Saving lives with pride

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15 Apr 2024 | PEOPLE

Saving lives with pride

// Story by Donahue Foo/ Photos by Xavier Loh

English 华文

Despite a fear of heights, 3SG Edthan Yeo became a winchman and successfully completed his first rescue operation.

3SG Yeo feels a sense of pride to be an Air Crew Specialist.

3rd Sergeant (3SG) Edthan Yeo was on standby duty on 1 Feb when he heard that he and his crew had to scramble for a Search and Rescue (SAR) operation – a 62-year-old Caucasian woman had suffered a stroke on board the Celebrity Millennium cruise ship.

It was then that the 22-year-old Air Crew Specialist (ACS) realised that he was going on his first-ever rescue operation.

Following a quick brief, 3SG Yeo and the Rescue 10 crew did the necessary preparations before boarding the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) H225M helicopter at 2pm. The 6-man rescue crew included the pilot, co-pilot, doctor, medic, winch operator and 3SG Yeo as the winchman.

"My adrenaline started pumping as we approached the ship. Even though I was a little stressed, I focused on what needed to be done as I had done it before during my training," recalled the Full-time National Serviceman (NSF).

He and the doctor were lowered to the vessel. After the patient was stabilised, 3SG Yeo placed her on the stretcher before winching her up to the helicopter. The patient reached Singapore General Hospital (SGH) around 4pm, stable and conscious.

"Handing her over to the hospital and knowing she was safe was a moment of immense pride," said 3SG Yeo.

As part of the Rescue 10 team, 3SG Yeo helped to evacuate a distressed woman – who had suffered a stroke and was in need of urgent medical attention – from a cruise ship to SGH. [Photo: RSAF]

Earning his wings

3SG Yeo was thankful for the four months of intense training as an ACS, which prepared him for the mission.

The first two months were dedicated to ground training, where 3SG Yeo and his peers learnt the necessary knowledge for their roles. The latter half of the training shifted to the skies, offering hands-on experience that 3SG Yeo found both challenging and rewarding.

"The HUET (Helicopter Underwater Escape Training) was unforgettable. Having to escape from a submerged helicopter multiple times (as part of the emergency drill) was intimidating, but it was a shared struggle that brought us closer," he recalled.

Winching down from a helicopter hovering in mid-air is no easy feat if you have a fear of heights, but 3SG Yeo overcame it through training and seeing his fellow ACS trainees being able to accomplish their task.

Another obstacle the NSF had to overcome was a fear of heights.  

"My first time winching down was about 50 feet in the air – it looked way higher from the helicopter!" said 3SG Yeo. "Getting over it by trusting my gear and seeing my buddies do the same thing was a big step for me."

After graduating as part of the 127th batch of ACS trainees on 19 Sep 2023, 3SG Yeo obtained his wings and was posted to 125 Squadron where he operates on the H225M helicopter. This helicopter is among the latest RSAF assets to attain Full Operational Capability on 11 Apr.

For peaceful skies  

Reflecting on his time in the RSAF so far, 3SG Yeo acknowledges the growth and change in his perspective towards National Service (NS).

What began as a duty has transformed into a journey of camaraderie, and a deeper appreciation for the role of the RSAF and its impact on national security.

"My initial thoughts on NS were that it was a duty towards our nation. Now, 18 months in, my experiences have reshaped my understanding of the Air Force's vital role in not only safeguarding our skies but saving lives... That's a responsibility I carry with pride," said 3SG Yeo.

As for the future, the NSF remains grounded in his commitment to serving the nation. "I hope for peaceful skies. While I'm ready for any operation, I wish for a world where they're seldom needed."

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