Weapons trainer with a tender heartME3 Jimmy Lim may be a weapon systems expert but his trainees have never come under fire for making mistakes.
// Story Teo Jing Ting
// Photos Kenneth Lin & courtesy of ME3 Lim
Underneath this military expert's stoic exterior is a man who cares deeply for his sailors.
The 41-year-old weapon systems instructor at the Naval Military Institute's Weapon Systems School takes every opportunity to interact with his trainees. He also patiently advises them if they share their problems with him.
An instructor for seven years in the Republic of Singapore Navy, Military Expert (ME) 3 Lim conducts gun operations and maintenance training for deck weapons specialists, who are mainly Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs), and weapons specialists, who are Regulars.
He specialises in a range of equipment – from the big guns such as the 76mm OTO Melara gun and Typhoon Mk 25mm gun to small arms such as the General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG), CIS 0.5MG and AR15.
We sit down with ME3 Lim and his trainee, ME1 Kenneth Tan, to find out more about the former's famous "tender loving care" method!
Hi ME3 Lim! I heard that you've never scolded any of your trainees before.
ME3 Lim: No lah, I did! Ok, maybe not so much scold but tell them off in a harsh manner. In our line of work, we deal with arms and ammunitions so we emphasise a lot on safety 'cos we want everyone to go home in one piece.
During training, I am very strict with them and make sure they do their procedures correctly. If they make a mistake, I will tell them nicely, explain what they did wrong and why it's a concern that the procedure was done wrongly.
The only time I will "scold" them is during live firing. The moment they make a mistake, I will tell them off in a harsh manner so that they remember it. 'Cos it's live ammunitions and you can't afford to make mistakes.
Tell us how you usually engage your trainees.
ME3 Lim: On a daily basis, I will engage them during tea breaks, especially if I see a guy sitting by himself. During lunch, I will also eat with them and talk to them 'cos I want to know how everyone is doing. For instance, some of them may have relationship problems and might not be able to concentrate in class because of it.
Pre-COVID-19, I would even join my trainees for sports after hours. It's only when you let your hair down that you break barriers, and you cannot get their respect without building trust first.
When I talk to the NSFs, I start off by asking about their choice of course in university as that is often their main concern. For the Permanent Residents, I will ask them how they are adapting to life in Singapore as most of them have never lived here before.
When it comes to the Regulars, I will usually share my experiences, their expected career paths and the challenges that they may face, so that they know what to expect and won't be caught off-guard.
ME1 Tan, you described ME3 Lim as a trainer who treats his trainees with tender loving care, why is that so?
ME1 Tan: I've been with him since end of June and just from these two months, I can see that he really cares for us. Because I only joined the navy this March at age 29, I'm already lacking behind peers my age by having to restart and relearn everything from my days as an NSF. So he's always encouraging me to stay positive and work harder.
He will also check on us whether we are sick or if we are feeling ok, especially now that there's COVID-19.
Once, I was doing gun maintenance work in the basement and I forgot to tell my colleague on deck to step away from the moving parts. Instead of scolding me, ME3 Lim stopped me before I was about to start maintenance work and reminded me nicely to inform my counterpart. He's very approachable and he makes you feel like you can ask him anything, like an older brother.
ME3 Lim, how would you describe your training style?
ME3 Lim: I'm a patient trainer! Wah, you really need to have patience as a trainer 'cos your trainees come from all walks of life and some are also from other countries. I have NSF trainees from the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia – they have different backgrounds and the way they speak is also different. Some of them don't speak English well so you must have patience and guide them step by step.
Who was your most memorable trainee?
ME3 Lim: I had a Japanese trainee who had to go out-of-course and was posted to the Military Working Dog Unit. Even though he was posted out, he often messages me about how he is doing or that he misses his home, so I always try to encourage him so that he doesn't feel homesick.
Sometimes, his patrol duties will bring him to Changi Naval Base and whenever he's here, he will text me and we will do a quick catch-up. I feel that it's quite special that he wants to keep in touch with me. (beams)
Maybe it's through those little talks during breaks that made him feel that I'm approachable as I often crack jokes with them. But jokes aside, I will always tell them that during lesson time, we have to be serious.
We heard that you like to impart your life motto to your NSFs…
ME3 Lim: We not only want them to have the skills to become a competent sailor, we also hope that they will be a better person in life one day. So I will try to inculcate some values and the right attitude in them.
For the NSFs, I will give them my own life motto: PARRY. P stands for Passion, you must love your job. A is Attitude – if you have a positive attitude, you can change the way that people look at you. R is Responsibility – you must be responsible for the things that you do. The second R is for Respect. If you treat everyone with respect, they will treat you with respect as well. Y stands for You. You are the only one who can make the change in your life and if you don't do it, no one else can.
What gives you the most satisfaction as a trainer?
ME3 Lim: When they do well in the Navy! I will be very happy for them, especially when they get promoted. For the NSFs, some will also come up to me and thank me for listening to them, sharing my values with them and making them a better person. It may be just one or two sentences but it really makes a difference to someone's life.