Brothers in arms at Ex Forging Sabre

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05 Oct 2023 | PEOPLE

Brothers in arms at Ex Forging Sabre

//Story by Benita Teo / Photos by Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of RSAF

English 华文

Brothers ME3 Yew Boon Leng and ME2 Yew Boon Siong reunited at the exercise for the first time in nine months after being deployed in the US.

ME2 Yew (left) and ME3 Yew are both participating in this year’s Exercise Forging Sabre.

"When we were both working in Tengah Air Base, we never saw each other around or sat down to eat together. But here, we hang out over the weekends or drop by each other's offices when we need something!"

It took a posting to the United States (US) for siblings Military Expert (ME) 3 Yew and ME2 Yew to become closer.

Being deployed overseas has helped the brothers to become closer.

ME3 Yew, 35, is an Air Force Engineer (AFE) (Supply Chain) in Peace Carvin (PC) V in Idaho, supporting the F-15SG detachment.

Meanwhile, younger brother ME2 Yew is an AFE (Maintenance) in PC II in Arizona, where the 32-year-old works on getting the F-16C+/D fighter jets fit for flight.

This year, they finally had the chance to work together at Exercise Forging Sabre (XFS).

ME2 Yew working on the F-16 at this year’s XFS. He has participated in XFS twice, the first being in 2015.

We need to know: Did you guys pakat (slang meaning "to conspire") to be deployed to the US together?

ME3 Boon Leng: Actually, Boon Siong was posted to PC II detachment first. I had previously supported the Chinook detachment in Peace Prairie in Texas, as well as its relocation to Australia.

I'd been back in Singapore for two years when the postings for PC II and PC V came along. I applied to both as I knew he was here. In the end, I was accepted into PC V. I've been here for about nine months now.

ME2 Boon Siong: I've been here for almost two years. I was quite excited when I heard he was applying because then we could work together in the same detachment. But too bad, he didn't get into PC II!

ME3 Yew (centre) with his PCV Supply Chain team. This is his first time participating in XFS.

ME2 Boon Siong, did you give your brother any tips about living in the US?

ME2 Boon Siong: Nope. In fact, I laughed at him because when it's winter here in Mountain Home, he will be shovelling snow and ice! But he also laughed at me, because Arizona summers are known to be very hot – I could cook an egg outside!

ME3 Boon Leng: The snow here is so heavy you can make ice kacang! I came here with my wife and five-year-old daughter, and we took about three months to adjust to the new environment.

We were more worried about my daughter, but she can just put on a jacket and run out to play in the snow! I think it's because she likes the movie Frozen.

ME3 Yew and his family in Mountain Home. The Yews had to take time to adjust to the harsh weather in Idaho.

ME3 Boon Leng, were you the reason your brother joined the Republic of Singapore Air Force?

ME3 Boon Leng: I joined three years before he did. One day he asked me, "Eh Kor (big brother), what's life in Air Force like?"

I shared my experience with him and told him to talk to the recruitment centre. But I never force him lah!

What's the best thing about being deployed in the US together?

ME2 Boon Siong: I can just go to him and ask, "I need a spare part, can you give me one?" Or if I have questions about supplies or processes, I can just approach him.

He's just a phone call away now, as compared to if he were in Singapore and we had to look at the time and figure out if (the other person) is sleeping. Later I call him (when he's sleeping), then he scold me!

ME3 Boon Leng: When we were back in our respective detachments, we would do family calls. But I know when he calls me at odd hours, it's not a "hello hello", it's "hello, can you help me?"

Home away from home: Despite being thousands of miles away from Singapore, the squadrons at PC II and PC V make sure to celebrate important events and festivals like National Day to give the airmen and women a feeling of home.
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Was your family worried about the both of you being so far away from home?

ME2 Boon Siong: They were at first, but with technology we can stay in touch and keep them updated. They were assured when they saw that we were well-taken care of here. We also make trips home whenever we can.

ME3 Boon Leng: We were hoping to go back to Singapore together to visit our mum and elder sister, but our schedules clashed. But I was happy that Boon Siong would be here at XFS, because he could bring me their gifts! They gave him local delicacies like mooncake and chilli. Only no durian!

Here at PCV, our squadron has a culture of celebrating the major festivals and events. Those who can cook will prepare local dishes so that we have a taste of home. This way, those like Boon Siong who are here on their own can feel a sense of home.

ME2 Boon Siong: Same for us – on National Day, people will make things like laksa and Milo dinosaur. I will take photos of the food and send them to my brother!

ME2 Yew (far left) catching up with ME3 Yew (far right) and his family over lunch in Mountain Home. The deployment has allowed ME2 Yew to spend more time with his beloved niece as well (next picture).
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Has being away from home together made you closer?

ME2 Boon Siong: Yes, it has. In Tengah Air Base, I would be working at the flight line or hangar while he would be at the supply depot.

But here at XFS, even though we don't work directly together, his office is very near my detachment's building. In fact, just last weekend we met up for ramen because my niece wanted it, and they showed me around Mountain Home.

ME3 Boon Leng: We hadn't met for a long time since Boon Siong was posted here. And when we finally managed to see each other here, my daughter held his hand the whole time and forgot her own father!

Even though we can now do video calls, it's still better to meet face-to-face – we all need that human touch.

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