Stepping up as senior military experts
//Story by Joshua de Souza / Photos by Chua Soon Lye & courtesy of interviewees
Why did they make a change and become military experts in the SAF? ME4 Nabilah Atiqah and ME4 Kishore share what inspired them in their journeys.
It started on the sands of Changi Beach, where a son and his father watched airplanes fly overhead from the nearby airport. The child pondered how "such a big machine could fly so high in the sky".
Now grown up, Military Expert (ME) 4 Kishore Nicholas Manimohan has the answers to that question, which fueled his journey to eventually join the Republic of Singapore Air Force.
The 30-year-old Air Force Engineer stood proud during the Senior ME Appointment Ceremony on 25 Jan as his father and mother affixed his new rank on his uniform. He was one of 122 newly minted senior MEs from across the four Services in the Singapore Armed Forces.
From Bionix to F-16
An armored officer during his NSF (Full-time National Serviceman) days, ME4 Kishore operated the Bionix vehicle and served as an OPFOR (Opposing Force) Platoon Commander.
OPFOR troops fight as a realistic "enemy" to test and validate units under evaluation.
"In a year, we had about 40 to 50 outfield (training sessions). So the most memorable (memory) was the time we spent in the jungle together," said ME4 Kishore as he recounted the tough training he and his men underwent as part of OPFOR.
After completing his full-time NS, the former Aerospace Engineering student in Republic Polytechnic continued his education by pursuing Aircraft Systems Engineering at the Singapore Institute of Technology.
In November 2022, he returned to join the Republic of Singapore Air Force and went through a second round of Basic Military Training and Officer Cadet School under the Military Domain Experts Scheme.
He felt no trepidation however, and gladly joined his younger peers as an active participant – even in modules like outfield navigation exercises that he had been exempted from.
"I had the option not to do it (because I'd already done it before), but I did it together with them…because I wanted to build the bond with the rest of the guys," he explained.
Now as an Air Force Engineer who works on the F-16 fighter jets, ME4 Kishore remains excited about deepening his knowledge about aircraft – just like the child who was full of curiosity about the planes he saw at Changi Beach.
"I want to continue becoming a better version of myself whom my parents will be proud of."
From public hospital to military medicine
Also among the newly minted senior MEs that evening was 25-year-old ME4 Nabilah Atiqah Binte Abdul Radir, whose father and her eldest sister came to celebrate her achievement in becoming a Military Medical Expert in the Singapore Army.
"My dad and my siblings were very supportive (of me joining the SAF). They told me whichever pathway I choose, they'll be there to support me," said ME4 Nabilah Atiqah, who is the youngest of four children.
Her eldest sister is a nurse, which inspired ME4 Nabilah Atiqah to study nursing in university. She got her degree from the National University of Singapore (NUS) in 2021, and took a gap year after graduation.
"I wasn't very sure what I wanted to do after my studies… I wanted a job that was not routine," said ME4 Nabilah Atiqah.
The road ahead became clearer after she learnt about nursing alumnae ME4 Fadilah Bte Jubir, who had also joined the SAF.
"I came across my senior, ME4 Fadilah, on our school website. She looked very sharp standing tall and holding her SAR (Singapore Assault Rifle) 21.
"I was inspired by her and I wanted to do something different, to step out of my comfort zone and develop myself personally."
Following her senior's footsteps, ME4 Nabilah Atiqah enlisted in June 2022. Her prior training and education in nursing proved useful when she joined the Medical Officer Cadet Course (MOCC).
For example, skills such as performing CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and administering IV (intravenous insertion) – which she learnt during her nursing studies – are also techniques that military medics must be proficient in.
"(As Military Medical Experts,) we focus on improving the training for the medics. I feel like I can advise how they can improve their training on the ground," said ME4 Nabilah Atiqah, who hopes to put her nursing experience to good use.
The opportunities given to grow as a leader during the MOCC has also given her greater confidence in taking up her new role as a senior ME.
"I developed in terms of my mental capacity, and I grew stronger. The entire training was tough but, at the end of the day, it really moulded me in becoming who I am today."