Highway superhero

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12 Apr 2023 | PEOPLE

Highway superhero

This is a face you'd want to see if your vehicle breaks down in the middle of the expressway.

// Story by Benita Teo // Photos by Kenneth Lin & courtesy of 3WO Aaron Pok

English 华文

Not all heroes wear capes. 3rd Warrant Officer (3WO) Aaron Pok wears a bright yellow visibility vest when he stops along the road to help drivers and motorcyclists in distress.

With the arsenal of traffic marshalling equipment in his car boot, this Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Military Policeman (MP) keeps a keen eye out for any fellow motorists who find themselves in a pickle.

What's in his car: 3WO Pok never leaves home without his arsenal of traffic marshalling equipment. This includes a triangle warning sign, blinking light stick and visibility vest.
3WO Pok putting on his "superhero cape" – a visibility vest that allows drivers on the road to notice him when he is diverting traffic.

He doesn't just slow down to survey the situation. He stops his car and gets to work diverting traffic safely away from the site. Sometimes, he helps to call for ambulances and EMAS (Expressway Motoring Advisory System) Recovery vehicles, and often gets his hands dirty changing tyres.

Once, he even drove a motorcyclist to buy petrol to top up his tank!

3WO Pok helping a member of public change her flat tyre outside Kranji Camp III in 2018. He had attended a meeting at the camp and came across the lady who was in need of help. [Photo courtesy of Alvin Xie]

And, yes, he will drop everything to render help, a fact that is well-known to his wife, as well as his bosses in SAF MP Command, where he is currently the Head of Forensic Support.

Friends and colleagues all know that whenever he's late, it's because he's out saving the day – or at least making one driver's bad day a little better.

A calm helping hand

3WO Pok, 42, has been doing this for almost two decades, using skills he picked up as an outrider in MP Command's traffic platoon, which he joined in 2002.

"As part of training, I attended courses like the (Singapore Police Force's) Traffic Police Patrol Officer course. There, I learnt more about traffic escort and traffic enforcement. It gave me the confidence to know what to do in a traffic situation, as well as the contacts to call in such emergencies."

3WO Pok (in white shirt) helping an elderly couple to change their car tyre.

Carrying out patrolling and enforcement duties as an MP also equipped him with important soft skills for approaching distressed drivers who are naturally apprehensive.

"Some drivers have rejected my help because they thought I was a scammer. I will identify myself as a military serviceman and give them my name card. This usually helps them to trust me. But if they still refuse my help, I will just set up the triangle and cones and carry on with road marshalling.

"Many times, drivers don't notice an accident on the road which ends up causing a second accident. This is why I feel strongly that we should help to prevent further accidents from occurring."

Even in situations where he is unable to help, he believes that being a calming presence on the ground helps to provide emotional support for the anxious motorist.

3WO Pok's years of experience as an MP outrider have equipped him with the skills needed for rendering help to stranded motorists on the road. Here he is pictured at a 2019 National Day Parade rehearsal, where he was part of the Mobile Column.
3WO Pok (right, on motorcycle) escorting Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's vehicle during the 2012 SAF Day Parade.

Guardian angel of distressed motorists

3WO Pok doesn't go out looking for drivers to help; these are all people he has encountered by chance.

He has lost track of the number of people and incidents he encountered over the years. Most are simple cases like helping to jumpstart a car or change a punctured tyre – he is proud to say that his training as a Transport Supervisor has trained him to change a tyre in under 10 minutes!

If you ever find yourself stranded on a road shoulder with a dead engine, 3WO Pok has this piece of advice: "Never stay in the vehicle. Other drivers might not notice you and hit you, even if you had put up the triangle warning plate. Don't try to marshal traffic either if you are not trained.

"It's best to leave your vehicle and stand behind the barrier if you're on the expressway until help arrives."

3WO Pok (left) receiving the Traffic Police Commander's Award from then-Traffic Police Commander Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police (SAC) Sam Tee in 2018, in appreciation of his contributions in 2017.
3WO Pok receiving the Road Safety Champion award from Commander Traffic Police SAC Gerald Lim in 2020.

No good deed goes unnoticed

Since 2016, 3WO Pok has been appointed Traffic Police's Road Safety Champion, where he engages the public on road safety at Traffic Police events. This is a role familiar to him as he used to give presentations on road safety education to SAF camps and units when he was in the traffic platoon.

He also received the Traffic Police Commander's Award in 2018 and the Road Safety Champion (Individual Award) at the Traffic Police Partners' Appreciation Dinner in 2020.

3WO Pok demonstrating how he prepares to carry out road marshalling. He begins by parking his car a safe distance from the broken-down vehicle, before setting up the warning triangle and cones to divert oncoming vehicles. He then carries out road marshalling using flashing light sticks to attract motorists' attention and guide them (next photo).
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3WO Pok's greatest satisfaction is when he is able to help a distressed motorist resolve their car or bike issues and ensure that they are able to get home safely.

Although he has never expected anything in return for helping, which he sees as his way of giving back to the community, he has witnessed his good deeds being repaid in other unexpected ways.

"I remember one morning when I wasn't able to start my car. I was holding my bonnet and trying to wave down a passer-by for help when someone stopped his car for me. He ended up helping me to jumpstart my car with his car battery. This happened just a day or two after I had helped someone!

"It's funny, but what goes around does come around. I don't expect anything in return, but I'm thankful that I can find help when I need it."