The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) welcomed its new Chief of Navy at a Change of Command Parade held at Changi Naval Base on 1 Aug.
Witnessed by Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General (LG) Ng Chee Meng, Rear-Admiral (RADM) Lai Chung Han took over the Navy's symbol of command from the outgoing Chief of Navy RADM Ng Chee Peng.
During the parade, RADM Ng reviewed a Guard-of-Honour contingent along with six supporting contingents formed by the various RSN formations. Also featured in the parade was a display of RSN ships along with a sail past.
RADM Ng joined the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in 1988 and was awarded the President's Scholarship and SAF Overseas Scholarship in 1989. Among the several senior command and staff appointments he held in the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the SAF are: Chief of Staff - Joint Staff, Chief of Staff - Naval Staff, Fleet Commander, Director (Policy), Commander First Flotilla, Commanding Officer (CO) of the Missile Corvette (MCV) Squadron and CO of the MCV RSS Victory.
During his tenure as Chief of Navy, RADM Ng laid the foundations for the RSN's future capabilities by operationalising platforms such as the Archer-class submarines. He also introduced public outreach efforts such as Navy@Vivo.
In his farewell speech, RADM Ng expressed confidence in the leadership of RADM Lai: He (RADM Lai) brings with him a strength of character.
Incoming Chief of Navy, RADM Lai, joined the SAF in 1992 and was awarded the SAF Overseas Scholarship and the President's Scholarship. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (Economics) degree from the University of Cambridge and a Master in Public Administration from Harvard University.
Prior to his appointment as Chief of Navy, RADM Lai held the posting of Deputy Secretary (Policy). He has also served as CO of the MCV RSS Valiant and 188 Squadron, as well as Fleet Commander.
This change is part of the continuing process of leadership renewal in the SAF.
The flypast of the Singapore Flag is one of the longest-standing and certainly most iconic of National Day Parade (NDP) traditions.
Flown from the Republic of Singapore Air Force's Chinook helicopters since 2000, the flypast is also one of the few segments of the celebrations that can be enjoyed by Singaporeans both inside and outside the parade grounds.
Successfully pulling off the spectacle is no easy feat. It takes the collective effort of the Presidential Flag Salute Crew (PFSC), which comprises the crew from 127 Squadron (SQN) who fly the Chinooks, as well as dedicated Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) working behind the scenes to ready the flags for take-off.
With preparations for the NDP starting as early as April, batches of NSmen have been returning to join the PFSC as part of their in-camp training (ICT). Currently back for their two-and-a-half-week ICT are some 40 to 80 NSmen from 806 SQN and 816 SQN.
Although each flypast lasts barely minutes, the NSmen spend the week leading up to the weekend NDP rehearsals preparing the flags and accompanying equipment. This involves the deceptively simple-sounding task of rolling up the flag before it is slung to the underside of the Chinook.
The most difficult part is making sure that the flags are rolled up properly so that they will open up nicely during deployment, said Third Sergeant (3SG) (NS) Lau Hsiao Loong, an aircraft technician in 806 SQN.
The flag, which is approximately the size of a basketball court, takes about 20 men 20 minutes to roll up, breadth-wise. 3SG (NS) Ho Eng Kien, 806 SQN's avionics specialist, explained that the process was not unlike commanding a dragon boat race: Someone will shout the command, '1, 2, 3, roll', and then we will roll once.
Precision is essential because a flag that is not rolled up evenly may not unravel completely after the release rope it is bound by is let go. The flag may even become entangled or tear while it is raised. For each NDP rehearsal, the PFSC at Sembawang Air Base (SBAB) prepares several flags before they are sent to Pulau Sudong to be raised by the Chinooks. This is to ensure that flags which do not open up properly can be quickly replaced.
On 26 Jul, Minister of State for Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki bin Osman saw how it was all done when he visited the NSmen at SBAB and Pulau Sudong.
At Pulau Sudong, he joined the PFSC in pulling the release rope on one of the contingency Chinooks. He later joined the aircrew on board the actual Chinook flying the Singapore Flag to the NDP National Education (NE) Show 3 at The Float @ Marina Bay.
Dr Maliki thanked the servicemen for their hard work, and highlighted the significance of the flypast. The flag is a rallying point for all Singaporeans. When I attend NDP every year, when the rotors of the Chinook start to sound in the distance, it sets my heart beating, he said. He also encouraged the men to share on social media sites their experiences working in the NDP, as this would raise awareness among their families and friends about their involvement, and enable the public to better appreciate the hard work that goes on behind the scenes.
As for the NSmen of 806 SQN and 816 SQN, they have chosen to continue playing their role as keepers of the flag flypast in the NDP all these years.
Said 3SG (NS) Teng Teck Hou, am armament technician in 806 SQN: I chose this (role) because it gives me a great sense of purpose to help out in the National Day celebrations.
3SG (NS) Lau agreed: Not many people have the chance to do this. We are proud to be the few who have the opportunity to work on such an important part of the parade.
Military education is a different kind of upgrade that seldom makes the news. After all, stories about fighter jets, warships and machines of war are way more exciting.
For Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Chan Kwai Kiong, his quest for such an upgrade meant juggling his time among four children, overseas deployments and day-to-day operational duties.
That did not seem to slow him down. He graduated in the top 20 percent band of his graduating cohort, earning himself a spot on the dean's honour list.
This year, 46 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Officers received their master's degrees through the Continuing Education (CE) Master's programme jointly run by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Nanyang Technological University.
I like it when things pick up (speed); I thrive in a high tempo environment, said LTC Chan, when asked if he ever thought of giving up during the three and a half years it took to obtain his master's. He graduated with a master's degree in Technology Management.
It also sets an example to my men and my children that when you want something, it can be done with the right effort, said LTC Chan, who is in the Republic of Singapore Air Force. In order to spend time with his family, he used to hit the books until 2am each weekend.
He joined the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in 1993 with a Diploma and took up an SAF sponsorship for a three-year part-time bachelor's degree programme in 2010 before starting on his master's in mid-2013.
The CE master's programme is exclusive to the SAF and puts senior SAF Officers and invited foreign military officers through full or part-time studies after they complete courses at the Goh Keng Swee Command and Staff College.
For fellow graduand and dean's lister LTC Han Heng Siew, the CE Master's programme was a chance to fulfil his aspirations to learn. Our course mates were mostly working professionals who had very current knowledge.
Our discussions were always interesting and it made me see things from many perspectives, said LTC Han, a naval officer.
Like LTC Chan, he graduated with a master's degree in Technology Management. I'm also very thankful that the SAF has given me the opportunity (to study).
Another stellar performer was Major (MAJ) Chandran s/o Nadarajoo. For him, it was the opportunity to sharpen analytical skills, which aid his job as a staff officer in the Signals Formation, that drew him to the SAF-NTU CE Master's programme.
He received the UOB Gold Medal for being the most outstanding student in his field of study. This prestigious award is only given when a sufficiently exceptional student is identified.
He took up Strategic Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies. Any soldier would want to be privy to military history and strategic thinking.
The ability to sharpen my cognitive thinking and look at one issue from multiple perspectives is definitely applicable to my work.
And it is not only the officers who benefit from CE opportunities within the SAF. For warrant officers and specialists, the Continuous Learning Academic Study Scheme (CLASS) Degree sponsorship gives them the opportunity to pursue degree, diploma and certificate studies.
2nd Warrant Officer Vijaikumar is one of those who have benefited from CLASS. He will graduate with a 2nd-Upper Honours degree in Sports Science and Management on 4 Aug.
There are more and more SAF soldiers who want to upgrade themselves and transfer the knowledge back to their in the SAF.
These programmes address the needs and aspirations of SAF men and women.
Most girls are into fashion and beauty, but not Military Expert (ME) 2-1 Rain Teo. In fact, the self-confessed tomboy cringed when she had to wear a feminine dress for this photo shoot. The 26-year-old clearly prefers a tank top and jeans, her usual outfit when riding her Honda Super Four motorbike.
She is into sporty stuff and doesn't mind getting her hands dirty. Knowing that she wouldn't be able to stand a desk-bound job, ME2-1 Teo chose to study marine engineering at Singapore Polytechnic. She was one of only three girls in her cohort. That perhaps explains why she felt very much at home when she joined the Navy in 2009.
Her most cherished moment on the job so far? Spending 14 weeks in the Gulf of Aden for a counter-piracy operation in 2012.
It's just your crew with you when you are out at sea. They are like my family, the ones who share my happiness and problems, she said.
It was at a recruitment talk during Basic Military Training that 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Bryan Lim was introduced to the idea of being a naval officer. The vision of him being the captain of a warship captivated him so much that he decided to sign on with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
Besides the nature of the job, which entailed sailing and going on missions, the 20-year-old also felt that the purpose of the SAF also resonated strongly with him because the SAF is vital for Singapore's survival.
The eldest of three siblings, who will go on to read International Relations at Tufts University in Boston, United States, is looking forward to the day when he commands his own ship.
I want to be a commander whom everybody on the ship, regardless of rank, won't be afraid to bring up any concerns. You may be the lowest-ranking personnel on the ship, but you won’t be shy to suggest changes because you know that the captain believes in you and your captain is open to new ideas.
2LT Lim was among the six recipients who received the prestigious SAF Overseas Scholarship (SAFOS) from Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen at the Istana on 29 Jul.
In his speech to the scholars, Dr Ng said: As scholarship recipients, much is expected from you. There is one essential aspect that you must personally be responsible for and cannot delegate - that of personal integrity and trust. The organisation and the public will look to you to embody and uphold the highest standards of integrity and devotion to duty while serving MINDEF and the SAF.
Apart from the six SAFOS recipients, 18 were awarded the SAF Merit Scholarship (SMS) and seven received the Defence Merit Scholarship (DMS).
The SAFOS, SMS and DMS were introduced in 1971, 1983, and 2002 respectively to recruit top students into the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the SAF.
SAFOS and SMS recipients return to the SAF after completing their studies to assume a variety of challenging appointments that will groom them for senior command and leadership positions. Similarly, DMS recipients will return as Defence Executive Officers and be groomed for senior management positions.
Fellow SAFOS recipient Officer Cadet (OCT) Richard Kwek looks forward to the day when he can fly his own fighter plane to contribute to the defence of Singapore.
A trip on a C-130 transport aircraft during an internship programme with MINDEF in his junior college days cemented his decision to sign on with the Republic of Singapore Air Force to be a pilot.
Said the 19-year-old who will go on study Law at University College London: As I looked out of the window at the country, I thought to myself, this is home. This is home for me, and I really feel that I want to use my life to defend this country.
For SMS recipient Lieutenant (LTA) Tinaesrupan A Jagadessan, receiving the scholarship was not the easiest of all journeys as his parents separated when he was in Primary 6. As such, he was left a lot to his own devices and made a lot of mistakes.
The 22-year-old had chosen to repeat his first year of junior college when he fared less than ideally. To him, it was one of the best decisions he made in his life, as his original results could have cost him his scholarship.
I always tell my men, if you want to do something, do it well. That's one of my principles in life, said the Armoured Infantry Officer.
LTA Tinaesrupan, who will go on to read Engineering at the University of Cambridge, also hopes to motivate his men through his childhood experiences.
When my men come to me, one of my higher priorities is to make sure that they have a fulfilling NSF life… And I think it's nice to be sort of a bigger brother to them when they need help.
Similarly, OCT Zara Toh hopes to bring her personal touch to her future appointment in the Guards formation and also, to get to know her men better and ensure that they have a positive NS experience.
The 19-year-old chose a career with the SAF because she did not want a desk-bound job and loved that the SAF environment was both physically challenging and mentally demanding. She will be leaving for her studies in Liberal Arts at New York University after completing her Guards Conversion Course and Officer Cadet Commissioning in early 2015.
While most people have the impression that one has to be in uniform to contribute to MINDEF and the SAF, Ms Jessie Lim thinks otherwise. The DMS recipient, who will specialise in Psychology at University College London, hopes to contribute to the Defence Psychology Department when she returns from her studies. One of her aspirations is to use psychology to maximise the potential of every individual in the SAF.
The award ceremony was also attended by senior officials from MINDEF and the SAF, members of the Public Service Commission, in-service scholars and parents of the recipients.
Toa Payoh has a different feel this weekend as the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) celebrates its 45th anniversary in the bustling residential town. The event at Toa Payoh kicks off the series of RSAF45@Heartlands exhibitions over four weekends from 26 Jul to 31 Aug.
If you have ever fancied yourself a pilot or just wanted to get up close to some of the cool machines the Air Force uses to defend Singapore's skies, this series of exhibitions is for you. After its two-day run at the Toa Payoh HDB Hub, it will move to Jurong East (16 to 17 Aug), Sengkang (23 to 24 Aug) and Yishun (30 to 31 Aug).
Some of the hardware on display are the Hermes 450 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle and Ground-Based Air Defence (GBAD) weapons systems such as the Surface-to-Air PYthon and DERby missile system and RBS-70 GBAD system on board a V200 vehicle.
The RSAF45@Heartlands series of exhibitions was launched by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen on 26 Jul. At the exhibition, Dr Ng spoke to servicemen and women who were involved in the RSAF's round-the-clock air defence operations and search-and-rescue missions. Also at the exhibition was Minister of State for Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman.
When asked why the RSAF decided to celebrate its 45th anniversary this way, Deputy Chairman of the RSAF45@Heartlands executive committee Colonel (COL) Randy Ong said: We thought it was a good idea to bring the Air Force to the heartlands to celebrate our significant milestones with fellow Singaporeans.
It's also an opportunity for Singaporeans to better understand our capabilities and our people behind the scenes who work to safeguard our skies, added COL Ong, who is Commander Paya Lebar Air Base.
The exhibits are split into three segments. The first is a historical showcase which explains the RSAF's transformation over the past 45 years.
The second offers hands-on experience, featuring the operational capabilities of the 3rd Generation RSAF. It is here that visitors can try their hands at the flying simulators and aviation-related games.
cyberpioneer spotted father-and-son pair Wilson Neo, 41, and six-year-old Zachary at this section. Said Mr Neo: Exhibitions like this are good! We get to see our forces up close. Seeing the equipment we have makes me confident in our Air Force's capabilities.
The exhibition also reminded Mr Neo that the RSAF, like the larger Singapore Armed Forces, is made up of many Singaporeans like himself. I bumped into a friend who was manning his system here with his National Service unit! said the financial services director, who saw defence as not just the job of Regulars, but all those who serve NS.
The NSman friend whom Mr Ng bumped into was Major (MAJ) (NS) Ronald Cheong, an insurance consultant, who serves as Deputy Commanding Officer of the 6th Divisional Air Defence Battalion. When asked why he was making time to take part in the series of exhibitions, he said: It's to show the public that NSmen, too, are committed to defence…. (and) also to re-live the camaraderie with my NS mates, many of whom I have known for more than 10 years!
Visitors to the exhibitions can speak to airmen and women who will share their experiences in multinational operations such as reconstruction missions in Afghanistan, and humanitarian efforts in the wake of the recent Typhoon Haiyan.
One of these airmen at the Toa Payoh exhibition is 3rd Sergeant (NS) Manesh s/o Rangarajan. The 25-year-old Full-time National Serviceman was deployed in the relief operations in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. He said: Being able to share my experience with other Singaporeans is a privilege for me, and it's a good opportunity to tell people what we did there.
One of these experiences I like to tell people is the time when five of us unloaded 150 heavy sacks of rice (for the typhoon victims). We just had to do it ourselves due to lack of manpower, said 3SG Manesh who is a Load Specialist at Paya Lebar Air Base.
From selling chickens and cleaning linen to being the Chief Executive of Cathay, Mr Suhaimi Rafdi has done it all. Despite his success, he has always kept himself grounded.
Looking at his well-tailored suit, confident posture at the head of the table in a large conference room and the Starbucks coffee in his hands, you would never have guessed that the current Chief Executive of Cathay Organisation was once a counter boy at KFC.
Through his stories, it was clear that the father of four - of whom two are adopted - has a soft spot for people. With a smile, he recounted his previous job as a Housekeeping Manager at Singapore General Hospital; he taught ah-mas how to clean up bedpans properly, and won their hearts by being patient and even teaching them how to read with pictorial cards. Those moments of nostalgia quickly flew by as he moved on to talk about how he was, by a stroke of luck (and some skill of course!), headhunted by Cathay at the age of 28.
I thrive under pressure, said the 46-year-old. And the glow on his face was the evidence. It's been six years since he held the Cathay chief position and he is still going strong. Here's his rags-to-riches story.
PNR: In Cathay, you had to make changes to the organisational structure on the ground which involved the older generation. How did you deal with that?
It's all about good communication and being very above board. I had to tell them firmly: My job is to make changes. It might strain our relationship but I want to let you know that it’s not personal and I hope that you can respect the decisions and changes that I want to make. If you are with me on this, stay on. But if you are not, the doors are not closed.
I also had to lead by example. Burning hours in the office during those first few years of the job was crucial. I also made sure that while we worked hard, we played hard too. Whenever we did well, I would give them little treats, such as staff lunches, which they treasured very much.
What have you learnt about people management over the years?
That I have to be very, very patient and have lots of perseverance. Even today, 60 percent of my time is dedicated to people management. Your own work can be fairly easy, but without them (other people), you can’t do the job. And when you have people from diverse backgrounds with all sorts of attitudes and characters, you have to juggle them and know when to control and when to let go.
You were a Corporal during your National Service (NS) days. What was your NS experience like?
Punctuality, transparency and integrity are key elements that I picked up during NS. That was also when I learnt the consequences of not doing things right the first time. Because I got married at 18 and had a family to feed, I was already disciplined to a certain extent. NS toughened me up. It gave me the extra discipline that I needed to have in my daily work.
What I also found rewarding was the cohesion and camaraderie. Back then, it was already about team building - that everything was not about me or you, but we as a group.
As a member of the CSNS (Committee to Strengthen NS) working group, what are your personal views on NS?
We have a good defence system in place and I think what the Government is trying to do is see this through with continuity and ensure that there are no lapses. For example, one of the ideas that came up during the discussions was to hire more Regulars to train soldiers more efficiently and effectively.
Your eldest son is 26 and has already completed his full-time NS. What advice did you give to your son when he enlisted?
I told my son to try to get things right the first time and don’t be too much of a smart aleck. Be a team-player, don't be aloof or try to be Mr Smart Guy and try to win over everybody. Discipline and teamwork are important, so learn everything in camp and make the best of it.
As for my four-year-old son, I think it's going to be his elder brother who will advise him. I will have lost touch by the time he enlists!
Your story has inspired many. What kind of advice would you give to them?
There's no glass ceiling in any organisation unless you perceive as such. Race or culture is not an issue. What we're looking for is the individual's capabilities.
How would I have known that Cathay does not have a glass ceiling (other than by) working really, really hard?
Singaporean males who have National Service (NS) obligations can start hitting the floor, as push-ups will be included in the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) from next year.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has announced that the IPPT will be simplified to a three-station test format (instead of the current five-station one).
Speaking to local media on the changes to IPPT on 23 Jul, Chief of Army Major-General (MG) Perry Lim said: Physical fitness is a personal responsibility and we want our NSmen to take ownership of their physical fitness.
We will introduce a simpler IPPT format with fewer stations so that our servicemen can train for IPPT on their own without the need for specialised equipment. Our NSmen can even adopt the new IPPT format for their routine exercise.
Push-ups aside, the other two stations will be familiar to Singaporean males. Sit-ups and the 2.4km will remain in the new IPPT format. It tests soldiers on upper body strength (push-ups), abdominal strength (sit-ups) and lower body strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness (2.4km run).
Holistic fitness programme
The new IPPT format fits in well with the SAF's holistic fitness programme. Explaining the move, MG Lim said: Over the past two years, we have implemented a revised combat fitness training and test regime for our soldiers.
The SAF builds up the combat fitness of its soldiers through the Standard Obstacle Course, Vocational Obstacle Course (VOC) and Vocation-Related Exercises (VREs). The VOC and VREs were implemented two years ago.
Regular route marches and field exercises also help develop the SAF soldier's combat fitness. Having implemented an effective combat fitness regime, we think it is timely for us to review our IPPT, which is a test of physical fitness, said MG Lim.
Selected SAF units - active and NS units - will take part in a pilot implementation programme from September to November this year to determine how best to administer the new format. At least 3,000 servicemen and women of different vocations and age-groups will be involved in this pilot phase.
Following the three-month pilot, the new IPPT format will be used across the entire SAF for both active servicemen and NSmen from 1 April 2015.
The transition will be gradual, said MG Lim. We are prepared to give NSmen an option to do the existing five-station format or the new format for one to two years after April next year.
The changes focus squarely on fitness and less on the method used to measure fitness, said MG Lim. He said: The fitness of our soldiers is essential to the operational readiness of the SAF. Our active service personnel and NSmen need to be fit to perform the tasks that we give them as soldiers.
Our servicemen will still need to train to pass IPPT. To achieve Gold and Silver will be just as challenging as before.
Easier to train for IPPT
For Operationally Ready National Servicemen like Captain (NS) Lim Seow Lye, the simplified IPPT format makes it easier for him to train for the annual test. I can easily train for the two static stations at home, he said.
The old five-station IPPT requires equipment to train for, such as pull-up bars and space for exercises such as the Standing Broad Jump.
Like many NSmen, the 34-year-old juggles work, family and NS commitments. CPT (NS) Lim is a manager at Certis Cisco and serves in an NS Guards unit.
Being able to train for his IPPT even at home is a benefit for him. That way, my wife won't nag that I leave her alone to manage the kid and housework! he laughed.
Said Senior Lieutenant Colonel (SLTC) (NS) Bervyn Lee, commander of an NS brigade: The numbers tell it; if I had to train for three stations instead of five, it would be easier to train for. SLTC (NS) Lee holds a PhD in Sports and Exercise Psychology, and is a member of the SAF fitness advisory board.
He added: To do well in the three stations still requires effort. (And) we shouldn't allow three or five stations to define our fitness… We shouldn't need the SAF or anyone to tell us that we should only be fit for these items. My fitness is mine and mine alone to take care of.
Simpler scoring system
The scoring system will also change to a simpler format. Soldiers will earn points for their performance in each of the three stations. The entire IPPT will be scored upon a maximum of 100 points.
This way, soldiers can make up through more sit-ups, if they are weak in push-ups and running, or vice versa. There's a limit to how much you can make up, but I like this counting system because it encourages NSmen to max out on each station and it plays to the individual's strengths. said Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen in a Facebook post on 23 Jul.
Though the scoring system has been simplified, soldiers will still need to train for IPPT. Said CPT (NS) Lim: Although there is a reduction in the number of stations, it's not easier to pass. Every station has a certain level of difficulty; if you don't train regularly it will be hard to pass.
The 2.4km run carries the heaviest weightage. Soldiers can potentially score up to 50 points. Push-ups and sit-ups carry a maximum of 25 points each.
For NSmen the magic number is 51. That's the number of points they need to pass the new IPPT format. For Full-time National Servicemen and Regulars, the bar is set higher at 61 points. They are held to a higher passing standard because fitness training is incorporated into their work and training routine.
Different standards for different ages
Age-categories have also been re-looked and shortened. Instead of five-year bands, Servicemen will now be held to different physical fitness standards every three years. The new age category system is more sensitive to the effects of age on physical fitness, said MG Lim.
For example, an NSman within the 34 to 36 age group will need to perform 35 push-ups in a minute for 20 points, 35 sit-ups in a minute for 20 points and run 2.4km in 10mins 40secs for 41 points. This gives him a total of 81 points which qualifies him for the IPPT Gold award.
For elite units in the SAF such as the Commandos, naval divers and Guardsmen, the bar for IPPT Gold is a minimum of 85 points.
Transitioning from the life of a soldier to that of a student is no easy feat when one has been in service for more than two decades.
But 43-year-old Military Expert (ME) 4 Ng See Lye, a 27-year veteran with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), readily took up the challenge to attend the Military Domain Experts Course (MDEC), excelling in it, and eventually receiving the Sword of Honour.
The Deputy Officer Commanding of Logistics Flight in 149 Squadron received the Sword of Honour from Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing at the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Senior Military Experts Appointment Ceremony at SAFTI Military Institute on 23 Jul. He was appointed Senior ME, along with 90 other servicemen and women.
The appointment ceremony marked the completion of the seventh MDEC, where the MEs acquired in-depth expertise in their respective fields. The training enables them to develop their leadership competency, deepen their military domain knowledge, and hone their specialised skills. They will then move on to assume command or staff appointments in their professional areas.
This was the largest graduating cohort since the inaugural ceremony in 2011.
The graduands comprised 51 MEs from the RSAF, 14 from the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), 12 from the Army, and 14 from Joint.
In his speech, Mr Chan had these words of advice for the newly-appointed Senior MEs: Lead your men with conviction and with heart. Take care of them through thick and thin, in good times and in bad.
He said: There will be many challenges ahead of you, and we will never be able to know what will happen in the future. You may be called upon to undergo operations in which you have never been trained before. You must never, never fear, or shirk your responsibility to take care of your men to the best of your ability under your charge.
These words resonated with ME4 Ng, who had taken the initiative to organise sessions to share his experiences with trainees who had just signed on with the SAF. He said: We should not just receive, but we should give back to the organisation (by sharing knowledge and experience with others).
This cohort also saw the oldest graduand of the MDEC to date. But to ME4 Elangovan s/o Palaniappan, 55, from the RSAF, age was just a number, and did not hold him back. Slightly apprehensive at first about attending an academic course, he persevered and scored well in the course.
Describing one of the highlights of the MEDC for him, ME4 Elangovan, said: We had this opportunity whereby all the branch heads and commanding officers came to give us lectures. Their perspectives and insights are broader, and it was a rare learning opportunity.
Navy graduand, ME4 Joyce Tan agreed that the sharing by senior commanders yielded many learning points. The Combat Systems Engineer on board Landing Ship Tank RSS Persistence also credited the course with giving her a deeper and broader understanding of the systems under her purview.
For Army graduand, ME4 Chen Kee Wui, the course had given him a better understanding of his role, and the knowledge gained would be invaluable. He said: I think the biggest objective (of the course) was to give us the width as well as the depth of understanding.
He is the first through-trained military expert, holding the appointment of Brigade Sergeant Major of 3rd Division Support Command - a post traditionally held by warrant officers.
Said ME4 Chen: Previously, from the through-trained perspective, we were more used to the day-to-day maintenance of equipment. When we moved on to attend the MDEC and become Senior MEs, we realised there was more to it. For example, equipment life cycle management must be taken into consideration.
Also present at the ceremony were Chief of Navy Rear-Admiral (RADM) Ng Chee Peng, Chief of Air Force Major-General (MG) Hoo Cher Mou, senior SAF officers, as well as families and friends of the graduands.
With tight deadlines, hectic travels and endless coffee runs being the norm in the PIONEER office, things can get pretty intense. Maybe that's why the editor thought it was a good idea for journalist Benita Teo to pick up CPR and AED skills.
I've never been known for my heart-stopping good looks. That must be why my colleagues sent me to learn to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and use an automated external defibrillator (AED). It's a face they can safely wake up to after they pengsan (Malay for faint).
Although I'd heard about CPR and AED, I always thought they could be carried out only by trained medical professionals. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to find out how simple and unintimidating CPR and defibrillation were to perform.
At the one-day course conducted by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Medical Corps, the instructors explained that the first four to six minutes of a cardiac arrest were the most crucial: This is the amount of time the brain could be starved of oxygen before damage occurs. Hence, there is no time for hesitation or being paiseh (Hokkien for shy or embarrassed) when it comes to saving lives.
After a demonstration by the instructors, we were introduced to our training partners - the CPR dummies. I named mine Lars.
Going in for the save
As Lars had collapsed from a cardiac arrest, it was now up to me to keep him alive until help arrived.
Kneeling beside him, I tapped him hard on the shoulders to determine that he had fallen unconscious and was not merely asleep. With Lars, it was difficult to tell.
A quick check showed that he had stopped breathing. I knew I had to lean in for the save - with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Quite a mouthful
In my mind, I imagined that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation would be a romantic affair; that he would awaken as I breathed life into him, our destinies intertwined forever...
In reality, it was like trying to blow up a soggy, wet balloon with a big, gaping puncture. And it sounded the same too. Worse still, no air was entering Lars' lungs.
My confidence was coming undone, flapping miserably in the wind like his deflated lungs. But with Lars' life in my hands - or rather, mouth - I had to soldier on. Opening my mouth wide while pinching his nose, I took a deep breath, clamped my lips over his and exhaled. And Lars' chest finally heaved.
Victorious, I proceeded with chest compressions. Pressing my full weight down repeatedly on a human being's chest seemed like a terrifying endeavour. However, the instructors assured us that the ribcage was strong enough to protect our most vital organ.
Shock through the heart
At this point, the AED came into play. With the accompanying bag of essential tools, I was able to cut away Lars' jacket, shave off the excess hair from his chest and dry his perspiration. Only then could I apply the sticky electronic pads on his chest.
The good thing about the AED was that it analyses the victim's heart rhythm and instructs the first-aider on the next course of action. With one pad below his right collarbone and the other under his left nipple, I leaned back and awaited the AED's instructions.
When the AED recommended a shock to be administered, all I had to do was press the shock button. Also, because a passing electric current could be fatal to a normal heart, I had to remember to keep my hands off Lars to prevent a Wile E. Coyote situation.
After the first shock, the AED began monitoring Lars' heartbeat again.
Luckily for Lars, his heart had started beating and he was breathing. I moved him into a recovery position and waited for the ambulance.
My final job was to report to the medics the time I found him unconscious and the number of shocks I administered before delivering him into their capable hands.
A good save
Going through the course, I could see why these life-saving skills are taught to every recruit in the SAF. When training and operating in remote locations without ready access to comprehensive medical services, CPR and defibrillation can buy a buddy the few precious minutes needed for help to arrive.
Even for me, I'll never know when I could be called upon to use my new skills to save a life.
So, would you like my face to be the first thing you see when you come back to life? OH COME ON, GIVE A GIRL A CHANCE.
About nine months ago when Second Lieutenant (2LT) Fionne Lai first stepped into the door of Officer Cadet School (OCS) at SAFTI MI, she was a very different person.
Before signing on as a Regular Signals officer, 2LT Lai had been a primary school teacher. She is the head of her household as her father had passed away and her mother was working overseas.
On why she wanted to join the military, 2LT Lai cited the need to take care of her younger sister, and her passion for teaching and inspiring the younger generation. She added: I was looking for a different kind of challenge, and I realised that it (being in the Army) not only tested my mental capabilities, but also pushed my limits physically.
She was one of 553 officer cadets who were commissioned as officers in a parade held at SAFTI Military Institute on 20 Jul. The reviewing officer for the parade was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
2LT Lai, who will be posted to 12th Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence battalion, hopes to lead the men and women under her by example, using her experiences within the Officer Cadet Course (OCC) to become a better leader.
Mr Shanmugaratnam had a similar hope for the newly commissioned officers, stating in his speech: As a commander, you will have a role to play in helping your men understand and internalise the importance of National Service. Our soldiers come from all walks of life and bring with them different expectations and perspectives.
As their leader, train them well and build them into a cohesive fighting force. Show them that they have something precious worth defending. Lead by example and uphold the highest standards of discipline and professionalism.
This message resonated strongly with Sword of Honour recipient 2LT Lam Mun Yuan, who will be a Logistics officer in 1st Transport Battalion.
What attracted 2LT Lam to sign on was the opportunity to participate in national events such as the National Day Parade, and Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief operations.
All these events are opportunities where you get to be part of the planning or organising team, said 2LT Lam.
It allows you to gain a lot of eye-opening experiences...because working on the ground with different people and different organisations is not something that comes easily.
Looking back on the previous 38 weeks, Ground-Based Air Defence officer 2LT Sim Jing En noted that completing the OCC was no easy feat.
One of the initial challenges that 2LT Sim faced was his poor physical fitness. He said: My friends were always there to push me, telling me not to give up and to keep going.
That small little motivation and small little push eventually helped me to maintain my discipline.
This experience has motivated 2LT Sim to be the best leader that he can be. The Sword of Honour recipient, who will be heading to the 3rd Divisional Air Defence Artillery Battalion, said: I will do for them (the men under my command) what my friends have done for me, in terms of pushing them beyond their limits, to make sure they can achieve greater things.
Singapore may only be celebrating her 50th birthday next year, but one special birthday present came early - in the form of a panoramic drawing of its iconic skyline.
What makes the present even more special is that the picture was hand-drawn by renowned British architectural artist Stephen Wiltshire, who reproduced the entire 4m-by-1m drawing from memory after aerially viewing the city just once.
The drawing was commissioned by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH) to commemorate its 30th anniversary and will be formally presented to President Tony Tan Keng Yam in September as a 50th birthday gift to the nation.
Mr Wiltshire, 40, is a savant with exceptional talents in the areas of music, art and memory, and has sketched panoramas of cities such as New York and Hong Kong. On 14 Jul, he was invited on board a Republic of Singapore Air Force Super Puma helicopter to get an aerial view of the Marina Bay area.
During the hour-long ride, Mr Wiltshire, accompanied by his sister Annette, sat silently as the helicopter circled Singapore's south-eastern tip. Occasionally, he would request for the pilot to slow down to allow him to better soak in the sights.
When asked how he enjoyed the ride, Mr Wiltshire replied that it was great and exciting to see Singapore from the air.
I really like the high-rise buildings and skyscrapers. Marina Bay Sands is one of my favourites.
I (will) go back to my hotel room later and plan how I will draw the view tomorrow, he explained of his sketching process. I can just see the details in my head, no problem at all, he added.
Following five days of drawing at the atrium of Paragon shopping centre (where an exhibition of his artworks was held), Mr Wiltshire's masterpiece was finally complete. The finished art piece was unveiled this evening at the completion ceremony held at Paragon shopping centre, which was graced by Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister of Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and Head of SG50 Programme office.
The art piece will be displayed at the Urban Redevelopment Authority Singapore City Gallery until its formal presentation to President Tony Tan Keng Yam.