On this issue of Kopitalk, we spoke to our Sergeant Major of the Army (SMA), Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Yeo Keng Hua. With over 32 years of experience in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), CWO Yeo has taken on many appointments and attended numerous prestigious courses such as the United States Army Sergeant Major Course and the Goh Keng Swee Command and Staff College Executive Course throughout his SAF journey. Read on to glean from his vast experience in our Army.
What spurred you to join the Army, and what made you stay?
When I was five years old, my father passed away and my mother had to take care of four of us. My family was not well to do and I joined the Army in the 1990s at the age of 17 under the Learn-As-You-Earn programme, which offered me an O-Level scholarship while drawing a steady income.
While serving in the Army, I gained a stronger sense of purpose in my work as I came to deeply realise the importance of National Service (NS) along the way. Also, in all my roles, I found I was able to influence and create positive change for our people, all while building a stable career and income.
What are your key responsibilities as the Sergeant Major of the Army?
As a baseline, every Warrant Officer and Specialist (WOSpec) plays the role of a Warfighter-Trainer-Leader with four key responsibilities: Taking Charge of Training, Deepening Skills and Knowledge, Leading and Managing WOSpecs, and Enforcing Regimentation and Discipline.
Apart from these, I am responsible for all Soldiering Fundamentals (SOFUN), Regimentation and Discipline (R&D), Parade and Ceremony (P&C), Customs and Traditions and the Army Dress matters, working hand in hand with the Sergeant Major community. I also work with the Control of Personnel Centre (CPC) on WOSpec postings and overseas courses.
SMA, then-Division Sergeant Major of 9th Singapore Division, testing the M110 at the Multi-Mission Range Complex
What direction would you like to chart in your time as SMA?
Ultimately, I want zero fatal accidents – not just in these few years, but continually for years to come. To fulfil this, commanders and trainers must enforce the safety and well-being of our soldiers, for which I will engage all commanders of different levels to remind them to stay vigilant. I urge all our last-mile leaders to be ‘gatekeepers’ of safety, and for each of us to develop innate safety instincts when performing our tasks, regardless of scale and complexity.
Also, our WOSpecs must continue to deepen their knowledge and competency through academic upgrading, overseas courses and being Subject Matter Experts in their own domain.
Lastly, our commanders and soldiers must always bear in mind the purpose of NS. Only with a deep-rooted understanding of this purpose, will we be able to bring it to life with positive actions and motivations.
SMA, then-Chief Master Trainer of Specialist and Warrant Officer Institute, training our specialist cadets during their graduation parade rehearsal
How do you think we can improve our training and management of our soldiers?
As we resume training in post-pandemic times, we should do so in a calibrated and deliberate manner both progressively and safely. With each generation of soldiers, our trainers must adapt to connect with them so that we can train them more effectively. When our soldiers develop a stronger sense of purpose in their training, it will naturally boost their performance and morale. Our trainers must ensure that high standards are achieved in SOFUN and training outcomes, without compromising their safety.
Be a role model to your soldiers and lead by example. Treat our soldiers like your siblings or children so that their well-being is taken care of.
SMA, then-Division Sergeant Major of 9th Singapore Division, engaging the Infantry WOSpecs for the Warfighter Company Sergeant Major Course Preparatory Programme
How do you and our Chief of Army (COA) work together?
Apart from joining COA on visits to SAF units, their training and our foreign partners, I appreciate that despite his busy schedule, he takes time to schedule lunch with me regularly. This constant and key communication with him has given me opportunities to offer feedback from the ground, share my views and concerns, and thereafter work with the various key stakeholders to bring the ideas to fruition.
SMA together with COA engaging the promotees during the Army Promotion Ceremony
Who are your greatest pillars of support and how do they motivate you?
Definitely my beloved wife and two wonderful kids. I have a very supportive and understanding wife who never complains and holds the fort at home whenever I am not around, even while juggling her own career. My family’s presence gives me strength and an added sense of purpose, motivating me to do my best every day.
SMA with his wife and children
Written by: LCP Scott Pang (Army News)
Photography by: LCP Darrel Yeo and the Army News team