Three sisters set sail together

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13jan22_news1
13 Jan 2022 | PEOPLE

Three sisters set sail together

// Story by Koh Eng Beng

// Photos by Chai Sian Liang

Newly-minted Senior Military Expert 4 Ng Hui Ling is serving in the Navy with her two younger sisters.

Sisters in the Navy: ME4 Ng (centre), ME1(A) Ng Ai Lun (left) and ME1(A) Ng Ai Jia.

It's not often that one finds three sisters serving in the Navy together. Military Expert 4 (ME4) Ng Hui Ling, 24, is a Naval Warfare System Engineer, while her younger sisters ME1(A) Ng Ai Lun, 21, and ME1(A) Ng Ai Jia, 20, are training to be Naval Warfare System Experts.

Their journey began five years ago when ME4 Ng, who was then waiting to enter university, received an invitation for the Navy's career talk for women. She asked her two younger sisters to attend together, and the trio liked what they heard at the career talk – in fact, they were thrilled at the prospect of a purposeful career in defending the country.

"That was what led my two younger sisters and me to where we are today, being a part of the Navy family," said ME4 Ng, who was appointed as a Senior Military Expert on 12 Jan after completing her Military Domain Experts Course (MDEC).

ME4 Ng receiving her ceremonial sword from Chief of Staff, Naval Staff Rear-Admiral Edwin Leong on 12 Jan at a decentralised Senior Military Experts Appointment Ceremony.

Asked what it is like to work in the Navy with your siblings, ME4 Ng said the experience was similar to studying in the same school with them. "We're able to look out for one another more."

In fact, this was the reason why their mum supported their decisions to join the Navy, she added. The three sisters were in the same primary school, and had all studied Engineering in Nanyang Polytechnic. They have an elder sister who is a design researcher in the National University of Singapore (NUS).

ME4 Ng said Ai Lun and Ai Jia often sought work advice from her, and she would share her working experience on board a ship. "We are merely a call away from each other, (and) that gives my sisters a sense of relief," she said.

ME4 Ng's eldest sister (left) and mum pinning the ME4 rank epaulettes on her uniform.

Supportive environment

But when ME4 Ng enlisted in 2020, she had no one to turn to since she was the first among them to start Basic Military Training. And this was a period when she needed support.

The induction to military life was a baptism of fire for her. She struggled with homesickness; staying in camp for nearly three weeks during the confinement period took a toll on her.

"I actually felt very down," she recalled, adding that it was the first time that she was away from home for so long. But her section mates were quick to notice the change in her, and rallied around her. "They just came and talked to me… I felt that I was not alone."

Today, being away from home is no longer a problem for her; the Navy has become her second home. In fact, she spent one whole month at sea without fuss on board Landing Ship Tank RSS Persistence for the Midshipman Sea Training Deployment (MSTD), a component of the MDEC.

ME4 Ng (far left) with fellow trainees undergoing the MSTD on board RSS Persistence. All trainees and ship crew were tested negative for COVID-19 prior to their deployment.

ME4 Ng emerged as the top Navy graduand for MDEC, and received the Sword of Honour. She credited her success to the supportive and conducive environment in the Navy, where people often go the extra mile to help one another.

Teamwork

How ME4 Ng and her coursemates worked together to overcome the reduction in classroom time was a case in point.

Because of COVID-19 cohorting measures, they were not able to attend physical classes together. And each cohort could only go to their workplace to work on their assignments on alternate days.

To overcome the lack of time, they split their tasks, and each cohort set out to work out the solutions when it's their turn to go to the workplace. The consolidated solutions would then be sent to everyone.

"This was how we broadened our system knowledge even though we often lacked time," said ME4 Ng, who has a degree in Electrical Engineering from NUS.

ME4 Ng with her buddy after a small arms firing exercise on board RSS Persistence.

Now an Assistant Lead Engineer at the System Readiness Engineering Centre (Network and Sensors), her role is to maintain the navigation radars of the Littoral Mission Vessels, Missile Corvettes as well as Mine Countermeasure Vessels.

She hopes to put the knowledge gained during MDEC to good use, and continue to hone her engineering knowledge and leadership skills in the Navy.

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