Tough Trainer, True Leader

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03 Sep 2021 | PEOPLE

Tough Trainer, True Leader

LTA Chia Kok Siong is known to be a stern trainer who wants to build up and prepare his cadets to become competent officers.

// Story By Teo Jing Ting

// Photos By Chua Soon Lye

LTA Chia hopes to build up as many competent officers as possible.

He's not afraid to get on the ground with his soldiers, often times showing them the right way to do something. He doesn't mince his words when reprimanding them. He even punishes himself together with his cadets if they make a mistake.

Lieutenant (LTA) Chia may only be 28, but his strict training methods have worked wonders. His goal? To build up as many competent officers as possible.

After joining the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in 2014 as a Guards officer, he went on to be a Platoon Commander (PC) in the Army Deployment Force (ADF) two years later.

He was posted to Officer Cadet School (OCS) in 2019 and served as an instructor and assistant PC in the then-Hotel Wing. In December 2020, he took up his current appointment as a PC in Charlie Wing.

From building up his cadets' competencies on weapons handling, to planning and fighting in an infantry mission, LTA Chia has trained two platoons during his stint at OCS.

But this tough instructor also has a soft side – when he knew that one of his trainees, Officer Cadet (OCT) Darius Ang, was up for the Sword of Honour (SOH) interview, LTA Chia typed out a list of questions for OCT Ang to practise and guided him on second-order thinking (which is about how to think and solve issues on a deeper level).

We speak to LTA Chia and OCT Ang to find out about the former's training style.

LTA Chia (proning, foreground) prefers a hands-on approach when teaching his trainees.

Hi LTA Chia! We heard that you're willing to roll in mud and dirt with your trainees?

LTA Chia: I'm a hands-on person and I usually like to demonstrate (what's being asked of my trainees) so that they know that it's possible to accomplish it.

As an instructor, it's only right that I'm willing to do whatever it takes to give them the confidence (to do well) as future leaders in the SAF. I hope they will also put in the effort to do the same with their future soldiers.

You're also someone who doesn't think twice about scolding your cadets?

LTA Chia: It depends on the severity of the mistake. If my cadets make mistakes in terms of values, I will really scold them. But at the end of it, I will rationalise why I scolded them. It's really important that they understand that 'cos they are going to be officers.

If they scold or punish their soldiers in future, they should be able to explain why they did so, as well as teach and guide their soldiers to do the right thing after that. So I try to lead by example by doing it here so that they learn to lead the right way.

LTA Chia (standing) going through the fundamentals of the Singapore Assault Rifle (SAR) 21 with his cadets.

OCT Ang, what do you think of LTA Chia as a trainer?

OCT Ang: He's a true leader. He teaches everything from the heart, always going the extra mile and never afraid to get his hands dirty. Even when out in the field and it's muddy, he prones on the ground to demonstrate.

He may be stern but he does not demand perfection. As long as we put in our best and he sees the effort and hunger in us, he's more than happy already. He trains us well and wants us to be better people, not only during National Service but in our life. He's crafted a platoon that will be 110 per cent willing to go the extra mile for him.

LTA Chia, OCT Ang mentioned that you once did a punishment together with them. What was that about?

LTA Chia: (laughs) Oh, he was referring to one of the training sessions where they did not achieve certain training standards that I had set out for them. It was after multiple times of me repeating it over and over again.

At that moment, I was slightly annoyed but I knew I answered for their training standards. It was crucial that they had to improve within a short period so I dished out a set of push-ups and did it together with them.

After that, I explained why I did it, why they needed to improve and what they did wrong. They have the potential to achieve great things and they were just not getting there so I had to give them the extra push.

LTA Chia (second from left) coaching a cadet on aiming with the SAR 21.

We heard that you also helped OCT Ang get ready to for his SOH interview?

OCT Ang: Yup, I'm up for the SOH award and LTA Chia typed out the list of questions for me to practise and taught me how to do second-order thinking. He didn't need do it but he did. It shows that he may be stern but he actually cares for us a lot.

LTA Chia: These questions will require him to exercise some critical thinking and might take some time to think through. He has the potential to achieve it (getting the SOH) – I'm just doing my part to help and rest will be up to him.

LTA Chia (far left) sharing his experiences with OCT Ang (far right) and his fellow trainees.

Do you share your past experiences as a Guardsman and in ADF with your cadets?

LTA Chia: More of as a Guardsman than ADF! The former is similar to being an infantry PC, which is relatable to them. I'll share how their day-to-day life will be in the units and what they have to do so that their troopers stay motivated during training. They will also have to learn how to manage issues that their soldiers have.

My intent here is to train them to be ready to be an officer and they have to be able to see themselves as that. I want to share with them as much as I can so that they know what to expect and go into the appointment prepared and ready to hit the ground running.

Lastly, what gives you the greatest satisfaction in being a trainer?

LTA Chia: When I get to see my cadets commission with the right values, mentality and having all the competencies that are required to become a good PC – that gives me the greatest satisfaction.

I love teaching as I was exposed to it at a very young age when I was teaching my juniors in National Police Cadet Corps during my secondary school and polytechnic days. So teaching others is not new to me – I enjoy seeing how people grow when I put in effort to groom and develop them over time.

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