Warrior in the SAF

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15 Mar 2021 | PEOPLE

Warrior in the SAF

Naval officer Captain (CPT) Jalyn Soh, 28, shares her thoughts on sailing 67 days straight for an overseas deployment during the COVID-19 pandemic, and why she sees herself as a warrior in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Photos // Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of CPT Soh

CPT Soh joined the military as she wanted the opportunity to sail to different parts of the world and interact with like-minded sailors from other navies.

"I see myself as a warrior in the SAF." That's what I tell people when they ask about my job.

From the onset, the military was an obvious career choice for me. It would give me the chance to tap on my areas of strength: physical fitness, mental endurance and leadership.

Proud parents: CPT Soh’s father and mother affixing her officer rank epaulettes during her Officer Cadet Course Commissioning Parade in June 2016.

Coming from an athletic background and being active in an array of competitive sports such as badminton, track & field and dragonboat, I am someone who just can't stay still.

Having a degree and a diploma related to tourism, I was naturally attracted to the prospect of travel, and the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) offered me the perfect opportunity to sail across the oceans and interact with like-minded sailors from other navies.

It was the right call. Since joining the Navy, I've had the opportunity to call at several ports including Busan (South Korea), Cam Ranh Bay (Vietnam), Darwin (Australia), Guam (United States Territory), Hawaii (United States) and Surabaya (Indonesia).

As the RSN's lead planner for the Multinational Group Sail en route to Hawaii for RIMPAC 2020, CPT Soh (foreground, left) had to carry out detailed planning and coordination with other navies virtually through email and video conferencing.

My toughest days yet

Last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic raged on globally, I was fortunate to be able to participate in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise – the world's largest multinational maritime exercise.

It was the toughest but most memorable deployment I have been on so far. We spent 67 days travelling from Singapore to Hawaii and back – the longest sail that the RSN has undertaken without going ashore.

Being deployed during the peak of the pandemic meant that we had to take precautionary measures before, during and after the trip.

These included going through an isolation phase and swab test before sailing, as well as having to plan and coordinate the exercises virtually with no physical interactions among the participating navies.

When we called into ports for replenishment, we had to develop ways for rations and fuel transfer to take place without physical contact.

As the RSN's lead planner for the Multinational Group Sail en route to Hawaii, I had to deal with frequent changes to the plans due to the evolving COVID-19 situation. My team and I were able to overcome this by developing detailed plans and preparing for contingencies.

Despite the long sail during RIMPAC 2020, CPT Soh (front row, second from right) and her crewmates remained in high spirits during their deployment. They are pictured here doing a dance challenge during time off.

The sea states were bad during our sail across the Pacific Ocean. Coupled with the fact that I am highly prone to seasickness, the deployment was no laughing matter. Thankfully, I managed to keep my condition in-check through regular workouts.

The culinary skills of our naval chefs also helped me maintain my appetite out at sea. Still, a vomit bag and preserved orange peels are always in my packing list whenever I sail!

Despite the long deployment, my crew and I kept our spirits up by having fun during our free time. We managed to organise a series of cohesion activities and even celebrated National Day out at sea!

All this will be etched firmly in my memory for years to come.

As a PWO, CPT Soh (left) leads her team in the CIC to defend her ship against threats.

No regrets

As an Operations Officer on board RSS Supreme, a Formidable-class frigate, I am responsible for the planning and execution of my ship's operations. These include local and overseas exercises, both on shore and out at sea.

During sails, I also serve as a Principal Warfare Officer (PWO) and take charge of the Combat Information Centre (CIC) to deal with surface and sub-surface threats. My role as a PWO requires me to sense-make the situation and lead my CIC team to attack and defend my ship against all threats.

CPT Soh sees herself as a warrior in the SAF, defending Singapore's waters and keeping her family and loved ones safe.

As military personnel, we are committed to defending our nation. Regardless of gender, we are all capable of protecting Singapore.

In the SAF today, we are measured by how well we do our jobs and everyone should serve in their capacities according to their talents.

It has been five years and I have no regrets joining the Navy.

I feel proud of the work I do, the uniform I wear, the organisation I serve and the island nation I protect.

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