Air Force super mum

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11 May 2023 | PEOPLE

Air Force super mum

This military mother-of-three handles the demands of motherhood and work life with grit and grace.

//Story Koh Eng Beng / Photos Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of MAJ Che

MAJ Che with husband LTC Huang (far left), and children Jude (seated), Joey (standing, left), and Jesse.
English Melayu

At work, she helps to defend Singapore's skies as an officer in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF). Back home, she looks out for her family and keeps them going strong, much like a Command Chief or Regimental Sergeant Major.

Meet Major (MAJ) Shirley Che, a mother of three children.

Her eldest son (left) Joey, 14, is in Secondary 2, while (right) daughter Jesse is in Secondary 1. The youngest, Jude, is in Primary 2.

Every weekday morning, she wakes up at 6am sharp, gets her children off their beds and prepares them for the day ahead.

By 6.45am, with military precision, the family would be out of the house as MAJ Che and her husband, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Jason Huang, send them to school.

Helping her daughter Jesse to get ready for school in the morning.

By 8am, the couple will be at their respective offices for work. MAJ Che, 44, is a staff officer at Headquarters, Air Combat Command, while LTC Huang, 45, is a branch head in the Air Manpower Department.

During lunch break, MAJ Che checks in with the family helper, to see if she had picked up Jude from school.

After work, MAJ Che will fetch Joey and Jesse home from school or bring them for enrichment activities. But the day is still not over yet – after dinner, she will tutor the children together with her husband.

"I want to thank her for taking care of the family. It's not easy for working mums," said LTC Huang.

"We all have the tendency to snooze another five more minutes, but not for her. She is always the one who wakes everyone up on time, gets everybody off the bed and leaves the house on time."

But MAJ Che downplayed her contributions, saying: "This is normal, I don't think it's more siong (slang for tough) for me. All parents go through the same thing."

MAJ Che (centre) rehearsing with the RSAF contingent for the 2020 National Day Parade.
MAJ Che (second row, second from left) out for a morning run with her men in 2012. She was then an Officer Commanding in 163 Squadron.
Then-Recruit Che undergoing her Basic Military Training in 2001.

It's really tough

That said, MAJ Che recalled that taking care of the children was a lot tougher during the earlier years.

Back then, she was a young Air Warfare Officer (Air Defence Weapons) who operated the I-Hawk ground-based air defence system. She had to be out in the field for 24/7 duties frequently, for up to three days straight.

"Not being with the children was the most challenging part; I couldn't be there for them as much as I wanted to," said MAJ Che.

"But she'd make it a point to call them every day," LTC Huang chimed in. "I really appreciate all the things that she has done for the family. I think I don't say it enough."

For example, she makes it a point to get to know her kids' friends. And when she has to be away from home for a long time, she prepares the children for their studies in advance.

This happened in September 2021 when Joey was preparing for his Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). MAJ Che had to spend three weeks in the United States for Exercise Forging Sabre, an integrated strike exercise between the RSAF and Singapore Army.

With (from left) Jesse, Joey and LTC Huang at an RSAF45@Heartlands exhibition in 2014.
Celebrating Jude's (centre) seventh birthday in 2022.
MAJ Che's wish for Mother's Day this year is simple – for her children to stay healthy.

The children are thankful for what their mother has done for them all these years. "Thank you for always looking after us, and making sure that we have all that we need," said Joey and Jesse.

Jude added with a cheeky laugh: "Thank you mummy for bringing me to school!"

When asked what's her wish for the upcoming Mother's Day this year, MAJ Che simply said: "I just want my kids to stay healthy."

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