An aide who's served 3 presidents

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17 May 2023 | PEOPLE

An aide who's served 3 presidents

//Story by Koh Eng Beng /Photos by Lionel Lee & courtesy of MAJ (Ret) Ridzwan

English Melayu

MAJ (Ret) Ridzwan has retired as an Honorary Aide-de-Camp after serving three presidents over 17 years.

MAJ (Ret) Ridzwan (right) receiving the certificate of appreciation from President Halimah Yacob at a ceremony held at the Istana on 16 May.

As an infantry officer, he had to lead soldiers for tough, grueling training in the jungle. The hours were long, and he often had to be away from home.

But when he was offered the opportunity to serve as an Honorary Aide-de-Camp (HADC) about two decades ago, Major (MAJ) (Ret) Ridzwan Bin Abu Bakar had no qualms about volunteering his time and service to the President of Singapore.

The reason? To make his late father proud.

His father, 2nd Warrant Officer (2WO) (Ret) Abu Bakar Bin Amat Siam, was a warrant officer in the Singapore Army. 

2WO (Ret) Abu Bakar putting on the 2nd Lieutenant rank for then-Officer Cadet Ridzwan at his commissioning parade in 1995.
MAJ (Ret) Ridzwan (standing) briefing his soldiers from 3rd Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment, at Exercise Wallaby in 1997. He was then an Officer Commanding.

"When I was first offered the chance to be a HADC, my father was the first person who encouraged me to take on the appointment," he said.

"So whenever I was called up to do HADC duties, I'd always remember my late father and how he always told me to always give my best."

MAJ (Ret) Ridzwan was among the 25 HADCs who are retiring this year.

Memorable experiences

The HADCs are the ambassadors of the President's Office. They help the full-time ADCs in planning, managing and executing functions and events attended by the President.

MAJ (Ret) Ridzwan had served three presidents – Mr S.R. Nathan, Dr Tony Tan and Madam Halimah Yacob. "All three presidents were very friendly with us."

One of his memorable experiences as an HADC was to accompany Madam Halimah for her state visit to Saudi Arabia in 2019, he recalled.

He got to enter the Kaaba — a stone building at the centre of Islam's most important mosque and holiest site, the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca — with Madam Halimah.

Only Muslim dignitaries such as heads of state invited by the Saudi government get to enter the Kaaba.

MAJ (Ret) Ridzwan said of his experience: "It's something that I will never forget."

MAJ (Ret) Ridzwan (standing, left) and a fellow HADC standing behind Dr Tony Tan (sitting, right) and President of Panama, Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez (sitting, left), at the Istana in 2016.
MAJ Ridzwan (far right, with black peaked cap) with Mr Nathan (in black suit with red tie) at the 2011 SAF Day Parade.
MAJ (Ret) Ridzwan was one of the vigil guards at Mr Nathan’s lying in state in 2016. He also stood vigil for Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 2015.

Dedicated service

In her speech to the newly appointed and retiring HADCs on 16 May, Madam Halimah commended MAJ Ridzwan's dedication.

"He had conscientiously served for nearly two decades, rising through the ranks to take on leadership positions in the Corps… I am sure many will miss his sharing and willingness to impart knowledge."

MAJ (Ret) Ridzwan (far left) was a mentor for the younger HADCs.

With over a decade of experience as a HADC under his belt, MAJ (Ret) Ridzwan was often tasked to lead and guide the junior HADCs. For example, he was responsible for training the HADCs standing behind the President for numerous National Day Investiture ceremonies.

"My job is to ensure that they march in together to the right spot and salute at the same time," said the 50-year-old. "On the day of the event, it was always a nerve-racking moment for me; everything had to be perfect."

MAJ (Ret) Ridzwan retired from the Singapore Army last December. His last appointment was Head of Subject Matter Expert in the Basic Military Training Centre.

MAJ (Ret) Ridzwan (far left) enjoys working with fellow HADCs from the SAF as well as the Home Team.

Family spirit

Another reason why he stayed on as a HADC for almost two decades was the family spirit among the HADCs and the ADCs. And this is something that he will miss after retiring as a HADC.

"You know that there's a team here together with you. If you have issues (at work or home) and can't make it (for your duty), you know they will be there to help you out," he said.

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