Proud to Wear the Uniform

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22 Mar 2021 | PEOPLE

Proud to Wear the Uniform

Military Expert (ME) 3 Sanhti D/O Thanapal, 44, shares her experience in the search-and-locate mission of the missing MH370 flight, and why she continues to enjoy every day of her job, 23 years into her career with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).

// Photos PIONEER photographers & courtesy of ME3 Sanhti

ME3 Sanhti was among the first to volunteer in the search for the missing MH370 flight.

One of the most memorable moments of my 23-year career would be volunteering in the search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which went missing on 8 Mar 2014 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

I still remember the day when my Commanding Officer (CO) texted us, asking for volunteers to take part in the search mission. I agreed without hesitation.

The next day, my CO asked me if I was sure of my decision and if my family was supportive of me going for the mission. I reassured him that I wanted to contribute in the search efforts.

During the 10-hour flight, ME3 Sanhti's role was to scan the sea for signs of debris.

On 9 Mar 2014, I flew on a C-130 transport aircraft with a team of 18 crew members. It was a 10-hour flight and my role was to scan for any sign of survivors or debris with the binoculars.

Lives were at stake, and I was nervous but determined to help out as a "scanner".

The aircraft was circling at a low altitude, so I felt nauseous at times as I was constantly staring at moving objects. Nevertheless, I held on and maintained my focus throughout the 10-hour mission.

The search, which took place in South China Sea, was like looking for a needle in a haystack. We did not manage to find anything that day, but I still felt a sense of satisfaction having been part of the mission.

As Head Air Ops Section in AOSX School, ME3 Sanhti (far left) trains NSFs and Regulars on air operation topics related to air traffic control and base operation management.

A heart for service

I am currently the Head Air Ops Section in the Air Operations & Systems Expert (AOSX) School at the Air Warfare Training Institute (AWTI).

My job involves training both Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) and Regulars on air operation topics related to air traffic control and base operation management. This includes hands-on practical training at the tower simulator in the AWTI.

During lessons, I always make it a point to share my personal stories about my work experience and the MH370 search-and-locate mission I took part in.

My main aim of sharing these stories is to generate awareness of such scenarios and to motivate the younger generation to step up and help whenever possible.

ME3 Sanhti (right) guiding her trainee, Private Teo Kia Wee, at the tower simulator.

Prior to being an air ops instructor, I was a base command post coordinator. I worked on a 24-hour duty cycle to monitor activities such as flying operations and platform maintenance, as well as help in coordination and liaison with units on management of the base.

The job was challenging, but my team and I always persevered. There was no gender differentiation – we all performed our roles with pride and worked well with one another.

Both ME3 Sanhti and her husband, ME3 Ganisen (far left), are in the RSAF. ME3 Ganisen is an AOSX from 202 Squadron. They have two children, Marcus, 19, and Marianne, 14.

Juggling work & family

In the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), we are not defined by our gender but by our competency in our roles.

As a mother of two, I need to juggle work, family and studies. Both my husband and I work in the RSAF and we are always on shift duties. Work is never easy but we have always managed.

I even took up the opportunity to upgrade my skills and completed an SAF-sponsored Specialist Diploma course on Learning and Instruction with the National Institute of Education recently.

ME3 Sanhti has no regrets joining the RSAF and enjoys her work even after 23 years on the job.

Living my passion

I always believe that you have to love what you do, and to always give your best. Life isn't always easy – we may encounter many hurdles, but it's all worth it in the end.

This is why, despite the challenges, I enjoy my job in the military and have no regrets joining the RSAF.

I know that I am defending my country and I am proud to wear my uniform.

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