143 SQN soars as SAF's Best Fighter SquadronTeamwork, dedication, and a bit of dancing makes the winning formula for the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s 143 Squadron (SQN).
//Story Thrina Tham
// Photos Chai Sian Liang
Vigilant and ready to protect Singapore: It was the 143 SQN crew who sprang into action to intercept and escort Singapore Airlines flight SQ 423 to Changi Airport last March, when a bomb threat alert was raised.
"The crew was scrambled in minutes... This was a call of duty in a real-life situation and it was something that we were trained and prepared for," said Commanding Officer Major (MAJ) Norman Teo, 36.
Such is the spirit of 143 SQN, which has won the Best Fighter Squadron title in this year's Singapore Armed Forces' Best Unit Competition.
The award marks the squadron's fourth win, with their last in 2017. It is also their second win while operating the F-16C/D multi-role fighter aircraft.
Upholding high standards
MAJ Teo said the award was a testament to the hard work and dedication of the squadron's airmen and women.
Though the team has wound down on overseas training due to the COVID-19 situation, they continue to keep standards high while training locally.
The squadron also goes through periods of staying on base and away from their families, to serve out their operational duties.
"Everyone here is dedicated and driven and they know what they need to do... Even amidst COVID-19, where we ensure that we keep ourselves safe, we still have to train to keep an operational edge," said MAJ Teo.
Phoenix family spirit
Safeguarding Singapore's airspace is a task that pilot Captain (CPT) Dinesh Christopher Rajendram is well-accustomed to.
The 28-year-old was one of the pilots providing air defence during the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)-United States (US) Singapore Summit in 2018.
On being away from his family during COVID-19, he said: "We are very clear on our role to safeguard the skies."
"The camaraderie and bonds (among) the Phoenix (143 SQN) family is also what keeps us going. We are doing this together with our brothers and sisters."
Though not that new into the job, Air Force Technician 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Theodore Tan was unsure when tasked to do aircraft configurations for a certain flight mission.
He picked up his courage and asked his superiors how to get it done right.
"I expected to get scolded but things turned out better than expected. My Team In-Charge was actually happy that I asked...and he guided me through the whole process," said the Full-time National Serviceman (NSF).
"Day to day, I see teamwork and excellence in everyone in the squadron. Everyone is very helpful, encouraging and supportive of one another," he added.
All the right moves
The unit's win comes as a double blessing for 3SG Tan, whose good working attitude earned him the Best Airman of the Month award earlier in March this year.
The 22-year-old, who will complete his full-time service on 2 Aug, treasures being able to join his squadron in joint military training with the Indian Air Force at Kalaikunda Air Force Station in India from 31 Oct to 12 Dec 2019.
"We were able to work together in a flight line where the jets were side by side and I could see all my seniors and Regulars working together. (Due to space constraints), we don't get such a flight line in Singapore."
3SG Tan also took part in some deliberately scheduled creative marshalling, where marshals jazz up their moves to boost the morale of the air and ground crew.
"Many of us participated; (some) danced to K-pop, some did a skit... All to hype up the atmosphere as we were getting ready to launch the jets," he recalled.
3SG Tan, who will be pursuing a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, added that 143 SQN works hard but has a good time as well.
"As tough as (the job) may be, to have the recognition (of being Fighter Squadron) and know that we are able to enjoy the work that we are given – that's very memorable."