I am CPT (NS) Ong Koon Poh Kane, from 18 DA Bn. My last appointment in service was the Battalion HQ Operations Officer, and I have been an active member of the SAF Veterans League since 2018. I am also part of the Commitment to Defence (C2D) Ambassadors Programme, where I regularly engage students and Full-Time National Servicemen (NSFs) on my experience as an NSman. After completing my Operationally Ready National Service journey officially, I chose to embark on the Reservist on Voluntary Extended Reserve Service (ROVERS) scheme to serve beyond my official term, and my ROVERS term recently ended.
I enlisted in June 2003. I still remember celebrating my birthday that year with a heavy heart, knowing that I will be enlisting in a few days’ time. The thought of National Service back then was discomforting to me, and I worried about the physical training that would come with me.
However, I never would have expected my perspective about National Service to change so completely. The regimental discipline, demanding physical training, and harsh confinement away from civilisation; gave me a whole new perspective about life and responsibility. Rather than to succumb myself to self-impairment, I gave myself a chance to reach further. Reach to exceed self-expectations, reach to improve beyond my peers, and reach to be a better man for myself.
With the sudden self-realisation and personal motivation, I managed to excel during Basic Military Training, and emerged as the Best Recruit, which gave me the opportunity to advance further to Officer Cadet School (OCS) in my military life. During my training in OCS, I was selected to be part of the (then) Weapons Systems Officer (Air Defence Artillery) [WSO(ADA)] vocation. Initially, I did not know what to expect from being a part of this vocation, but I soon came to realise that the gruelling mental and physical training of an ADA officer is definitely not for the faint hearted.
The roles of an ADA officer are physically demanding, to keep up with the mobility and efficiency of our weapon systems. The complications that came from operating our state-of-the-art systems only meant countless nights of studying and system familiarisation. Since joining 18 DA Bn from 2004 till now, I’ve experienced being both an active NSF and then 15 good years of being an NSman. Throughout my journey, I was constantly exposed to new adventures, eye-opening experiences and training in both Singapore and overseas detachments. I forged a close, family-like bond amongst our Ground-Based Air Defence community. 18 DA Bn and Air Defence and Operations Command was like a home to me, and I treasure the strong camaraderie with my fellow airmen and women, both active and reserve, with all my heart.
My most memorable In-Camp-Training (ICT) was during the National Day Parade for the SG50 year, when I volunteered all my weekends for the NDP rehearsals. My high key ICT was already clocked, but I volunteered beyond the stipulated 40 days ICT. My greatest motivation back then was my desire to do something to show my love and appreciation for my country and my home. A few weekends burnt and disruption to my personal work schedule was nothing compared to how far we have come as a country.
I have enjoyed my 15 years of ORNS, and it was truly fruitful and rewarding. As I look back on my NS journey, it is truly like what I always share with the younger generation during the C2D presentations: "No matter military, Home Team, male or female, young or old, everyone has a part to play when it comes to defending our nation. The goalkeeper and defenders who stay at 'home', are just as important as his strikers who fight at the front line."