A good serveShe used to serve on the volleyball court. Now, she's serving in the Air Force and loving it.
// Story by Benita Teo / Photos by LCP Amos Chew & courtesy of ME1 Ng
Whether it's on the court or at the hangars, national beach volleyball player-turned-airwoman Military Expert (ME) 1 Ng Serene believes in giving her all and not wondering about the what-ifs.
"Volleyball taught me to give my best the moment I step onto the court, no matter the circumstances or odds. It's a useful lesson because there will always be situations beyond our control, be it in life or at work," said the 176cm-tall athlete, whose passion for the sport has kept her training and competing since she was nine.
Now at 23 years old, this same zeal and passion drives her as an Air Force Engineer (Maintenance), or AFE(M), in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).
Hi ME 1 Ng, we heard you used to be a national beach volleyball player!
ME1 Ng: I started playing indoor volleyball when I was nine years old. My dad is a volleyball coach, and I used to hang out at the schools he was coaching at to avoid going to student care after school! Eventually, I picked up the sport through him and fell in love with it.
In 2017, after competing in the National School Games, I was scouted to join the national beach volleyball team by the head coach. It's a totally different sport altogether with different rules and a different number of players.
But I enjoyed the challenge of learning something new and training to be an all-rounded player.
What do you enjoy about volleyball?
ME1 Ng: It's created a special bond between me and my father that we still share till this day. I was driven to be an outstanding player and I enjoyed training and refining my skills.
And when I was in the national team, I enjoyed competing for Singapore and flying our flag high while gaining valuable experiences along the way.
What are some of the competitions you've participated in?
ME1 Ng: I represented Singapore at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in 2017 and 2019. The experience was eye-opening as we were all indoor volleyball players (who had made the switch to beach volleyball).
It was an opportunity to grow and learn from other countries that had more experience in both sports. I'm very honoured to represent Singapore in the three years I was on the team.
I currently play indoor volleyball for SAFSA (Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association) as well as my club, and I train after work. Volleyball helps me de-stress while keeping me fit – that's why I'm passionate about it and I'm never too tired to go to work or training!
Any advice for someone who's interested in learning to play beach volleyball?
ME1 Ng: It looks unapproachable, but it's actually an all-level friendly game. All you need is a net and ball from Decathlon and you're good to go! Tanjong and Palawan beach are packed with nets on the weekend and there are days where I arrive at Sentosa at 7am just to find a spot!
Tell us more about what you do as an AFE(M) in the RSAF!
ME1 Ng: I'm in 815 Squadron Structures Flight, which maintains the structural worthiness of the F-16 fighter jets. We're trained to detect any structural faults in the aircraft and rectify them. We're also trained in Aircraft Battle Damage Repair to ensure swift recovery of the fighters in wartime.
It's a fast-paced environment that can get stressful at times, but with teamwork, we're always able to get the job done and ensure the operational capabilities of our F-16 fleet.
Why did you decide to sign on with the RSAF?
ME1 Ng: Honestly, if you had asked me one day after I signed on, I would have told you it's because it's a stable job, especially since I'd graduated in the middle of the pandemic with a diploma in Aeronautical Engineering. I chose the RSAF as I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and seek a career that would offer me growth, both personally and in terms of my skillset.
Now, after two years in the force, I would say that I've found a great sense of purpose and fulfilment in working for the RSAF. My role may seem like a small part in the scheme of things, but when done right, all these small parts will make up the big parts, which inherently is to protect Singapore's skies.
The people I meet and the colleagues I have also give me a great sense of belonging. We all work together towards a common goal – which is to go home every day knowing that we are protecting this place we call home.
You were in the Guard of Honour (GOH) contingent at the recent SAF Day Parade, and you'll be marching again in the National Day Parade. What was the experience like?
ME1 Ng: It's my first time participating in the SAF Day Parade and training was tough, but the camaraderie and teamwork among my fellow participants made things easier. For instance, during training, we had to stand very still for up to 15 minutes at a time.
Sometimes my mind would start to wander and I didn't react in time to a command. But my friend next to me would prompt me and make sure I carried out the correct drill. It's support like this that makes a parade successful.