Charting her own path as an officer

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09 Sep 2023 | PEOPLE

Charting her own path as an officer

//Story by Teo Jing Ting / Photos by Amos Chew & courtesy of LTA Deepa

English 华文

Inspired by her father to join the military, LTA Deepa Syaama Arul has found her own calling in a different Service.

While she was inspired by her father to join the military, LTA Deepa aims to chart her own path as an air warfare officer.

As a child, she would watch how her father put on his uniform as he prepared for work. 

Perhaps it was the way he interacted with his soldiers or how he spoke of his work with pride in being able to defend Singapore – these made Lieutenant (LTA) Deepa crave the same experience.

The 23-year-old also had the opportunity to see how her father, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) (Ret) S Arulmurugan, conducted himself at work, especially when he was involved in several National Day Parades.

A young LTA Deepa (left) with her father at the Army Open House in 2004. [Photo: LTA Deepa]

Despite retiring in 2013, guardsman LTC (Ret) Arulmurugan still talks about his days in the military with a fond smile. The 55-year-old was formerly Head of the Civil Military Relations Centre in Headquarters Guards.

"My father really enjoyed his time in the Army and this made me want to join the military as well," explained LTA Deepa, who is the eldest of three children.

Battling in the skies

During her second year of university, she started researching about the various vocations and learnt about the Air Warfare Officer (AWO) scheme under the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) air battle management (ABM) group.

"I was really interested in ABM as it mostly handles fighter operations and it's the frontline defence of Singapore.

"When there are threats in the airspace, the air battle managers are the ones helping our pilots to assess the situation and make a decision within split seconds," said LTA Deepa.

She made the decision to sign on and enlisted in September 2022, with the blessings of her dad and family.

LTA Deepa (back row, 7th from left) with her platoon mates during her BMT graduation parade on 4 Nov 2022. [Photo: LTA Deepa]

Determined to do her best

From being outfield and digging shell scrapes to doing live-firing, Basic Military Training (BMT) turned out to be an enjoyable time for her.

"I was determined to do my best and I realised that BMT wasn't as physically challenging as I thought it'd be, 'cos of the progressive training… (And the camaraderie among my platoon mates) just made everything more fun and manageable" said the accountancy major from National University of Singapore.

LTA Deepa (far left) having lunch with her coursemates in March. [Photo: LTA Deepa]

Helping each other out

When she entered Officer Cadet School (OCS) in December, the training tempo became more intense but the strong friendship and teamwork among her coursemates made it bearable.

Even though they were individually assessed, they would study together and help each other pass their assessments.

"We were always watching what the other person was doing during simulations, so that we could learn from one another and make sure everyone gets through the tough training together."

LTA Deepa (second from left) and her ABM coursemates at the Air Force museum in August. [Photo: LTA Deepa]

Becoming an officer

On 9 Sep, LTA Deepa was among 216 cadets who were commissioned as officers in a parade held at SAFTI Military Institute.

Ask what she will miss most about her training days and she immediately said the friendships.

"It's not only my friends in the air force, but those from the army and navy as well. When you see them day in and day out and realise that you won't be seeing them as much after commissioning, it feels quite sad," said LTA Deepa.

"But I know that our camaraderie will stay strong because I see it in my dad's friendships with his army mates – even after a long time, their bonds are still very strong and I want the same for myself."

Proud parents: LTC (Ret) Arulmurugan (right) and his wife, Indiraa d/o Maruthavanan (left), pinning the LTA rank on LTA Deepa.
Newly minted officers tossing their peak caps in celebration at their commissioning parade.

Care for soldiers

Post-OCS, LTA will be posted to the RSAF's 202 Squadron as an AWO (ABM), where she hopes to become a leader who is both competent and compassionate.

"Among the SAF core values, ‘care for soldier' resonates with me the most," said LTA Deepa.

"So no matter what I'm doing, I want to be there for my soldiers and take into account their views and opinions because we are a team and being a leader is about bringing your team together for a common goal."

Now that she has commissioned, it's LTA Deepa's turn to advise her younger brother, Suriya (far right), about NS. She also has a younger sister, Sassha (not pictured), 19.

Now, it's also her turn to advise her 16-year-old younger brother, who will be enlisting in a few years' time.

"I'll tell him to just make the most out of his time in National Service (NS) because this experience is something he will not get anywhere else," said LTA Deepa with a smile.

"Enjoy whatever you are doing and understand the purpose behind it – that's what I'll say to my brother."

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