Ready to serve

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01 Jun 2018 | PEOPLE

Ready to serve

// Story Chia Chong Jin  / Photos Chua Soon Lye

English Melayu

Loud footsteps thump across the deck of the merchant vessel as sailors from an ambulance craft race to evacuate a casualty. While the medical team tries to resuscitate him, the craft speeds towards shore where an ambulance is waiting to take him to the nearest medical centre or hospital.

This scenario was part of Exercise Apex 2013, a gruelling two-week inter-agency maritime exercise that MSG (NS) Viknesvaran recalled as part of his most memorable ICT.

For three consecutive days, MSG (NS) Viknesvaran and his crew worked 13-hour shifts. After reporting to Tuas Naval Base at 7am, they brought equipment such as life vests onto the ambulance craft before performing checks on the engines and generators to ensure that the craft was ready for sail.

The team also assisted the medical crew during casualty evacuation.

"Even though it was a very busy and tiring time, it was also fulfilling as we went through team building and bonding sessions," recalled the National Service Excellence Award recipient.

A Chief Weapon Electronic Technician from 182 Squadron (SQN) in the Republic of Singapore Navy’s Maritime Security Task Force, he is in charge of the engine department on the ambulance craft.

Whenever a new batch of servicemen joins the team, the 33-year-old takes it upon himself to mentor the rookies and share his knowledge and experience of operating the craft.

For example, MSG (NS) Viknesvaran will assist his ICT mates once he is done with his engine checks, such as helping the seamen with the unravelling of ropes and keeping a watchful eye on everyone’s safety during slip-off and sailing, said Major (NS) Xavier Lee. 

The Commanding Officer (CO) of Master Ambulance Craft Medical Team explained: "MSG (NS) Viknesvaran always goes beyond his primary engineering duties and volunteers during seamanship or deck operations. 

"He will not hesitate in giving the deck crew a hand during slip-off, coming alongside, casualties transfer and even bridge lookout duties."

MSG (NS) Viknesvaran (right) conducting an inspection of a 100m range with a range warden from one of the external vendors contracted by the SAF.
For MSG (NS) Viknesvaran (second from left), his ICT mates are a source of motivation for giving his all during ICT.

Rejoining the force

A former Navy Regular, MSG (NS) Viknesvaran was a Weapon Electrical Specialist in the engine department of a patrol vessel in 182 SQN. 

After leaving the Service in 2010, he worked as an operations executive in a multinational oil and gas corporation.

He then took up a part-time course in Murdoch University where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in international business and management. 

Deciding that he was more comfortable working in a military environment, MSG (NS) Viknesvaran joined the Ministry of Defence last February under the Defence Executive Officer scheme.

As Executive (Ranges) from the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF’s) Training Resource Management Centre (TRMC), his role includes managing SAF ranges such as the Individual Marksmanship Trainer and Multi-Mission Range Complex. Apart from managing the external vendors who look after the ranges, he is also on standby 24/7 for any issues that servicemen may face at the training ranges.

Putting in heart and soul

With a recent addition to his family (his wife gave birth to their son Hiren in April), the father-of-two (his elder daughter Tanya is a year old) often finds himself having to juggle many commitments — family, work and NS. 

What helps him are strong family support and good time management. 

"I try to keep my weekends as strictly family time," he said. "I will discuss my schedule with my wife and she understands if I need to train for my Individual Physical Proficiency Test. She is very supportive, and I am thankful for that."

His ability to multitask has not gone unnoticed by Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) (NS) Sing Kee Hong, CO of TRMC in Headquarters Army Training and Doctrine Command. 

Said LTC (NS) Sing: "It’s fantastic that, even while running the TRMC, MSG (NS) Viknesvaran is able to contribute to the operational readiness of his NS unit. 

"It is not easy for any NSman to tell his family that he needs to go back and serve, especially when he has two young children to take care of, but he handles his responsibilities very well."

For MSG (NS) Viknesvaran, his friendship with his ICT mates is a source of motivation. 

"Since you can’t run away from ICT, might as well put your heart and soul into it and build a good relationship with your ICT mates," he said with a laugh. 

"I’m already looking forward to the next ICT 'cos it’s an opportunity to catch up with my friends!"

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