Scholars inspired to be defence leaders of tomorrow

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14 Aug 2023 | PEOPLE

Scholars inspired to be defence leaders of tomorrow

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

English 华文

This year, a total of 97 students have been awarded defence scholarship awards. We speak to two recipients to find out why they are so passionate about contributing to Singapore's defence.

MID Rahul (left) and ME4T Puah want to contribute to Singapore's defence.

Since young, Military Expert (ME) 4T Yuki Puah has always been interested in aeroplanes.

She was further inspired after visits to the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Open House in 2016 and Singapore Air Show in 2018, especially after interacting with the airmen and women there.

"I was amazed by the aerial displays they put up, but I also wanted to understand how things worked behind the scenes – like how the personnel prepared and supported the planes for flights. These were the things that intrigued me during the open house," said the 21-year-old aerospace electronics alumna from Singapore Polytechnic.

"It made me curious to find out more so I joined the air force!"

ME4T Puah (front row, left) with her section mates at their BMT graduation parade in April 2022.

Meeting people from all walks of life

Despite being an avid rock-climber and boulderer, ME4T Puah faced problems when it came to the 2.4km run.

When she began Basic Military Training (BMT), she clocked 17 minutes for her 2.4km run. Thanks to progressive training, she eventually shaved several minutes off her run time and scored gold for her Individual Physical Proficiency Test.

BMT was also a learning journey for her. Meeting people from all walks of life opened her eyes up to new experiences and friendships.

"Even though BMT was just nine weeks, we really took time to know and understand each other. We were like one big family."

ME4T Puah (far right) graduated as an Air Operations and Systems Expert in August 2022.

Post-BMT, ME4T Puah was posted to the Air Force Training Command (AFTC) to learn the ropes of becoming an Air Operations and Systems Expert.

One of her best memories in AFTC was studying together with her course mates till late to make sure that everyone did well for their exams.

"That was really nice because we were not out to compete with one another; we all just wanted each other to do well," recalled ME4T Puah, who was subsequently posted to the RSAF's 200 Squadron in November 2022.

ME4T Puah (front row, in white shirt) during a cohesion event with her squadron mates at East Coast Park in April.

Asked what type of leader she hopes to be, ME4T Puah replied that she wants to be someone whom people can confide in, and yet still command respect.

"I want to understand my team and be a friend to them because only then, we can better communicate with one another, and build each other up to move ahead as a team."

Dr Ng (right) presenting the SAF Engineering Scholarship to ME4T Puah.

A fulfilling career

ME4T Puah was among the 97 students who were awarded defence scholarships at the Istana on 14 Aug.

A recipient of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Engineering Scholarship, ME4T Puah will be reading Electrical and Electronics Engineering at Nanyang Technological University.

Upon completion of their tertiary education, recipients of the uniformed scholarships – the SAF Scholarship, the SAF Merit Scholarship and the SAF Engineering Scholarship – will assume a variety of challenging appointments that will groom them for senior command and leadership positions in the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the SAF.

Dr Ng (far left) interacting with the defence scholars during the award ceremony.

Change to terms of defence scholarships

Speaking at the award ceremony, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen said that in the current uncertain global environment, Singapore needs to be prepared for any and all changes.

It is therefore important that leaders of the future generation need to unite minds, hearts and efforts for Singapore to face future challenges, he said.

Dr Ng also announced several changes to the defence scholarships.

These included reducing the bond duration from six to four years for SAF Scholarship recipients who study locally, as well as extending opportunities for gap year provisions to SAF Merit Scholarship, SAF Engineering Scholarship and Defence Merit Scholarship recipients from this year onwards to broaden their exposure.

Launch of Mid-Term Scholarship

In addition, MINDEF and the SAF will be introducing the Mid-Term for the SAF Scholarship from 2024 onwards, for those who are pursuing their tertiary education.

This means that those who decide to join the SAF mid-way into their university education can now do so, and their tuition fees from the beginning of their course will be reimbursed.

MID Rahul joined the RSN as he liked the close navy family culture.

Strong navy family culture

For fellow SAF Scholarship recipient Midshipman (MID) Rahul Kumar Singh, a chance encounter on a frigate during the MINDEF Experience Programme last year piqued his interest to sign on with the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN).

"Through conversations (with the sailors on board), I found out about the strong navy family culture, and this was very visible through my interactions with all the navy personnel," said the 19-year-old Raffles Institution alumni.

MID Rahul (front row, second from right) with his section mates and section commander (front row, centre) at their BMT graduation parade at Our Tampines Hub in March.

Building friendships and camaraderie

From experiencing new things to building strong bonds and camaraderie, MID Rahul found BMT to be an exciting time.

"I was fortunate to have very nice section mates in BMT – we were all willing to share our struggles and experiences with one another and that created a very warm and trusting environment."

Similarly, it was the friendships which got him through the tough times in Officer Cadet School (OCS), especially during his month-long midshipman training deployment.

"Being away from my family wasn't easy but I had a really supportive environment on the ship. Even though training was tough, we all helped each other out."

MID Rahul (third row, second from left) with his midshipman batch mates in May this year.

Looking forward to a fulfilling career

MID Rahul, who will go on to read economics and management in Oxford University, hopes to contribute to the intelligence and diplomacy efforts across the RSN.

"The RSN travels to different ports of calls and meets with foreign navies so I hope to contribute in strengthening defence relations with other countries."

MID Rahul is also looking forward to the day that he begins his naval career.

"Having a career in the public service has always resonated with me and knowing that I will be part of the team guarding Singapore's waters 24/7, I'm sure that my time here will be fulfilling."