A s a key node in the global maritime shipping and trade, Singapore’s survival and prosperity are inextricably linked to the maritime trade. According to official estimates, approximately 130,000 vessels arrive in Singapore annually. This translates to a ship entering the Singapore Strait once every four minutes.
To prevent perpetrators of piracy and seaborne terrorism looking to disrupt this flow of trade, the RSN stands watch 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, ever ready to respond to any incident or contingency that arises out at sea. Being at the forefront of our seaward defence, the RSN ensures the safety and security of Singapore’s vital Sea Lines of Communication.
Two RSN scholars tell us about their roles, and their sense of pride, in ensuring our maritime security. We hear from Executive Officers CPT Tan and CPT Su, who share many of their unique experiences and offer some advice to those keen on joining the RSN.
CPT Tan Xin Hui
SAF Merit Scholar (Women)
Executive Officer, RSS Freedom
As Executive Officers, both CPT Tan and CPT Su serve as the second-in-command on board their respective ships, RSS Freedom and RSS Independence. They are entrusted with a broad range of responsibilities which include ensuring the high operational readiness of their unit, training of the ship crew, as well as the planning and execution of operations and foreign exercises. Apart from these, they are also entrusted with the responsibility of forging a cohesive and effective team that stands ready to respond to any contingency operations.
Both officers have had their fair share of enriching experiences in the RSN. For CPT Tan, she participated in the inaugural Ex Trident in 2013, a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise between the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Australian Defence Force at Australia’s Shoalwater Bay. “My role then was to ensure that troops and supplies were safely and seamlessly transferred from the ship to the helicopters. During the exercise, I witnessed how the different Services worked together to send humanitarian aid and supplies to a simulated disaster area,” she recalls.
She also represented the RSN in the inaugural ASEAN Naval Young Officers Interaction (ANYOI) in Vietnam in 2012. This programme was aimed at building relationships between young officers from different ASEAN Navies during the early stages of their career. “It allowed me to learn about the organisation structure and culture of different navies, as well as interact with my fellow counterparts from the other Navies to better understand their perspectives about regional and global issues. In fact, I am still in contact with many of these friends today,” she shares.
For CPT Su, he has also had many memorable experiences. Earlier in 2015, his ship was involved in the rescue of five fishermen whose vessel had sunk after a collision at sea. “Being able to manage the situation to save lives and ensure the smooth conduct of the operations was very fulfilling for me. I was ready for the task only because the RSN had trained me well,” CPT Su shares.
He moves on to tell us about his deployment to overseas ports as part of his training. He recalls, “One of the most memorable moments I’ve had was during my sail from Hawaii to Japan. As the Navigation Officer at the time, I successfully charted the course of my ship to ensure that we kept a safe distance from a typhoon and two hurricanes. It allowed me to exercise the skills that the RSN has imparted to me in order to keep my ship safe while reaching the next port on time!”
CPT Karl Su Yuanyao
SAF Merit Scholar
Executive Officer, RSS Independence
A United Team
Both officers are firm believers in the notion that strength is found in the cohesion of their people. This is why they place great emphasis on strengthening the bonds within their respective teams. Although both officers faced the initial challenge of leading a team of more experienced men and women, they have learnt the importance of adopting humility and sincerity in their leadership style. “When the people around you know that you are sincere and have nothing but good intentions for them, they are more likely to be receptive to what you have to offer,” CPT Tan tells us.
CPT Su concurs, adding that when people experience ups and downs together, they are likely to come out stronger and more united. “The friends and buddies I’ve made from the RSN have become like my second family – the spirit of togetherness we share is a result of many tough and fun times spent together out at sea. It is these little things that keep me excited about my job.”
All in all, the men and women in the RSN are always assured that they can find a home away from home in their close-knit environment. This is what drew CPT Tan to the organisation in the first place, back when she attended a scholarship fair organised by her alma mater Hwa Chong Institution. “I was particularly intrigued by the description that the RSN possesses strong camaraderie, an important trait because when the ship is out at sea, we have no one to depend on except one another.”
To students out there exploring your scholarship options, CPT Tan and CPT Su have meaningful advice they would like to offer, “Be clear of why you want to serve because this will motivate you during tough times. While joining the military may seem daunting for the ladies at first, training is progressive and you will be given many opportunities to grow,” CPT Tan advises.
CPT Su adds, “Make the best choice given all the information you have, grasp a good opportunity, and then give that opportunity your best shot.”