Biggest Red Lion team jumping in NDP 2022Twenty-four Red Lions, including three female parachutists, will be taking part in this year's National Day celebrations.
// Story by Teo Jing Ting
// Photos by PIONEER photographers
This National Day Parade (NDP), watch out for 24 Red Lions – the largest team in NDP history – as they take the plunge at different three sites.
The elite parachutist team includes three servicewomen, which is another first for NDP 2022.
A total of 14 Red Lions will be landing at two heartland sites on 7 Aug.
Seven jumpers will land at the field beside Junction 8, Bishan, while another team of seven will make their appearance at the field along North Buona Vista Road, near Ghim Moh Food Market.
Come 9 Aug, the rest of the 10 parachutists will perform their jumps at the main stage at The Float @ Marina Bay.
Among them is 2nd Warrant Officer (2WO) Shirley Ng, the first female Red Lion who made her debut National Day jump in 2014 after the jump in 2013 was called off due to bad weather.
The 44-year-old rigger is the ninth jumper to land at The Float this year. This is her fourth time jumping for NDP – besides taking part in 2013 and 2014, she participated in the heartlands jump at Sengkang in 2020.
The Red Lions will be exiting the Republic of Singapore Air Force's C-130 Hercules transport plane at slightly less than 10,000 feet (about 3km).
Sharing what goes through her mind when she jumps, 2WO Ng said: "From exiting the aircraft to deploying and subsequently manoeuvring my canopy, it is all carefully planned and rehearsed. So I'm very focused on what I've prepared for.
"But when I'm coming down, it's very heartening to see Singaporeans waving their flags and cheering for us. We really can hear you, so cheer for us!"
Female Red Lions in the sky
NDP 2022 is also especially significant for 2WO Ng as it is the first time that she is participating with two of her good friends and fellow Red Lions, 3WO Shirley Wong and 3WO Sandy Wong.
Both ladies are the sixth jumpers for the heartland sites on 7 Aug – 3WO Shirley will be at Bishan while 3WO Sandy makes an appearance at the Ghim Moh site.
As first-time Red Lion participants, the two parachutists are honoured to be part of NDP and looking forward to putting up a good show at the heartlands.
It is also a memorable moment for 3WO Shirley, who overcame her fear of heights to become a parachutist in 2008. She did so in order to join 2WO Ng and 3WO Sandy, who became certified free fallers in 2006 and 2007 respectively.
The initial stage was not easy. "I used to be very anxious but I tried to focus on the training, skills and execution. (That's how) I began to overcome the fear," said 3WO Shirley.
Today, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) rigger and parachute instructor is clearly no longer afraid of heights. With 350 jumps under her belt, 3WO Shirley relishes every opportunity she gets to skydive.
"I really enjoy (jumping) now. The moment I jump out of the aircraft, I just concentrate on all the things I need to execute and to land safely."
Bringing cheer to the heartlands
Through her practice jumps at Bishan, 3WO Shirley finds fulfilment in seeing the public cheering her on and is excited for 7 Aug.
"I can see people waving at us through their windows and cheering us on as we are landing. This really encourages us and give us a boost of confidence."
For 3WO Sandy, becoming a Red Lion is a dream come true.
Despite having to go through numerous training and practice sessions prior to the heartland jumps, the SAF rigger and parachute instructor feels that it is all worth it.
"The Red Lion jump has always been one of the favourite segments of NDP and, this year, I feel very honoured and happy to do my part for Singapore together with my friends. I just want to bring the cheer and excitement to Singaporeans," said 3WO Sandy, who has completed 417 jumps.
Navigating the heartland terrain
Leading 3WO Sandy and her teammates at the Ghim Moh site is Master Warrant Officer (MWO) Chong Boon Heng, 46.
For the heartland jumps, both teams will be exiting the aircraft at 6,000 feet (about 1.8km) and deploying their parachutes at 4,000 feet (about 1.2km). They will also be freefalling at a speed of 180kmh.
Before the jumps, the Red Lions scouted the freefall area and secured an in-depth knowledge of the buildings and roads.
"Our jumps are carefully planned and we have done all the necessary preparations," said MWO Chong. He is no stranger to NDP jumps, having taken part as a Red Lion five times previously, but this is his first doing a jump in the heartlands.
"There may be more landmarks (as compared to The Float) that we need to take note of but what is most important is having the same synergy when jumping as a team."
3WO Kuldheep Singh, who is the third jumper at the Bishan site, shared the same sentiment.
"Doing the jump in the heartlands is quite challenging way because it's a new terrain. There are buildings and traffic to look out for so our training involves a lot of practice, safety briefs and contingencies," said the 47-year-old parachutist, who is taking part as a Red Lion in NDP for the first time.
Ready for the celebrations
Despite the challenges, both MWO Chong and 3WO Singh are ready and excited to jump on 7 Aug.
"It's definitely the proudest moment (for us when jumping as a Red Lion) because we are representing Singapore and the SAF, and we are doing it for the nation," said 3WO Singh.
MWO Chong added: "By bringing the Red Lions into the heartlands, it definitely brings us closer to all Singaporeans and they can celebrate together with us.
"We can't wait to hear the crowd cheering for us, so see you on 7 Aug!"