Yes, I’m a female RSM2nd Warrant Officer (2WO) Tan Hui Wen, 38, Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) of 8 SIR, shares how she pushes herself to excel throughout her 18 years in the Army.
// Photos Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of 2WO Tan
"You're an RSM?" Most people think of a fierce-looking and experienced encik when you mention a RSM, so they are always surprised when I introduce myself as one.
Since I took over as the RSM in June 2020, the men of 8th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (8 SIR) have quickly come to terms with having a woman in this appointment.
As the battalion's disciplinarian, I ensure the regimentation, discipline and operational readiness of my soldiers.
Apart from operational checks, I conduct frequent welfare visits to better understand my soldiers on a personal level, and to find out if they have any problems in their work. Whenever possible, I also join them in their fitness regime to bond with them.
These engagements have strengthened my relationship with my soldiers.
Just go for it
If you never try, you will never know: This is a strong belief of mine and it has pushed me to pursue various challenges. This is also why I chose the Army as a career.
With females often seen as the "weaker" gender, people may tend to have lower expectations when it comes to women going through physically demanding courses and taking up appointments that are typically male-dominated.
But what I've learnt – first-hand – is that, male or female, you can do anything you set your mind to.
From taking on the Guards Conversion Course (GCC) in 2004 to being appointed the RSM of 8 SIR, these experiences have allowed me to grow and push myself mentally and physically.
Back then, there were fewer women in the combat manoeuvre vocations – during the GCC, I was one of two servicewomen who went through the course.
We faced many tough challenges – from doing a 10km run, to rappelling down from a helicopter, to doing a 2km coastal swim.
But we overcame them as we wanted to attain our goal of completing the course, and to prove that women are capable of achieving what men can.
Having been in the Army for close to 18 years, I have personally witnessed significant changes in the Army's approach towards women in the service.
Over the last decade, people have become more accepting and friendly towards females in the military. There are also more women who have taken up combat and command roles like Commanding Officer, and even risen up the ranks to become Chief Warrant Officer or Brigadier General in the Warrant Officer Corps and Officer Corps respectively.
It is my hope to see more servicewomen rise up across the various domains and excel equally, if not stronger, as their male counterparts.
A role model to my sons
My husband also holds an RSM appointment, and while the demands of our jobs keeps us busy, we are lucky to have strong family support and understanding superiors.
I have two sons, aged 8 and 10, and they have always known that my occupation is different from most of their friends' mothers.
They often tell me how their friends are in awe when they learn that I am in the military. Even though both of them do not say it, I can tell how proud they are of me.
I cannot wait to share my experiences with them, especially when it is time for them to enlist for National Service. I hope that I will always be a role model to them.