A helpline for trainees

https://www.mindef.gov.sg/web/wcm/connect/pioneer/74b1c3a9-b2d3-44a3-8719-9f6a59a4bab4/14sep23_news1_photo1.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE.Z18_1QK41482LG0G10Q8NM8IUA1051-74b1c3a9-b2d3-44a3-8719-9f6a59a4bab4-oGiL2VC /web/wcm/connect/pioneer/74b1c3a9-b2d3-44a3-8719-9f6a59a4bab4/14sep23_news1_photo1.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE.Z18_1QK41482LG0G10Q8NM8IUA1051-74b1c3a9-b2d3-44a3-8719-9f6a59a4bab4-oGiL2VC /web/portal/pioneer/article/feature-article-detail/people/2023-Q3/14sep23_news1
14sep23_news1 /web/portal/pioneer/article/feature-article-detail/people/2023-Q3/14sep23_news1
13 Sep 2023 | PEOPLE

A helpline for trainees

End 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

ME3 Ang (left) wants his trainees at PTSS, such as ME1 Leow E Chen, to stay hungry and proactive in their pursuit of knowledge.
English 华文

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).

ME3 Ang (third from right) with the crew of RSS Sovereignty at her commissioning on 14 Nov 2017. He is proud to have been part of the ship's pioneer crew.

Setting sail

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."

ME3 Ang (right) with one of his first learners at PTSS. Going from training experienced sailors to fresh learners was something which the marine systems expert had to adapt to and learn to manage.

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.

ME3 Ang (left) guiding ME1 Leow in changing the fuel injector of a Patrol Vessel main engine.

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."

ME3 Ang (left) believes that self-directed learning will help his learners to retain knowledge better.

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."

To ME3 Ang, having the right attitude is important because it affects not only competency, but safety as well.

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."

Although strict, ME3 Ang is also known to be a caring teacher who is willing to help his learners even outside of working hours and on the weekends.

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.

ME1 Leow and ME3 Ang (standing, third and fourth from right) at a gathering with their fellow learners. The learners are very appreciative of ME3 Ang for his care and help.

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."

Suggested Reading
A teacher's work never stops
A teacher's work never stops

He can wield a dental drill and scalpel just as well as he handles a SAR 21. Meet SV1 Intekhab, a volunteer trainer helping SAF dental officers take their skills to the next level.

Helicopter parent
Cover story
Helicopter parent

To his trainees, he's like a father showing them the way. For ME3 Anthony Gilbert – who's saved lives and flown the Singapore flag high at NDP in his 42-year career – it's all about helping young flight engineers find meaning in their work.

From mortars to mentor Feature
From mortars to mentor

2SG Zulqarnain has found his second calling as a BMTC instructor, imparting the values of a guardsman to new generations of recruits.

New officers inspired to serve
New officers inspired to serve

A trip to Changi Naval Base during his Basic Military Training (BMT) days turned out to be a defining moment for 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) Daniel Elfian Bin Mohd Nasir's life.

Guiding light for young sailors Feature
Guiding light for young sailors

He used to safeguard Singapore waters as a Navigation Systems Supervisor. Now, ME3 Woon Wei Wen trains the next generation in charting their own path.

She's the calm amidst the chaos Feature
She's the calm amidst the chaos

ME3 Alexis Quek cuts a kind and caring figure, even when things get tense in the air traffic control tower.

He's fit to teach Feature
He's fit to teach

Despite his tough exterior – and the tough training he dishes out – Commando 2WO Lam Wai Keung believes in encouraging his trainees.

Firm role model to future leaders
Cover story
Firm role model to future leaders

He was once "the fierce one" in the Army Deployment Force. Now, 3WO Muhd Hidhir finds a balance between firm and friendly as an OCS instructor.

Training soldiers, touching lives Feature
Training soldiers, touching lives

MAJ Muhammad Redza Bin Mohd Asri treats his soldiers like his siblings, is not afraid to ask for brutally honest feedback and enjoys making a difference in his trainees' lives.