This week, we spoke to Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Chan Yi Quan, Head Overseas Training Policy Branch (Hd OTPB), General Staff (Training). Let’s find out how LTC Chan plays a part in our Army’s overseas training!
What is the role of the Overseas Training Policy Branch?
The Overseas Training Policy Branch anchors the Army's strategy and development for our overseas training space. We identify suitable overseas training space to fulfil our training requirements, and also manage the Army Staff Talks with our foreign partners.
Why is it important for our Army to train overseas?
Singapore has limited land and airspace to conduct large-scale military exercises. Hence, we have to train overseas under the good auspices of our foreign partners to fulfil our cardinal training requirements. Training overseas provides access to large contiguous manoeuvre space, allowing the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to conduct complex and realistic exercises that cannot be fully replicated locally due to space or safety constraints.
For example, the SAF recently conducted Exercise Forging Sabre in the United States as well as Exercise Wallaby in Australia. The vast, unfamiliar and permissive terrain in these training areas allows us to conduct realistic manoeuvres and live-firing to evaluate our units and validate tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs). Our soldiers are able to build up their resilience and hone their operational instincts. This enables us to fulfil our force generation and operational readiness requirements, as well as Cross-Service integration training to sharpen interoperability amongst the Services and enhance Joint warfighting capabilities.
Soldiers boarding the Chinook helicopter during Exercise Wallaby 2023.
When we have the opportunity to train alongside foreign militaries, we can also learn from one another and enhance the interoperability between the forces. These contribute to maintaining a strong and operationally-ready Army.
What is your daily routine like?
My work is pretty much desk-bound, less the days where I need to travel or host our foreign partners. When foreign delegations come to Singapore for the Army Staff Talks, besides conducting the meetings and discussions, my branch will also accompany them on their visits to Army units, as well as cultural places in Singapore. In doing so, we strive to strengthen our defence relations with our foreign partners and help them better understand our Army and Singapore.
LTC Chan (back row, fourth from left) attending a staff talk with the Indonesian Army.
What is a challenge you face when planning for overseas exercises, and how do you overcome it?
Scheduling the bilateral exercises can be rather challenging. We have to balance our force generation training requirements with our bilateral exercises, to ensure that the exercises are mutually beneficial and sustainable. It takes months, sometimes years, to plan for an exercise. We have to forecast the exercises in advance so that we can deconflict the schedule from both Armies and cater resources for it. For this, we work closely with Headquarters, Training and Doctrine Command (HQ TRADOC), as well as with our foreign counterparts.
What was your previous appointment, and how has it benefited you in your current appointment?
Before my current appointment, I was Commanding Officer, 21st Battalion, Singapore Artillery (21 SA). For Artillery units, we have to train overseas to conduct our live-firing. Large-calibre live firing, such as the Artillery and Armour, cannot be conducted locally due to the insufficient range and space to meet the safety requirements. As such, I am able to better appreciate the importance of overseas training for our Army, as well as the things to look out for when planning for overseas exercises.
LTC Chan (far left) in an Artillery overseas live-firing with 21 SA.
What is your most memorable experience as Hd OTPB?
Travelling to various countries! While we travel for Staff Talks, we also take the opportunity to understand the countries' history and culture. It also gives me the opportunity to share on Singapore and the Singapore Army. And during the professional exchange and discussions, we establish mutual understanding and respect. In addition, I feel responsible to help ensure that our training needs and demands are catered for. That is the rewarding part of my job.
LTC Chan (fourth from left) on a Pearl Harbour tour in Hawaii, as part of the United States - Singapore Annual Staff Talks.
Do you have anything to say to our fellow soldiers who participated in the recent overseas exercises?
Mission accomplished! Continue to train hard and train safely! To all the conducting and support staff, thank you for making the exercises a success!
✍🏻: CPL Aaron Cheng (Army News)
📷: CPL Aaron Cheng & LCP Hong Soo Yong (Army News) with contributions by LTC Chan