Theme: Commitment


LTA (NS) Nicholas Chan volunteered to extend his NS for nine months to continue safeguarding Singapore’s skies.

This Air Warfare Officer extended his full-time National Service (NS) not once, but twice. In total, he served for nine months after his original ORD (Operationally Ready Date).

Beyond the call of duty

The first time around, Lieutenant (LTA) (NS) Nicholas Chan extended his service from last November to May this year because he felt there was a strong meaning behind the work that he did in NS.

"I was doing real 24/7 operations to safeguard Singapore's airspace," said the 21-year-old, a Platoon 2nd-in-Command (2IC) in the 3rd Divisional Air Defence Artillery Battalion (3 DA Bn).

3 DA Bn is a Ground-Based Air Defence unit in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), providing round-the-clock air defence for homeland security. They operate the RBS 70, a portable short-range air defence missile system.

LTA (NS) Chan with his NSF of the Year award after the award presentation ceremony held at Participation Command Headquarters at Chong Pang Camp.

LTA (NS) Chan's second ORD extension was under very different circumstances.

When COVID-19 hit Singapore shores, the SAF implemented cohorting measures. Naturally, LTA (NS) Chan's unit had to cope with changes in manpower. "I could see that it was a difficult period," he recalled.

So he extended his service yet again to 11 Aug, giving up the chance to attend his university orientation and have a break before school.

For his drive and commitment towards NS, the now-Nanyang Technological University undergraduate is one of the recipients of the Full-Time National Servicemen (NSF) of the Year Award 2020.

RSAF Exercise Director Colonel Kenneth Chiong (left) congratulating LTA (NS) Chan and the other Exercise Brightfire participants for their successful firing.

Honing weapon proficiency

"Extending my service was not an easy decision but I don't regret it," said LTA (NS) Chan with certainty.

The missed opportunity turned out to open another door as he also got the chance to be involved in National Day Parade 2020. He took on the role of an ambassador in the Parade & Ceremonies event, managing the rehearsal schedule and other needs for the Colours Party.

Other highlights of LTA (NS) Chan's NS experience include participating in overseas exercises such as Exercise Brightfire, a live firing exercise held at the Overberg Test Range in South Africa.

As an exercise platoon 2IC, LTA (NS) Chan helped manage the crew's training programme and ensure their proficiency in the RBS 70.

"The preparation was arduous. It included a number of intense field training and late nights to prepare the entire crew for a real live-firing mission," he shared.

The hard work paid off when the team finally saw their weapon in action.

"I will never forget the night I saw the first live-firing. Against the dark sky, we saw the power of the RBS 70 and cheered upon the successful ‘hit' on the target. It was exhilarating."

LTA (NS) Chan (second row, third from left) celebrating a successful mission with his teammates at Exercise Brightfire.

Finding purpose in NS

LTA (NS) Chan also volunteered to serve as an auxiliary instructor in the 41st Air Defence Weapon Operator (ADWO) Course.

"Nurturing NSFs fresh from BMT (Basic Military Training) into full-fledged air defenders was a very rewarding experience," he recounted.

Besides imparting his technical weapon handling skills to train his fellow ADWOs, he aimed to help them find purpose in their NS.

Recalling a line from his then-Battery Commander, Major Sim Bao Chen, LTA (NS) Chan said: "He told me, 'As leaders, our job is to help guide them (NSFs) through their NS journey and leave a better person.'

"This line had a huge impact on me and I will always remember it and carry (this attitude) through my other endeavours in life."

This story was first published on PIONEER on 14 December 2020.