From Hell Week to Hell's Kitchen

Actions
https://www.mindef.gov.sg/web/wcm/connect/pioneer/0f36e29d-3b4d-4878-91e3-2c1d3a619d96/29apr20-photo1.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE.Z18_1QK41482LG0G10Q8NM8IUA1051-0f36e29d-3b4d-4878-91e3-2c1d3a619d96-n74pIH5 /web/wcm/connect/pioneer/0f36e29d-3b4d-4878-91e3-2c1d3a619d96/29apr20-photo1.jpg?MOD=AJPERES&CACHEID=ROOTWORKSPACE.Z18_1QK41482LG0G10Q8NM8IUA1051-0f36e29d-3b4d-4878-91e3-2c1d3a619d96-n74pIH5 /web/portal/pioneer/article/regular-article-detail/people/2020-Q2/29apr20_news1
/web/portal/pioneer/article/regular-article-detail/people/2020-Q2/29apr20_news1
29apr20_news1
29 Apr 2020 | PEOPLE

From Hell Week to Hell's Kitchen

// Story by Thrina Tham

// Photos by Clement Goh & courtesy of 1SG (NS) Lee

English 华文
1-UP-B-caption

"Tough times don't last, tough men do. These tough times we are going through is not something that any individual or company can overcome alone."

It was these thoughts that prompted 1st Sergeant (1SG) (NS) Lee Jin Rong, a naval-diver turned donburi-seller, to think out of the box to tide his business through the COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) situation.

For one, he partnered with an out-of-work airport limousine driver to do deliveries.

His company, Bowl Chap, also started an initiative in support of frontline workers – raising donations to give out 150 rice bowls and 170 meal vouchers to staff from National University Hospital, Singapore General Hospital and Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

Having served as a Regular in the Naval Diving Unit (NDU)'s Clearance Diving Group for seven years, 1SG (NS) Lee has seen and overcome his fair share of challenges.

He was activated on New Year's Eve in 2014 to take part in the international search-and-locate efforts in finding the missing AirAsia flight QZ8501.

1SG (NS) Lee (left) was part of the mission to retrieve the black box from the AirAsia flight QZ8501 crash.

"We had to use a handheld sonar to 'ping' for the black box in the Java Sea and the waters were very choppy," recalled the NDU Dive Leader.

"Eventually, we found parts of the aircraft. My heart was heavy when we saw the bodies still strapped into the seats. It was really saddening.

"We also managed to locate the black box later. I felt honoured that, at least, we were able to give closure to the families."

1SG (NS) Lee (far left) was a naval diver for seven years before starting his own donburi hawker stall.

In 2015, he left service to pursue his love for cooking – taking a culinary course at Sunrise Global Chef Academy, where he got an an internship at the European restaurant-bar Tippling Club.

He opened his own donburi hawker stall in 2018, with his then-girlfriend (now wife), Lee Pei Sin.

1SG (NS) Lee's NDU buddies visiting at his hawker stall at Ayer Rajah Food Centre.

As a hawker, 16-hour days are common. "Sometimes it felt like it was worse than 'hell week' because it was never-ending. But I was happy because we were committed," said the 31-year-old.

Bowl Chap has since moved into a shop at Fusionopolis, with three other full-time staff to help with the load.

When 1SG (NS) Lee moved his business to Fusionopolis, his buddies were there for him too.

Wherever 1SG (NS) Lee goes, his NDU family goes with him. He often sees ex-naval diving mates coming to his shop to show their support.

"The brotherhood in NDU is very hard to find. We trust each other completely; our lives depended on it when we went out for underwater operations," said 1SG (NS) Lee.

He recalled his last day as a Regular in NDU when his buddies pooled money to arrange a "breakfast buffet".

"After that we went for a jog together and they carried a speaker with the song See You Again playing throughout the whole run.

"Not to be shy about it, I cried on my last day of service."

Suggested Reading
She's a diver-doctor in NDU
Cover story
She's a diver-doctor in NDU
PEOPLE
20-Dec-22

She is the first Singaporean woman to undergo the gruelling US Navy Diving Medical Officers' Course. Meet CPT (Dr) Chiew Wenqi, the formation medical officer of the Naval Diving Unit (NDU). Here's five things you need to know about her:

A legacy of national service
Cover story
A legacy of national service
PEOPLE
19-Dec-22

Meet the Chins, a three-generation family of national servicemen.

The '3-second' legend
The '3-second' legend
COMMUNITY
09-Dec-22

What unfinished business does CFC (NS) Johnathan Chua have in the Naval Diving Unit (NDU), and what exactly is the '3-second legend’ of NDU-lore?

Taking the lead at RIMPAC 2022
Cover story
Taking the lead at RIMPAC 2022
OPS & TRAINING
12-Aug-22

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) led eight ships from seven nations at one of the world's largest maritime exercise.

African-Singaporean on his way to becoming an officer Feature
African-Singaporean on his way to becoming an officer
PEOPLE
04-Aug-22

The mission comes first
The mission comes first
COMMUNITY
29-Jul-22

LG Melvyn Ong, Chief of Defence Force, shares how the SAF kept its operations running while contributing to whole-of-government efforts to contain COVID-19.

Experience the thrill of the chase at NDP!
Cover story
Experience the thrill of the chase at NDP!
COMMUNITY
20-Jul-22

A whole lot of hard work goes into the adrenaline-pumping moves for the Total Defence Display at NDP 2022.

Sailor, engineer & mum
Sailor, engineer & mum
PEOPLE
13-Jul-22

She joined the Navy with a dream to see the world. Two decades on, she's found not only a new purpose in serving the nation and nurturing naval engineers, but also the love of her life.

SAF to sharpen capabilities & ramp up training, digitalisation efforts: Dr Ng Feature
SAF to sharpen capabilities & ramp up training, digitalisation efforts: Dr Ng
OPS & TRAINING
01-Jul-22

Defence minister Dr Ng Eng Hen outlines plans for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to stay vigilant against heightened security threats, in his annual SAF Day interview on 30 Jun.

RSS Tenacious wins Best Fleet Unit title Feature
RSS Tenacious wins Best Fleet Unit title
MILESTONES
28-Jun-22

This is the frigate's second win in the SAF's Best Combat Unit competition.