Following in His Commando Dad's Footsteps

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25 Mar 2021 | PEOPLE

Following in His Commando Dad's Footsteps

2LT Koh aspires to be a respected commando officer just like his father LTC (Ret) Koh.

//Story by Koh Eng Beng

//Photos by Kenneth Lin and Courtesy of 2LT Koh

He grew up listening to stories of what his dad did as a commando – jumping out of a plane in full combat gear, going through some of the toughest and most gruelling training that most people would deem impossible to complete.

"These are things that as a young boy, you'd say 'That sounds cool, I want to do that when I grow up'," said 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Ryan Koh.

The 20-year-old has taken a huge step in making his childhood dream come true – he completed the nine-month officer cadet training, and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 21 Mar. He will soon join the 1st Commando Battalion and attend the Commando Officer Conversion Course.

2LT Koh (left) receiving his sword at the Officer Cadet Commissioning Parade held at SAFTI Military Institute on 22 Mar.

2LT Koh decided on a military career when he was in OCS. The reason? He realised that the good values that his father had instilled in him since young actually came from the Army.

His father is Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) (Ret) Richard Koh, a former commando officer who retired from the Army in 2019.

"Integrity, resilience, and other values that the Army teaches are what my father holds close to him and what he has taught us. He taught me that being a good person comes first before anything else. That is something that I also want in my life."

A young 2LT Koh (in spectacles) with his siblings and father LTC (Ret) Koh at the 2008 Army Open House.

Coincidentally, his dad was the commander of Echo Wing in OCS from 2012 to 2016, the same wing that 2LT Koh was in.

Asked if he felt any pressure to live up to his dad's name, 2LT Koh said: "This unspoken pressure is something that I put on myself! No one has said to me that since I am Richard Koh's son, I needed to step up. But I use the pressure to spur myself (on) to be the best soldier that I can be."

LTC (Ret) Koh stressed that he did not put any pressure on 2LT Koh to become a Regular or a commando. "I told him, 'Hey this is not an easy job, you're going to have a tough life, (but) it's your choice,'" he chuckled.

Leadership advice

To allow his son to have a full and authentic Army experience, LTC (Ret) Koh did not give him any insider tips or details. But he did give 2LT Koh advice on being a good leader.

"I told him, don't be a person who tells others to run nine minutes flat (for 2.4km) but you yourself cannot. You need to have some expectations of yourself so that you can expect the same from other people," said the 48-year-old senior manager at Aviva.

2LT Koh took his dad's advice and put in extra training. He cut his 2.4km timing by more than a minute, from 11:50 min to 10:15 min. The improvement came during the first six weeks of his Basic Military Training (BMT), which was conducted from home due to the Circuit Breaker.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, 2LT Koh's BMT batch attended basic soldiering lessons online as well as physical training via zoom from home. They eventually resumed training at Basic Military Training Centre on Pulau Tekong.

One of his biggest challenges in his Army journey so far, he said, was dealing with the negative perception that some people had about national servicemen who enlisted during the pandemic.

"When we hear people saying that we had an easier time in training because of COVID-19, we get very upset," said 2LT Koh.

"The way we train has changed, but the intensity has not been reduced. People have to understand that what we went through was in no way less tough – we still went through the same non-stop back-to-back missions."

Getting the Red Beret

2LT Koh's current goal was to complete the necessary training to get the coveted red beret and begin his tour as a detachment commander.

"To transition from cadet life to be a commander, to connect (with) my men, to lead them through tough times, that's my next near-term goal," he said.

His long-term goal? To continue the joy and passion of serving, even 20 years down the road, just like what his dad did. "I could see that in my father – he finds a lot of joy and passion in the Army. Even though he has left the Army, I can tell that he still looks back to those good days."

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