F or many people, a mere glimpse of the RSAF’s excellent aerial displays is enough to shape a dream. Such was the case for two RSAF scholars, Major (MAJ) Alex Chan and Military Expert 4 (ME4) Gerald Goh. MAJ Chan joined the Singapore Youth Flying Club after his ‘O’ Levels, and his participation in the club helped him realise that piloting an aircraft in the RSAF could be an exciting and meaningful career to pursue. This profound interest eventually led him towards the SAF Overseas Scholarship, now known as The SAF Scholarship.
ME4 Goh too had similar pursuits and convictions. He tells us, “I have always been in love with aviation since I was young. I also knew that the SAF Merit Scholarship would offer me the opportunity to pursue an overseas education in Aeronautical Engineering, a subject I am passionate about, and work in a dynamic environment. Furthermore, I felt that the military ethos and mission-oriented nature of the RSAF resonated with my personal values and beliefs.”
MAJ Alex Chan
The SAF Scholar (Formerly known as the SAF Overseas Scholar)
Staff Officer, Joint Operations Department
Pursuing Exciting Careers
Today, MAJ Chan and ME4 Goh are pursuing dynamic careers as part of the RSAF family. MAJ Chan is currently a Staff Officer in the Joint Operations Department, where he coordinates the efforts of the three services of the SAF – the Singapore Army, the Republic of Singapore Navy, and the RSAF. “We ensure that the strengths of the services complement each other, so that the SAF accomplishes its mission safely, effectively and efficiently,” he explains.
The composed individual also holds the position of Military Private Secretary to the Defence Minister, Dr Ng Eng Hen. He works with MINDEF personnel and external agencies to ensure that Dr Ng’s involvement in military-related functions are able to run smoothly. This role has afforded MAJ Chan a broad perspective of how MINDEF’s defence and diplomacy efforts are operationalised.
For ME4 Goh, his work at the Air Plans Department sees him formulate long-term plans for the capability development of the SAF’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), and manage projects in accordance with those plans.
He shares, “Many people consider my vocation to be a support element with little contributions to RSAF’s operations, but this is not true. In the aircraft engineering community, our jobs directly influence the success of our flying missions. We keep the aircraft flyable at all times and improve aircraft performance with engineering solutions.”
MAJ Chan highlights that RSAF officers have to possess the courage to push operational boundaries. In order to strengthen their confidence and competence, they are given comprehensive training opportunities to prime them for their dynamic Air Force journey.
For MAJ Chan, he tells us about his deployment on a 5-week mission, just a year after he was qualified to fly the KC-135R. The KC-135R Stratotanker is an air-to-air refueling aircraft that is able to refuel the RSAF’s fighter jets and extend their flight endurance. He recounts one of his experiences, during which he was empowered by the RSAF’s stellar capabilities and his team’s strong teamwork.
ME4 Gerald Goh Qi Wen
SAF Merit Scholar
Staff Officer, Air Plans Department
He shares, “We flew an aircraft from Singapore to Idaho, landing in Guam and Hawaii along the way, and helped to send 8 RSAF F-15s from Idaho to Alaska using air-to-air refueling. There, we joined in as a tanker for Exercise Red Flag, and then helped to send the 8 F-15s back to Idaho. We then went back for the RSAF F-16s who were stranded in Alaska and sent them back back to Arizona. This mission widened my perspectives on the aircraft’s flexibility and the significance of aerial refueling for long-range deployment missions.”
As for ME4 Goh, the highlights of his RSAF journey are the times spent with his engineering team. He explains that the team investigates root causes of aircraft defects and comes up with recommendations to prevent a repeated occurrence. “Although there were tiring times, we felt immense satisfaction when we saw fighter jets take off from the runway with the confidence that they were safe to fly,” ME4 Goh shares.
With his team still in mind, ME4 Goh continues on about the culture nurtured among his team. According to him, the team’s camaraderie is a key trait to an enriching vocation in the RSAF. He tells us, “For a team to be successful, team members have to possess the requisite knowledge to do his or her job well independently. But this is not enough – team members also have to respect and take the initiative to help each other. Team excellence can only be achieved through individual proficiency and good team work.”
Growing with the air force
With these experiences under their belt, both MAJ Chan and ME4 Goh agree that they have expanded their capabilities tremendously.
MAJ Chan tells us, “The RSAF has made me a more critical thinker. I now make better plans that incorporate potential contingencies. The RSAF has also taught me to be better at task prioritisation. Often, there is not enough time to get everything done in a sequence. But sometimes, the only thing that separates success from abject failure is the ability to focus on what matters now, and know what can be put aside for later. This is applied to great effect in the handling of emergencies on a flight.”
For ME4 Goh, he tells us that the biggest takeaway from his time in the RSAF is to never take the easy way out. “It is our job to ensure that the aircraft is safe before it is allowed to fly. Sometimes there can be tremendous pressure to release the aircraft to meet operational demands, and moral courage is needed to ground the aircraft until investigations are complete.
“In the RSAF, professionalism is important because everyone plays a major role in the success of our operations. Every officer should also have compassion for the men and women under him, for the RSAF’s achievements are built on the hard work of people on the ground.”