The Air Force makes me feel alive: ME6 Sathananthar

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28 Nov 2023 | PEOPLE

The Air Force makes me feel alive: ME6 Sathananthar

//Story by Teo Jing Ting / Photos by Kenneth Lin & courtesy of ME6 Sathananthar
 

English 华文

It's no surprise that ME6 Sathananthar Suresh loves serving in the RSAF. Find out why he's been in the air force for 28 years and what keeps him going.

ME6 Sathananthar has no regrets joining the RSAF.

As a boy, Military Expert (ME) 6 Sathananthar Suresh always knew he wanted to join the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).

This had much to do with his uncle, Colonel (COL) (Ret) Frank Singam – who was one of Singapore's first fighter pilots and founding member of the RSAF's Black Knights.

ME6 Sathananthar's uncle is COL (Ret) Frank Singam (second from left), one of Singapore's first fighter pilots. With him are then-Lieutenant Harry Lim (far left), then-Lieutenant Jimmy Lim (second from right) and then-Captain Anthony De Souza (far right). [Photo: RSAF]

Inspired to join the Air Force

"My uncle would bring me to a lot of air shows and exhibitions, and there was where I got to know more about aircraft. I really enjoyed seeing the aircraft and hearing the engines roar," recalled ME6 Sathananthar.

"He also advised me in terms of what the nature of work was, especially when I was much older – so that really piqued my interest."

ME6 Sathananthar (left) and COL (Ret) Singam.

In June 1995, ME6 Sathananthar signed on as a senior technician where he worked on the fire control systems of the RSAF's A-4SU Skyhawks.

Two years later, he began his officer conversion course and became an air maintenance officer in October 1998.

After completing a degree in electrical engineering at the University of New South Wales, he was emplaced as an air engineering officer in 2006.

Four years later, he converted to the Military Domain Experts Scheme to become an Air Force Engineer.

The 48-year-old is currently the Deputy Commanding Officer of 110 Squadron.

ME6 Sathananthar (far right) with his team at the NS50 (marking 50 years of National Service) dinner reception at The Float @ Marina Bay in 2017.

Unique deployments

Having been in the RSAF for 28 years, ME6 Sathananthar has had the opportunity to take up several appointments – memories which he hold dearly.

His memorable deployment to date was joining the Joint Task Force (Assurance), or JTF (A), during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in June 2020.

When he received the call, he agreed without hesitation. He took up the role as a Forward Assurance and Support Team (FAST) lead to run operations and manage the welfare of migrant workers in the dormitories.

"Seeing how people unite to solve various problems and manage the situation (in the dormitories) really touched me – it was not easy but, through working together, we managed to get through that period," said the father-of-two, who has another child on the way.

ME6 Sathananthar (front row, far right) with his JTS (A) team. With them are a dormitory manager (front row, centre) and his foreman (front row, far left).

During this three-month deployment, ME6 Sathananthar interacted with a wide range of agencies and people from all walks of life – from healthcare workers and police, to migrant workers and their employers.

He felt the experience, be it encouraging the migrant workers and listening to their stories or organising sports activities for them, helped him become a better leader and listener.

ME6 Sathananthar and his team organised sports activities for the migrant workers to take their minds off the pandemic.

"I wanted to challenge myself and this was a deployment unlike any other," explained ME6 Sathananthar.

"I know that I’m an introvert so I had to push myself to communicate with people – it was tough initially but it became much easier after a while."

One for the memory: A selfie to mark ME6 Sathananthar's stint during his dormitory operations.

Recognised for his dedication

ME6 Sathananthar was among the 652 recipients who received the Long Service Medals at the National Day Awards Investiture, held at the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) on 28 Nov.

ME6 Sathananthar (left) receiving his Long Service Medal from Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How.

These awards are given to Ministry of Defence and Singapore Armed Forces personnel in recognition of their outstanding performance and dedication to duty and service to the nation.

This year, a total of 942 military and non-military personnel were awarded at the ceremony. Of them, 142 received Commendation Medals, 162 were awarded Efficiency Medals and 652 received Long Service Medals.

In addition, 14 personnel were awarded with both the Commendation/Efficiency Medal and the Long Service Medal.

ME6 Sathananthar with his wife, Jamielyn, at his graduation from the Command and Staff Course from Goh Keng Swee Command and Staff College in 2018.

Constantly improving with the times

Asked why he stayed in the Air Force for such a long time, ME6 Sathananthar said that he liked how the RSAF is constantly improving and upgrading itself to keep up with the times.

"We're always moving forward in terms of our systems and platforms.

"Apart from that, the organisation gives you the opportunity to try out new and different things. Be it administrative or technical roles, the RSAF has different vocations to cater to individual needs."

ME6 Sathananthar (far left) knows that he is defending his country and family every day – and this is what keeps him going.

Just like how the RSAF keeps up with the times, ME6 Sathananthar is currently pursuing his Masters in artificial intelligence at Nanyang Technological University.

"Even though I'm 48, it doesn't mean that I can't learn. I hope that, with these new skills, I can find ways to improve on things within the organisation."

With that, retirement is definitely the last thought on his mind.

"I like how the Air Force constantly provides challenges and this makes me feel alive.

"Every day, I know that what I do matters. I'm defending this country, I'm defending my family – this is what keeps me going."

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