Becoming senior military expertsThese three Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel have close to 30 years of experience each, but that did not stop them from learning and rising through the ranks to become senior military experts.
//Story by Teo Jing Ting
//Photos by Timothy Sim and courtesy of interviewees
Two days before Good Friday, Military Expert (ME) 4 Mohd Hanafi Maksom was tasked to set up the medical task force operations hub in Nee Soon Camp, as part of the SAF’s fight against COVID-19.
The hub coordinated the SAF medical teams in their various areas of operations, and monitored the cases that they attended to daily.
A few weeks later, ME4 Hanafi and his colleague were sent to Tan Tock Seng Hospital to be trained in swab testing. Following the training, he then taught medical personnel before they were deployed to the Community Care Facility at the Singapore Expo.
"It was a new thing that we had be trained in but I was glad that I had the skills to contribute," said ME4 Hanafi, 52.
The Chief Master Trainer from the SAF Medical Training Institute (SMTI), who has been in the SAF for 30 years, added that he also wanted to live up to the name of being a military expert so he gave his all to learn and help out.
ME4 Hanafi was among the 96 servicemen and women who graduated as senior MEs on 8 Jul. Of the graduands, there were 20 from the Singapore Army, 21 from the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN), 38 from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and 17 from Joint.
Although he had course mates who were half his age, ME4 Hanafi felt that going through the Military Domain Experts Course with them was a refreshing experience as most of his younger peers were already doctors by profession.
"What they brought to the course was their professionalism and what we (older MEs) brought was our military operations experience so we complemented one another."
Pushing to go further
For ME4 Kumaran Naidu, attaining the rank of ME4 gave him a sense of achievement and humility.
"It's a sense of achievement 'cos my work has been recognised by the organisation and my superiors," said the 45-year-old Lead Engineer from the Ordnance Weapons Branch in the RSN's Force Readiness Squadron.
"My performance is not something that I can do alone. I have had good peers who supported me and good superiors who guided me throughout my career."
Having been in the Navy for 23 years, ME4 Naidu is the go-to person for the OTO Melara 76mm naval gun. As a military expert, he always pushes himself to deepen his knowledge about the system.
"When new systems are introduced, I was sent for courses to learn about them. When I came back, I would translate the knowledge to build the competency of other RSN military experts, and develop the protocols and processes to ensure the systems' reliability and readiness."
ME4 Naidu also constantly tries to improve his work processes.
In 2012, he came up with a new method to check the alignment of RSN ships' main gun. Instead of having to sail out to check that accuracy of the guns' targeting, lasers were used. This allowed for gun alignment to be tested more quickly and efficiently. His team and him ended up winning the Ministry of Defence Innovation Project Award three years later.
"It was a proud moment for all of us as innovation has always been in my journey."
Never stop learning
With 25 years of experience, fellow graduand ME4 George Tham never once regretted joining the RSAF.
The 45-year-old started his career working as an aircraft communication and navigation systems senior technician on the Super Puma for 13 years.
When he was moved to the naval helicopter squadron to work on the S-70B Seahawk Naval Helicopter in 2010, his knowledge in the aviation sector allowed him to seamlessly apply his skills from one aircraft to another.
"(The naval helicopter) was a new platform then, but because of our foundation and years of maintenance knowledge on the Super Pumas, we were able to provide good maintenance to the Seahawk naval helicopter even though we had just acquired it," said ME4 Tham.
"This is what being under the Military Domain Experts Scheme (MDES) allows us to do – deepening our expertise in our area of specialisation so that our knowledge can be utilised across different platforms."
Currently a Staff Officer in the Logistics Planning Branch under the Air Engineering Logistics Department, ME4 Tham revealed that he was also given opportunities to further his studies and deepen his expertise in his area of work under MDES.
In 2014, he was among the pioneer batch who attended an aerospace engineering programme for maintenance leader in UniSIM (now known as Singapore University of Social Sciences). Following the one-year full-time course, he continued his studies part-time for another three and a half years before graduating with a degree in aerospace engineering in 2018.
Now armed with his new rank, he is even more motivated to give back to the SAF.
"This is a significant milestone and a testament to the years of hard work that we have put in," said ME4 Tham.
"It’s an honour to join the ranks of the senior MEs and I am motivated to guide the military experts in their journey to sharpen their skills and develop new perspectives to deal with the increasingly sophisticated systems and complex operations."