Leading the parade

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21 Jun 2023 | PEOPLE

Leading the parade

One's a first-time participant while the other marched in his first parade more than 20 years ago. But they have one thing in common – shouting parade commands in Malay while driving!

// Story by Benita Teo / Photos by Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of LTC Choo & ME4 Neo

ME4 Neo (left) and LTC Choo are leading this year's SAF Day Parade as Parade RSM and Parade Commander respectively.
English 华文

Meet Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Jervis Choo, 41, and Military Expert (ME) 4 Neo Chip Hoe, 46, who will be leading this year's Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day Parade as the Parade Commander and Parade Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) respectively.

This year's parade is a special one as the SAF's newest Service, the Digital and Intelligence Service (DIS), will be marching for the very first time. A rare Trooping of Colours ceremony with all four State Colours will be performed to signify the introduction of DIS into the SAF.

We catch up with LTC Choo and ME4 Neo during break time at the SAF Day Parade rehearsals to find out more about their journey.

LTC Choo (foreground) commanding the parade, together with ME4 Neo (centre, behind State Colours).

Hi LTC Choo and ME4 Neo! Is this your first time participating in the SAF Day Parade?

LTC Choo: Yes, this is my first time, although I was the reserve Parade Commander last year. It was a steep learning curve for me, but it definitely helped me grasp the commands and parade sequence, and prepare me for this year.

ME4 Neo: This is my first time as the SAF Day Parade RSM. However, I've participated in the SAF Day Parade before in different roles, including being a trainer, as part of the logistics party, and also in the marching contingent. My first SAF Day Parade was over 20 years ago, when I was a young sergeant marching with my rifle!

ME4 Neo (centre), an Air Force Engineer, is the first MDES soldier to be appointed Parade RSM, and he is honoured to pave the way for future MDES personnel to take on this appointment.

How have you been preparing for the parade?

ME4 Neo: Preparations began last October. There are many details we need to pay attention to, especially with the training programme for the contingents.

As I will be giving the commands in Malay, I've been working on my pronunciation. I usually practise while driving – I shout the commands out loud when I'm alone! I can't do it when my wife and kids are in the car or they'll be staring at me. (laughs) That's how Parade Commander practises too!

LTC Choo (centre, foreground) has always looked up to the Parade Commanders he has seen in other parades, and aspires to maintain their high standards when he leads the parade this year.

LTC Choo: I also listen to other people's recordings of the commands like podcasts!

The Parade Commander bears a significant responsibility in ensuring that the parade proceeds smoothly and with precision. To prepare, I work closely with the Parade RSM, planners, cue master and trainers. We discuss the plans and details of the training for the parade. We must also understand all the moving parts, down to the distance between contingents.

The MP Command GOH contingent escorting the State Colours during the Trooping of Colours. This rarely seen ceremony is only performed when new Colours are introduced or at significant military events, such as the SAF50 parade.

Tell us what's special about this year's parade!

LTC Choo: This year, we'll be carrying out the Trooping of Colours as part of the parade. The DIS, our new sister Service, will also be taking part in the parade for the first time.

ME4 Neo: The SAF Military Police (MP) Command Guard Of Honour (GOH) contingent will be serving as the Colours escort during the Trooping of Colours at the parade. They will accompany the State Colours as they march into the GOH contingents.

Historically, the Trooping of Colours before a battle served as a means of identification and a rallying point for the soldiers in battle. Colours have historic and symbolic significance as battle honours were accorded to them for gallant acts and sacrifices made by the soldiers.

Today, Colours have become the emblem of loyalty and courage, and signifies the high battle readiness of the unit.

During the Trooping of Colours, the escorting MP Command GOH contingent will march between the rows of GOH soldiers.

How do you feel to be part of this year's parade?

ME4 Neo: This is the first time that a soldier from the Military Domain Experts Scheme (MDES) is taking on the role of Parade RSM at the SAF Day Parade. I'm very honoured and privileged to be selected for the role.

I have a great team who gives me feedback when they see areas I can do better in. The parade is not a one-man job, it's the effort of the entire team.

ME4 Neo (foreground, right) guiding the marching contingents during a rehearsal.

LTC Choo: It's a great privilege and honour to lead the soldiers in the SAF Day Parade. I've always admired the Parade Commanders who stand up in front, looking smart and beaming with gusto. I aspire to be like them, and I hope I can achieve that as this year's Parade Commander.

Meet some of the people on parade!

What's it like working together to lead the parade?

LTC Choo: As we are both from the Air Force, we share a strong mutual understanding of the high standards we expect from this parade. The rehearsals have allowed us to build a strong camaraderie among the participants as well as the key appointment holders. We always gather at the mess after the rehearsals to bond.

ME4 Neo: LTC Choo gives us wholehearted support and is always ready to offer suggestions and guide us through the planning stages. We're also heartened to see the various teams coming together to voice out their challenges and work out the solutions to achieve mission success as a team.

LTC Choo (far right), an F-16 pilot, took over the reins of 105 SQN in May 2021.

Tell us more about what you do in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF)!

LTC Choo: I'm the Commanding Officer (CO) of 105 Squadron (SQN), and I oversee the training of the Terminal Attack Control of Ground Forward Air Controllers, who support Close Air Support operations in which the RSAF and the Army work closely together.

As an F-16 pilot and instructor, it's been a whole new experience coming to 105 SQN. It's broadened my understanding of how the SAF operates, and allowed me to better appreciate the operational environment of the other Services, and to see how I can provide new perspectives with my experience in the RSAF.

ME4 Neo (far left) at the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise in 2012, where he was the Detachment Overall In-Charge. In his 29 years in the SAF, he has been involved in countless exercises and operations.
ME4 Neo (fourth from right) with his fellow PSG trainers at the 2015 National Day Parade at the Padang.

ME4 Neo: I've been the Command Chief of 706 SQN since last November. We oversee the logistical support for Sembawang Air Base, taking care of matters such as medical supplies, transport and meals.

In my 29 years as an Air Force Engineer in the RSAF, I've worked on the Super Pumas and the S-70B Seahawk naval helicopters.

My most memorable mission was Operation Flying Eagle, helping the victims of the Boxing Day tsunami. I was deployed to Phuket for two weeks. I remember carrying out the prep work in camp until late at night, going home to get my bag, and then coming back at in the early morning to set off.

The mission was very meaningful to me because I'm someone who always wants to help others, and I saw how the victims of the natural disaster were in need of help.

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