Anything But Regular: CO 8 SIR, LTC Anthony Tan

Anything But Regular: CO 8 SIR, LTC Anthony Tan

This week, we speak to Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Anthony Tan, Commanding Officer (CO), 8th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (8 SIR). 8 SIR is responsible for the protection of our key installations in Singapore, staying ready and vigilant round the clock, 24/7.

What does 8 SIR do?

8 SIR performs security operations 24/7 to protect critical military and civilian key installations in Singapore. Situations we face are often unpredictable and dynamic, which then requires us to maintain the highest state of readiness at all times.


LTC Tan addressing his soldiers during their Milestone Parade.

How has your experience as CO 8 SIR been so far?

Leading 8 SIR has been my most fulfilling tour of duty thus far, and I have profound respect for my soldiers. My soldiers are the unsung heroes who safeguard our nation and protect our way of life. While Singapore sleeps peacefully at night, they stand vigilant, ensuring our security. Even during joyous festivities, they quietly continue their duties in the background, ensuring that Singaporeans can celebrate in peace. Though they may not always be in the spotlight, their unwavering dedication, resilience, and sacrifices are indispensable to the security of Singapore.

Having the opportunity to influence and shape our unit towards our vision of being the unit of choice in homeland security and defence, has truly been extraordinary. Developing our soldiers, both NSFs and Regulars into men and women of good character to be the pillars of strength in society and witnessing their growth has also been a privilege.


LTC Tan during a visit to his soldiers on training.

What makes your job/appointment #AnythingButRegular?

To me, my role as CO 8 SIR is #AnythingButRegular because it allows me to contribute directly to the defence of Singapore, my only home. Joining the Army, I had the opportunity to experience the adrenaline of jumping out of a "perfectly normal" aircraft and scaling peaks to enjoy spectacular views from the mountain top. I also do not perform the same role continuously. Every few years, I rotate to different appointments to embrace new challenges and opportunities, acquiring new skills and expanding my expertise.

What is one key takeaway as CO 8 SIR?

One key takeaway was the need to maintain an open-minded approach, encouraging feedback from the ground. Even as CO, I don't claim to possess all-encompassing knowledge of the unit. Embracing the wisdom of the masses, as conveyed in the Chinese saying '三个臭皮匠,胜过一个诸葛亮' – translated as 'the wisdom of the masses exceeds that of any individual' – underscores the importance of listening to the feedback of my soldiers.

This open-minded approach significantly boosts our soldiers' commitment and morale. When constructive feedback translates into positive changes on the ground, it fosters a greater sense of commitment and ownership amongst my soldiers. This cyclical process creates a self-reinforcing loop. Imagine if we compound this small act over the years; the results will be phenomenal! To facilitate this, other than the formal channels of raising feedback, I've also implemented a digital CO feedback box where my soldiers can share feedback directly with me anonymously. I am committed to acting on every single piece of feedback and closing the loop with the contributor. In instances where the writer only specifies their company, I will travel to multiple key installations under that particular company's charge to address the feedback raised and update everyone on the actions taken. I believe this practice demonstrates to my soldiers that the Battalion Headquarters (HQ) takes every piece of feedback seriously and approaches it with an open mind. Of course, not all feedback is for improvement. I have also received multiple compliments from my soldiers on the battalion or to commanders who have gone above and beyond their duties.


Group photo with Comd 2 PDF/ IDTF, BG Pang Lead Shuan, LTC Tan and his soldiers after Milestone Parade.

What were some of your previous appointments and how did these prior experiences help you in your current appointment?

I previously served as an Officer Commanding (OC) in 8 SIR, which offered valuable insights into the challenges of leading soldiers in a de-centralised unit structure and navigating operational complexities in homeland security and defence. Returning to the role of CO has allowed me to witness and appreciate the positive changes implemented since my time as an OC, that put the SAF Military Police (MP) Command, 2nd People's Defence Force (2 PDF) Command, and Island Defence Task Force (IDTF) in a position of strength.

Throughout my years of service, I have been fortunate to work under inspirational senior SAF leaders who have coached and mentored me. One notable example is with a particular retired officer whom I've maintained a lasting connection with since 2010, meeting at least twice a year for long morning walks and talking about almost anything under the sun!

In 2020, I was deployed to the Ministry of Health, contributing directly to the COVID-19 fight. This experience allowed me to play a role in curbing the virus's transmission in Singapore and provided an opportunity to learn from volunteers in both the private and public sectors. Beyond gaining fresh perspectives, this deployment enhanced my ability to force-protect my soldiers during security operations and lead my battalion through challenging times, such as the surge in daily transmission cases in early 2022 due to the Omicron variant.

What are some values that you believe in as a leader?

The SAF core values guide me in all my decision-making and actions. In addition to the SAF core values, I firmly believe in exercising kindness in my leadership and treating everyone with empathy, respect, and compassion. I strive to inspire trust and foster open communication, creating the bedrock for a positive and supportive work environment.

I also emphasise the importance of trusting my teammates, providing them the autonomy, and allocating the necessary resources for them to excel in their roles. I cultivate an environment that encourages ownership by giving them both the desired outcome and the space to achieve it. That said, I do not power off thereafter. I will continue to watch over them quietly in the background and steer them towards the end goal.


Engagement is a key function for a battalion with decentralized operations. LTC Tan and his team visits the soldiers from 8 SIR regularly, even on public holidays.

Do you face any challenges managing unit cohesion, morale and workload?

Managing unit cohesion, morale, and workload poses inherent challenges, especially in a de-centralised unit like 8 SIR. In our operational structure, my soldiers are deployed in teams across Singapore, securing various civilian and military key installations through round-the-clock security operations. Unlike conventional battalions, where daily interaction with every soldier with their COs is a routine, the nature of our operational deployment means there's never a moment when I can meet my entire battalion simultaneously to engage them and communicate key messages and updates.

I once had a soldier question the purpose of standing guard as an armed sentry in the absence of an immediate threat. I explained that his vigilance as an armed sentry has served to deter possible perpetrators and contributed to the absence of an immediate threat. In our nature of operations, the adage "boring is good" holds true, although it can be challenging at times to motivate soldiers for roles that may seem monotonous.

To address this, my commanders and I invest significant time on the road, visiting soldiers deployed in different key installations across Singapore. Instead of conventional battalion-wide physical training sessions, we conduct physical training directly at various key installations, allowing us to engage with our soldiers more personally while keeping them physically fit.

Our unique battalion structure and operational context underscore the importance of our unit's communication strategy and the establishment of a direct feedback channel. This ensures that my soldiers can effectively express their concerns and we can also address them soonest.


LTC Tan, together with his soldiers, taking a photo with Comd SAF MP Command, COL Liew Kok Keong and FSM, SAF MP Command, SWO Zulkarnaen Bin Hussain.

Looking forward, what is your vision for 8 SIR?

Looking forward, our vision for 8 SIR is to be the unit of choice for homeland security and defence, and our progress toward this aspiration has been significant. I envision 8 SIR as the go-to unit when individuals think about camp/base security. This will truly signify our competence and dependability.

✍🏻: CPL Aaron Cheng (Army News)

📷: Contributed by 8 SIR Media Team