Platoon sergeants, fall in (love)!They “chiong sua” together, fell in love, got married and now have a baby.
// Story by Koh Eng Beng
// Photos by Kenneth Lin & courtesy of 1SG Loo & SSG Ng
1st Sergeant (1SG) Shamim Shafiq Loo and Staff Sergeant (SSG) Venice Ng were platoon sergeants in 5th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (5 SIR) when they first met in 2018.
You can imagine how much they got to know each other, having seen the other thrive in – and struggle with – tough military training.
The pair liked what they saw in each other. And after an intense courtship, 1SG Shamim, like a true blue infantry soldier, proposed to her at a "field camp" in East Coast Park.
They got married in 2019 and welcomed their newborn "recruit" Harley in August last year.
PIONEER speaks with the couple to find out their love story, and how they manage challenges as husband and wife in the military.
What do you guys do in the Army?
1SG Loo: I did my National Service (NS) first as a trooper in 6 SIR from 2009 to 2011. Then I studied for a diploma in aerospace engineering at Singapore Polytechnic, and took up the Joint Polytechnic-SAF Diploma Scheme (JPSDS). I went back to the Army in 2015.
Now, I am an Assistant Platoon Trainer in the Motorised Infantry Training Institute where I conduct training for active and NS units to operate and fight alongside the Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle.
SSG Ng: I studied New Media in Republic Polytechnic and signed up for the JPSDS in 2012. I enlisted in 2015 and spent my first three years in 5 SIR as a signals section commander and subsequently as a platoon sergeant.
Currently, I am an assistant trainer in Signals Institute, training signal operators to operate signal sets as well as the Battlefield Management System for the Terrex.
What attracted you to each other?
1SG Loo: We were from the same unit, 5 SIR. Back then, she was a signals platoon sergeant, while I was an infantry platoon sergeant.
I won’t deny that her attractiveness was definitely a major kickstarter – she’s the army girl that people would want to stalk on Instagram! (laughs)
But what really sealed the deal – how I knew that she’s “The One” – was how (well) we can connect with each other. I tend to talk very bluntly so I have very few female friends. But I feel comfortable talking to her.
SSG Ng: For me, it has to be his loud and outspoken personality. He’s also very disciplined and hardworking.
One of the greatest qualities that I see in him has got to be the way he cares for his soldiers with his heart. For example, one of his former soldiers even became our family friend. One year after his ORD (Operationally Ready Date), they still play basketball together.
He visits us sometimes and Shamim often lends him a listening ear as he’s staying alone in Singapore (as a Permanent Resident) and not able to visit his parents in Malaysia during COVID-19.
What is it like to be a military couple?
1SG Loo: One word: tough! Clash of plans, back to back outfield (training), high training tempo – the list goes on and on.
Despite these challenges, it was comforting to know that our bosses have been very understanding, especially more so when our baby was born. They try their best to ensure that we have some form of work-life balance, and they also share their own experiences so that we can manage parenthood better.
SSG Ng: If we both have outfield or night training on the same day, we are unable to pick up our baby from infant care, but we will get help from our families to fetch him or take care of him.
1SG Loo: As we are both working Army parents, we don’t always have the luxury of time with our child, especially on weekdays. There are times when we pick up our child late but he’s already asleep as his bedtime is early at about 9pm. I will always recall the nights when one of us comes home and the other party is already asleep with him!
Has COVID-19 brought about new challenges to your life as a couple?
1SG Loo: To be honest, not as much as we expected. We would say the greatest impact on our life would be the disruption to our travel plans, considering how much we love to travel. When we were dating, we would travel regularly to places like Cebu, Thailand and Malaysia.
But the pandemic has brought us closer as a family – we now spend more time chatting at home, watching Netflix and finding new places for jogging every weekend.
How are you guys planning to celebrate Valentine’s Day?
1SG Loo: Valentine’s Day definitely holds a special place in our hearts as it’s also Venice’s birthday! We have planned a staycation to spend some quality time together with our child. I also prepared some handmade gifts but I shall leave it as that for now ’cos it’s meant to be a surprise!
What's the most romantic thing that you guys have done for each other?
1SG Loo: I think the most romantic thing would be when I proposed to her with an outfield-like experience at East Coast Park, or what people these days describe as glamping.
Also, whenever I went outfield, I used to find metal scraps, dried twigs and flowers to make rings or small handmade gifts for her.
SSG Ng: Hmmm, for me I didn’t really make any romantic stuff...
1SG Loo: Actually, she did. She knew I liked Pokemon and took the effort to find a cake with a Charmander character for me. She would find things that are one of a kind, that would make my heart melt.
You know, we work in the military so we don’t have much free time. People always think that we use money to compensate for the lack of time. But Venice is one rare person who always proves otherwise. She will spend time getting you gifts that you will remember.
Does it help to have a spouse who also works in the SAF?
1SG Loo: Come this May, it will be my eighth year in the Army and for my wife, her sixth year. It definitely helps to have someone who understands the job and the amount of time and dedication it demands of us.
We completely understand what it means when one of us has to spend the night out in the field, and the other party will manage everything else back at home.
What relationship advice do you have for other couples?
1SG Loo: For military people like us, our free time is limited due to the nature of our work. We think it's important for couples to really cherish the time spent with each other, no matter how long or short.
My wife always says: “Everyday is Valentine’s Day only if you are with the right person. If you are with the wrong person...”
SSG Ng: Then every day is hell day! (laughs) And when it comes to Valentine’s Day, it’s just that one day you do those romantic gestures.
1SG Loo: Yes! What’s the point of being happy for only three or four times a year, and unhappy for the rest of the year? So spend time with your loved one, and make sure you cherish the time!