armed Forces Band. We always tell people why we’re doing the Run and point them to the CCF website for them to donate directly. As of 5 Sep, they have raised over $5,000 through word-of-mouth for CCF. Plan big, dream bigger With one item struck off their bucket list, the three friends already have plans to go on their next daredevil escapade - the Mongol Rally. This features travelling 10,000km across mountains and desert in a tiny vehicle and raising at least £1,000 for a charity of their choice. Closer to home, the trio also has plans to organise a race for Singaporeans, such as a run from Singapore to Laos, and encourage participants to raise funds for a charity of their choice. We want to make Singapore known for its philanthropy, explained PTE (NS) Muneer. Everyone and anyone can make a difference.
23 Oct 2014, 0945 hours (GMT +8)
Journalist Sherlyn Quek enjoys a fling on the Ejection Seat Trainer (EST) at the Republic of Singapore Air Force Aeromedical Centre. Ever wished you could instantly exit an awkward conversation? Waiting for my turn on the EST - which launches air crew up at four times the force of gravity (4Gs) - I mused that this catapult-like machine would have come in handy to escape from certain unpleasant situations. For fighter pilots and weapon systems officers, the situation would obviously be much more dire. If the aircraft has been severely damaged or is suffering from a critical malfunction and the air crew assess that they will not be able to land the aircraft safely, the only option left may be to abandon the aircraft in order to save their lives. All it takes is a few seconds. Sounds easy? After my hair-raising ride in the Human Training Centrifuge (read the last issue of PIONEER, people!), I thought it would be a breeze. Well, it's true that the ejection drill is pretty simple. Just pull the ejection handles (at the sides or in the middle of the seat between the legs, depending on the aircraft type) and BAM! The ejection seat is fired and shoots up the rail tower of the EST. Air crew, however, cannot take these yearly drills lightly. Captain (CPT) (Dr) Magdalene Lee, my guide at the Aeromedical Centre, educated me on the serious injuries that could result from improper ejection techniques. When the aircraft is in flight, the ejection seat is likely to propel the air crew out at speeds generating 12 to 20Gs. At that spine-crushing force, you could easily snap your neck or back. Adopting the right posture is thus a must. Not exactly good news for someone like me who used to be scolded for being kiao gu (Hokkien for hunchback). As I was strapped into the seat, the EST operators advised me to sit up straight, pressing my head firmly against the headrest. Whatever you do, don't look down. I also had to tuck my elbows in tight and keep them locked against the sides of my body. Air crew are taught to adopt this position to prevent their arms from flailing (which could cause possible fracture or dislocation of the upper limbs from the windblast they would encounter on ejection). Stomach clenching in anticipation, I pulled the yellow ejection handles. And then…nothing. I resisted the almost overwhelming urge to glance down, recalling that CPT (Dr) Lee had told me about a 0.5-second lag between pulling the handles and the seat actually firing. A bang, like a pistol shot, suddenly sounded and WHOOSH! My legs were now dangling 10 feet in the air. Walking away (with a slight ache in my neck), I reflected that perhaps it was time to really improve my posture. Now, if only I could somehow use the EST during long meetings...

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