Imagine going back to school at the ripe old age of 47 – and studying side-by-side with your teenage kids!
When Armour Formation Sergeant Major Senior Warrant Officer (SWO) Koh Chye Hin was offered the chance to attend the 16th Goh Keng Swee Command and Staff College (GKS CSC) Command and Staff Course (Executive), he jumped at the opportunity.
This meant hitting the books again, even though it had been 15 years since he last touched a textbook!
But no matter how daunting the challenge, he knew that he had the support of those around him, who were looking to him as a commander and role model.
"By attending the course, I want to lead by example and inspire my young officers and WOSPECs (Warrant Officers and Specialists) to continually upgrade themselves. Because if a 48-year-old warrant officer can do it, so can they."
All the hard work paid off, and on 14 Oct, he received his course graduation certificate from Chief of Army Major-General (MG) Goh Si Hou.
Always learning, always growing
SWO Koh is a firm advocate of lifelong learning. Twenty-nine years ago, he signed on with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), armed with an N-Level certificate.
Over the next three decades, he never stopped looking for opportunities to upgrade his skills. With the help of his superiors in the Army, he took up scholarships to study for his ITE certificate and later his diploma.
And today, becoming a graduate of the GKS CSC Command and Staff Course (Executive) is the latest feather in his cap.
"As a SWO, I believe it’s important to keep learning and seeking new knowledge, and challenging myself to be the best that I can be."
Even though the course is not mandatory for WOSPECs like SWO Koh, he opted to take it up. He hopes his experience will inspire other young officers and WOSPECs to embrace lifelong learning and continually seek upgrading opportunities.
"In the SAF, as long as you’re willing to learn, there will be many opportunities for you to upgrade yourself. I want to show them that if someone like me can complete the course, then there’s no reason for them not to further their studies."
Reaching out to new soldiers
SWO Koh has had an illustrious 29 years in the SAF. In 2003, he was a part of the SAF's peacekeeping operation in Timor-Leste under the United Nations, where he was in charge of human relations, operations and security. There, he witnessed first-hand the importance of being operationally ready as a military force.
He was also part of the Leopard 2SG Main Battle Tank's pioneer team, training the new tank operation crew and building up their competencies as Leopard tank fighters. He helped to set up 48th Battalion, Singapore Armoured Regiment (48 SAR), and was appointed its first Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM).
Having led and mentored countless soldiers over the years, SWO Koh has seen how each generation of Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) grows from the last. Being able to reach out to new NSFs was one of the reasons he decided to further his education at the GKS CSC.
"These days, our NSFs are much more highly educated. By being more educated ourselves and learning to speak their language, we can connect better with them and understand them well."
He wants to bring his new knowledge, as well as his years of experience, back to the Army to help grow young soldiers: "The course has allowed me to review my own management skills, so that I can better engage and mentor Regulars, NSFs and NSmen (Operationally-ready National Servicemen).
"I hope to contribute in sharpening the SAF's operations and help the younger generations to recognise the importance of national defence."
SWO Koh admitted that the course was not easy. Thankfully, he had the support of buddies from the Armour Formation who were alumni of the course.
"Before we went for the course, all the past students gathered us together to help us prepare. They shared with us the course content and gave us tips on things like doing presentations. They also gave me private tuition!"
He was also able to lean on his classmates who came from all over the SAF, who were eager to share their knowledge. Even though at first they didn’t seem to have anything in common since they all specialised in their respective platforms, they soon realised that they were able to relate on topics such as crisis management.
SWO Koh also paid special tribute to his 17-year-old son Joel and 14-year-old daughter Janessa, who kept him company as they studied for their polytechnic and secondary two exams respectively.
"Attending the course actually improved our relationship – I would be sitting next to them at my laptop (as they studied), attending the online classes with my course mates.
"All this motivated me to do even better: I knew my buddies in Armour were watching me, my classmates were helping me, and my children were looking to me as their role model."