Everyone loves a good comeback story, that of a hero triumphing over an obstacle, defying odds to achieve the unlikely. Many of us have had our own comeback stories, often slapped within different phases of our lives as we challenge ourselves to overcome our own "Everests".
In this story, 2LT Sean Pang acts as our real-life protagonist, as we follow his winding journey of recovering from a bout of pneumonia to eventually commissioning on the parade square of SAFTI Military Institute as part of the 116/19 batch of officers.
After enlisting into 1st Battalion Singapore Guards, 2LT Sean had a positive mindset right from the get-go. "I came in with the mindset that whatever I wished to take away from National Service, from the Army, came down to what I wanted to make of it. I know it will not be easy or rewarding all the time, but I felt that if I did not do my best, then that would be all there is to my NS - simply an obligation to serve."
This drive and determination to make the best out of NS played a key role in pushing himself throughout this journey.
After completing Basic Military Training, 2LT Sean fulfilled his initial goal of making it to command school as he was posted to the Specialist Cadet School (SCS). His specialist cadet life however, was a short one, as he was diagnosed with pneumonia less than a month into the 36/18 Specialist Cadet Course. This obstacle dampened 2LT Sean's mood, leaving him in initial doubts over his future in NS. "I felt pretty upset. Not only because I was instantly placed out-of-course by the Medical Officer, but because I knew this meant my medical classification would be temporarily downgraded for at least six months. While this would allow me to recuperate, it also implies that it would be very hard for me to be sent for the subsequent course."
Posted back to his original unit as an Administrative Support Assistant (ASA), 2LT Sean continued to do his best and embraced a different side of the Army. "My key takeaway was a deeper understanding of how the Army works - broadening my horizons from how a section functions to how an entire company or even battalion works, both in operations as well as admin."
It was also during this period of time that 2LT Sean was noticed by his superiors for his exceptional artistic talents, which he used to great effects by gifting works he produced to commanders overseas.
One of 2LT Sean Pang's artworks - "Rifleman's creed", presented as a token of appreciation for Exercise Valiant Mark 2019.
Inspired by his commanders, 2LT Sean's desire to serve propelled him to re-enter SCS, a full 8 months after being placed out-of-course, extending his service term by 4 months.
"My friends and family, knowing my passion for leadership, were very encouraging and supportive of me. Although it wasn't easy, this strengthened my resolve to embark on a new, unfamiliar journey - even if it came at a price of extending my service by 4 months."
After re-entering SCS to train as a sergeant, 2LT Sean was one of the few outstanding candidates to be selected for the crossover from SCS to Officer Cadet School (OCS). Though grateful for the recognition of his effort, 2LT Sean initially did not expect to be chosen as one of the deserving few. "Frankly, I did not expect to be chosen for it. When I was eventually selected, I felt that my effort and hardwork had been recognised."
His time in OCS was filled with constant training and outfield exercises, but 2LT Sean savoured the plethora of different operations and skills he had to tackle and learn from.
With his official completion of OCS, 2LT Sean has effectively extended his service by 10 months and 10 days, a substantial amount of time. To 2LT Sean, however, this amount of time in NS served as timber for his ever-growing passion in learning. "I came into NS wanting to make the most out of my time and though I might have to serve a little longer than others, I think I've ultimately met that goal to become a better person and a better leader."
Whilst 2LT Sean made the climb back to the top of his NS aspirations, it was his parents who held the ropes, giving him the support and reassurance that the experience gained through his extended service period would prove invaluable eventually.
"We were initially apprehensive, but both of us agreed that the learning, training and experience would be something worthwhile, taking him to further heights in his life and future career path. At the end of the day, we are very proud of his determination to do his best to excel and perform, towards becoming a commissioned officer."
2LT Sean Pang (centre) with his parents during the Officer Cadet Commissioning Parade.
Written by: PTE Douglas Toh
Photography by: LCP Nicholas Chow
"In today's world, if we were to be called into operations, it would likely be as a part of a multinational taskforce alongside our international partners", said BG Seet Uei Lim, Chief Guards Officer, to participants of Exercise Cobra Gold prior to the commencement of the exercise. "As such, I urge each and every one of you to develop yourselves professionally as part of a combined task force, both for future collaboration and in your respective domains of expertise."
Held from 24 Feb to 6 Mar in Phitsanulok, Thailand, Exercise Cobra Gold comprised a Command Post Exercise (CPX), an Engineer Civic Assistance Program (ENCAP), a Cyber exercise and a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise. Co-hosted by Thailand and the United States (US), the militaries of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Republic of Korea and Japan took part in Exercise Cobra Gold.
BG Seet Uei Lim, Chief Guards Officer, engaging the exercise participants.
As part of the CPX, a multinational force (MNF) was created to accomplish a fictitious mission. The headquarters of the MNF comprised functional cells that ranged from manpower to civil-military operations. Our Army held several key appointments in the MNF, including its Assistant Commander and the Head of Logistics Cell.
Leading the Logistics Cell
As the director of the MNF Logistics Cell, ME7 Chong Wah Heng, Head Integrated Systems Engineering Group / Tracks Systems Centre from Headquarters, Maintenance and Engineering Support, was tasked with leading a multinational team in planning and executing operational level logistics for the MNF forces as part of the CPX.
"It was interesting to observe how our plans had an impact on the social, economic and political dimensions, both locally and internationally. Everybody came together to learn, share and make friends, making it a very insightful and pleasant experience overall." Sharing his greatest takeaway from the exercise, ME7 Chong said, "it was us coming together as strangers, and at the end of the two weeks, reluctantly leaving as great friends."
ME7 Chong Wah Heng (right) receiving a token of appreciation from the MNF Commander.
Watch Chief at the Nerve Centre
1WO Vinod Kumar, Warrant Officer, Operations / Training Coordination, Headquarters, Guards, served as the Watch Chief at the Current Operations Centre during the CPX. This role saw him partnering the Watch Officer at the Nerve Centre to piece together developments from the various entities in making sense of the battlefield.
"Participants from the various countries brought with them different ways of doing things and it was enriching to exchange views of how we operate. Personally, my most memorable experience was the opportunity to put together a brief on the significant events of the day and presenting that to the Singapore, Thailand and US generals along with the leads from the various cells."
1WO Vinod (right) during an update to the generals.
Advance and Overcome!
As part of the exercise, participants from various countries chipped in their time and effort to build a multi-purpose building for the local community. As the lead for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) ENCAP team, CPT Aloysius Chan, 2nd-In-Charge (2IC), Construction Engineer Company, Army Combat Engineers Group, shared how this experience brought together members of the different armies.
"We encountered several challenges such as delay in the delivery of raw materials required for construction of the building. However, with close teamwork between members of the SAF, Royal Thai Armed Forces and the US Army, we were able to overcome the challenges and completed the project on time. We also had a very enjoyable and fruitful working experience despite the language barrier."
Soldiers plastering the wall.
Singapore Ambassador to Thailand, His Excellency Mr Kevin Cheok, represented Singapore at the ENCAP dedication ceremony on 5 Mar 20.
As mission lead for the SAF Cyber Team, CPT Adriel Chen from the Cyber Defence Group shared about his contributions in establishing a common MNF Standard Operating Procedure for cyber defence during the exercise.
"The highlight was to have the SAF team recognized by the Opposition Force (OPFOR) for their excellent performance. The OPFOR comprised cyber professionals who had worked on similar exercises with MNCs in the Silicon Valley. Overall, the exercise was an overwhelmingly positive experience that set a strong foundation for cooperation in future multinational cyber operations."
As Exercise Cobra Gold came to a close, participants commonly cited professional development and strong bonds forged between the SAF and participants from other armies as some of the greatest takeaways.
Exercise Cobra Gold CPX Team
Written by: CPT Lim Zhi Xian
We are the bedrock of our defence
We draw our strength from our Regulars, NSFs and Operationally Ready NSmen. We thrive on the support of our Families, Employers and fellow Singaporeans.