The Command and Staff Course (CSC) at the Goh Keng Swee Command and Staff College (GKS CSC) is tough.
Major (MAJ) Esther Ong found that out for herself when she attended the 10th CSC (Executive) this year. She had to juggle between completing her own course work, her duties as a course in-charge (IC) and the demands of her regular job in her unit.
MAJ Ong and her course mates were together for the initial three months of the CSC before heading back to their respective units to complete the remainder of the course.
"It was a challenge to get everyone working together at the same time on course-related tasks as everyone had their commitments at their respective workplaces," said the 38-year-old Naval Officer who attended the 10th CSC (Executive).
"(To motivate them), I reached out to my course mates and reminded them what our common goal was when we first started out together."
Having burnt many weekends researching for essays and meeting deadlines, MAJ Ong said she couldn’t have completed the course without the support of her family members and colleagues.
"They supported me by understanding my additional commitments throughout the time I was attending the course, and they supported me along the way," said MAJ Ong.
For her efforts, MAJ Ong received the distinguished graduate award from Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen at the CSC Graduation Ceremony on 27 Oct held at the Istana.
Dr Ng presented certificates and awards to the top graduands, including international officers of the 49th CSC, 19th CSC (National Service), and 10th and 11th CSC (Executive), and an officer from the Singapore Police Force.
On 26 Oct, Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong presented graduation certificates to all 210 SAF graduands at the SAFTI Military Institute.
Speaking at the ceremony, Dr Ng reminded the graduands of Singapore's inherent constraints and challenges as a small state. He also highlighted the importance of developing capable and committed military leaders who are able to contribute to Singapore's defence to ensure its continued survival and prosperity.
"As Singapore enters its next 50 years, we would do well to remember our immutable vulnerabilities and recognize the foundations that provide stability and endurance to our small city-state," said Dr Ng.
"Without a doubt, the capable and committed military leaders produced by the GKS CSC form one of the foundation stones (that ensure Singapore’s continued survival and prosperity)."
For MAJ Jeremiah Jaykumar s/o Arumugam, going through the CSC was a journey of self-discovery.
"It is a time for us to hone our strengths and work on our weaknesses. The course gave us a safe-to-fail environment for us to strengthen our leadership abilities. There were a lot of opportunities for us to receive feedback from our directing staff and peers," said MAJ Jeremiah.
He thanked his wife for her support throughout the course. "On the weekends, I would usually stay at home to complete my essays and prepare for my presentations, while she handled the kids." said the 33-year-old Infantry officer, who was previously from the Army Deployment Force as an operations officer. He attended the 49th CSC.
For MAJ Lim Seng Wee, the biggest takeaway from CSC was importance of teamwork. "There are a lot of times when we will face a task which we may not be familiar with, but a team member might have the relevant knowledge to contribute and help the team to solve the problem together," said MAJ Lim, who attended the 49th CSC.
"This sense of teamwork and camaraderie that we built along the way was the most meaningful (to me)."
As a helicopter pilot from the Republic of Singapore Air Force's 123 Squadron, the 34-year-old usually worked in small groups. In the GKS CSC, he was given the opportunity to lead bigger groups, and that shaped him into a better leader.
"In the SAF, it is always about people. To bring the best out of people, you need good leaders."
MAJ Lim emerged as a top graduand from the 49th CSC. He could not have achieved this without the support of his wife, he said.
"Throughout the 10-month course, she was very supportive though I had less time to spend with her. She gave me her support and encouraged me to strive in course and I'm thankful for that."