The RSN has actively participated in the multinational effort to secure the waters in the Gulf of Aden (GoA), a vital waterway for global shipping since 2009. Last year, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) successfully completed its fourth command of the multinational Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, and oversaw the operations of naval ships from Japan, Pakistan, Republic of Korea and Turkey. 50 SAF personnel and 12 international officers from Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, United Kingdom and Vietnam were deployed for the command mission and one of whom was MAJ Soh.
He was deployed as an Operations Planner for the mission, and was responsible for coordinating and working closely with relevant stakeholders to develop operational plans to deal with potential piracy attacks. He and his team also facilitated multiple joint naval exercises, to enhance interoperability between the different navies.
For him, being given the opportunity to participate in the mission was enriching. “I gained valuable insights on working alongside coalition partners in a dynamic operational environment. During my interactions with the foreign counterparts, I was also heartened to know that the RSN is highly regarded by navies around the world. This is no mean feat for a young Navy like ours, with a short history of just 50 years,” he shares.
Upholding High Standards
Today, the 31-year-old is a Directing Staff at the RSN’s Navigation and Sailor Skills School (NSSS), Naval Military Experts Institute where he imparts his skills and experiences to junior naval officers.
He explains, “My main responsibility is taking charge of naval officers attending the Naval Junior Officers’ Course. This is the first Route-of-Advancement (ROA) course that all naval officers attend after commissioning from Midshipman school. It sets the foundation for them to take on roles as Officer-of-the-Watch (OOW) and Navigation Officer aboard RSN warships.”
Instructor, counsellor, disciplinarian and mentor are some of the many hats he wears as he trains junior naval officers to become competent, confident and committed warriors at sea.
“Everyone in the Navy knows that when a ship is out at sea, and if the crew needs to react to any exigencies, they can only depend on one another. A ship is only as strong as its weakest crew. Hence, it is important that naval officers lead by example and ensure the crew can achieve high standards. The best form of care is knowing that your people are competent so that they can overcome all challenges and return home safely each day.”
MAJ Johny Soh
Navigation and Sailor Skills School
Engineered for Challenge
Competent crew aside, an effective Navy also needs to be equipped with a modernised fleet boasting state-of-the-art military capabilities. This is where 25-year-old ME4 Ang puts her engineering expertise to good use as a combat system engineer on board RSS Intrepid, a Formidable-class frigate. Her main duty is to assist the senior combat system engineer in troubleshooting any technical issues and ensuring the operational readiness of combat systems on board the ship.
She enthuses, “It is a challenging yet exciting role because frigates have the most comprehensive and complicated systems in the RSN today. As a ship engineer, you need to understand how engineering and technology integrate to bring out the best warfare systems. You have to be resourceful, innovative and constantly keep yourself at the forefront of technological developments.”
While many may see engineering and being in the Navy as traditional male domains, ME4 Ang shrugs off the issue, saying that gender matters little in the RSN.
“In recent years, more women have been joining the military and rising up the ranks. I have personally been inspired by the many stories shared by female personnel in the RSN, who have made me realise that women can excel and accomplish as much as men if we set our minds and hearts on the job.”
ME4 Ang Li Ping
Assistant Ship Engineer
RSS Intrepid (Formidable-class frigate)
Regardless of vocation or gender, all officers in the RSN are given equal opportunities for career progression and personal growth. In addition to ROA training courses scheduled regularly along their career, officers are also rotated through both ship and shore appointments to hone their management and leadership skills.
For example, in his past eight years of service, MAJ Soh’s appointments have run the gamut from Navigation Officer, Operations Officer to his most recent appointment as Executive Officer (second-in-command) of RSS Endurance, an Endurance-class landing ship tank before moving to his current appointment. “I was fortunate to participate in numerous local and overseas deployments during my time on board ships where I gained valuable insights into operational planning and building relationships with foreign navies, which aided me in undertaking other appointments in the RSN,” he shares.
Similarly, ME4 Ang will soon be moving to Naval Logistics Command (NALCOM) to take on the role as Lead Engineer, taking charge of underwater systems. She relishes her experience on board ship, which she attributes for shaping her to become a more well-rounded engineer. “On board ship, you acquire different skill sets such as fire-fighting, damage control, basic seamanship, and navigation at sea. All these proficiencies help to enhance my understanding of ship systems and how our sailors fight out at sea,” she says.
A Meaningful Journey
Ultimately, what keeps MAJ Soh and ME4 Ang motivated is the deep sense of meaning and purpose imbued in their work. As ME4 Ang puts it aptly, “the core of the work we do ensures that Singapore continues to have a strong maritime defence force that is capable of dealing with evolving maritime threats.”
Sharing the same sentiment, MAJ Soh concludes, “Many of us have chosen to join the Navy because we believe that what we do contributes to the maritime defence of Singapore and the security of our loved ones. No matter how tough the journey may be, the heart to serve will always be our driving force and fuel to keep Singapore’s waters safe today and for generations to come.”