A helpline for traineesEnd of the workday or the weekend, ME3 Alan Ang is always there for his learners when they hit a bump while studying.
// Story by Benita Teo / Photos by Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of ME3 Ang
Military Expert (ME) 3 Alan Ang's philosophy for learning is to have the focus and hunger of a hunter.
"The learners must know what knowledge they are hunting for and why that piece of knowledge is important. This is what will sustain them in their education," he explained.
No stranger to lifelong learning, the 42-year-old has spent 26 years in the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) honing his skills as a Marine Systems expert, and is currently an instructor at Platform Technology Systems School (PTSS).
He began his career on Missile Corvette RSS Valiant before moving on to Patrol Vessel RSS Freedom. When the Independence-class Littoral Mission Vessels (LMVs) were launched, he joined RSS Sovereignty, becoming part of its pioneer crew.
Of all the ships he has operated, his time on RSS Sovereignty remains his most memorable. Then the Platform Systems Cluster Chief, he remembered feeling both excitement and apprehension at working on a brand-new platform and learning how to operate the systems.
The ship's maiden voyage in 2017 was one of his most memorable. "It was a very proud moment for us because it was the culmination of all the times the crew came together and worked hard to ensure the ship's operational readiness."
Passing on his skills and knowledge
As a chief on board ship, ME3 Ang was responsible for training new engineers, a role he found to be meaningful: "Watching people like my ship's crew grow over time gave me a sense of satisfaction."
With his extensive experience, becoming an instructor was the natural next step. "I chose to be a trainer because, with all the knowledge I had gained over the years, I believe it would be good to share it with the next generation of sailors in the Navy," he explained.
But becoming an LMV Marine Systems Instructor at PTSS was not without surprises, ME3 Ang admitted.
While the trainees on ship were already competent operators who only needed to sharpen their capabilities, the learners at PTSS were completely new to the navy and did not have in-depth knowledge of the work.
To better manage and train them, he began reading up on the latest methods of instruction and keeping up to date with the latest trends and technology.
"The training methodology now is totally different from what I went through as a trainee. Back then, it was instructor-led, where the instructor would download all the info into us. Now, it's more learner-centric and interactive, and as instructors, our role is to facilitate their learning."
Be the hunter
For example, ME3 Ang believes in guiding his learners through self-directed learning. His classes usually involve small-group discussions before the learners present on their findings. He then helps them to fill in the knowledge gaps.
This is a style that Marine Systems Workplace Learner ME1 Leow E Chen finds beneficial. The 21-year-old has known ME3 Ang and trained under him since late last year.
"Sir Alan's lessons are good because the self-directed learning gives us a grasp of the systems ahead of the classes. When we go to class, we aren't completely lost and we know what to look out for and what gaps we need to fill."
Attitude is another aspect that is very important to ME3 Ang, and he has high expectations of his learner's attitude towards his or her training and accountability.
ME1 Leow recalled that the only time he had seen his trainer lose his cool was when a fellow learner pretended to understand the lesson and when questioned, tried to waffle his way through.
To ME3 Ang, the right attitude affects not only competency, but more crucially, safety: "Knowing the systems is important because we are dealing with live systems on board ship. If you do not configure something properly, you could cause damage to property and even injure yourself or the people around you."
A helpline for learners
ME3 Ang may be strict, but it is his kindness and willingness to go above and beyond that his learners appreciate the most.
"He cares a lot for the learners. He tells us that if we have any doubts or questions, we can always call him to ask, even if it's a Saturday or Sunday," said ME1 Leow.
Asked why he is willing to sacrifice his evenings and weekends to help his learners, ME3 Ang explained that he understood the challenges of being stuck on a problem.
"When learners are stuck and cannot find the solution, it will hinder their learning and they cannot move forward. I want them to overcome these obstacles.
"And I want them to feel that help is always on their side. This will also encourage them to carry on learning."
His efforts have inspired his learners to do their best, said ME1 Leow. "Not many people will give up their after-work hours to help their students. It shows that Sir Alan is sincere about teaching us, and it makes us want to work hard too."