Many of us build walls around ourselves, which oftentimes stem out of fear and the desire to retain comfort. These walls limit our experiences and dampen chances to reach the ends of our potential. Yet, there are some who choose to venture far out beyond these walls, choosing to push themselves out of their comfort zone towards bigger and higher goals. One such individual is Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Benjamin Fu.
LTC Benjamin first joined the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) as a pilot because he wanted to do something out of the ordinary. “I could not see myself bound to a desk job. I knew that being an RSAF pilot would offer me the challenging and exciting prospect to fly airplanes and fast jets,” he quips. The RSAF which offered a fast-paced and challenging career suited his interests and ambitions. LTC Benjamin was also awarded the SAF Merit Scholarship (SMS) after his Air Grading Course, which gave him the opportunity to pursue his Electronic and Electrical Engineering degree in Imperial College London. He also graduated with a Masters of Science in Management Science and Engineering from Stanford University. The RSAF also provided LTC Benjamin with the opportunity to further develop his potential as a military commander by enrolling him in the United States Air Force (USAF) Air Command and Staff College, where he graduated with a Masters in Military Operational Art and Science.
As a junior pilot, LTC Benjamin was exposed to several overseas exercises which opened his eyes to the capacity and potential of the RSAF. One of these exercises which he remembers vividly is the multi-lateral air exercise ‘Exercise Cope Tiger’, which involved over 60 aircraft. LTC Benjamin shares a memorable experience he had during that particular exercise, “We were en route to strike a simulated target when an enemy fighter emerged behind us without warning. We had to react quickly to the unexpected threat and eventually managed to neutralise the opposing fighter before proceeding with our mission. The dynamic nature of our air combat, the strong fundamental training and good teamwork were key to this memorable encounter and added to our confidence in the RSAF’s capabilities.” Not only did these training exercises develop his individual skills as a fighter pilot, but the essence of team excellence was also clearly demonstrated.
Today, LTC Benjamin holds the appointment of the Commanding Officer (CO) of an RSAF operational F-16D+ fighter squadron. He is responsible for the operations and administration of a large squadron, as well as the development of the people under his charge. His role is twofold – on one hand, he has to ensure mission success in all operational tasks and, on the other, to ensure the high standards of training, development and morale of his men.
He sheds some light on the challenges of being a CO, “Undoubtedly, it is a busy job and there are many responsibilities. It is important for me to prioritise my tasks to know which are the more important and time-critical issues that require my attention. Good leadership is also necessary to empower people to take ownership of issues and tasks to bring the squadron to greater heights.”
LTC Fu Rentai Benjamin
Recipient of the SAF Merit Scholarship
Commanding Officer, 145 SQN
Understanding the RSAF
Having gone through an exciting career, LTC Benjamin is well aware of the traits required of a RSAF scholar. He highlights the importance of these three traits – self-awareness, intellectual ability and to stay grounded.
He asserts, “Intellectual ability is needed to analyse issues and derive logical and practical solutions. This will facilitate planning for the future. One must also have self-awareness, to step back and assess ourselves objectively. It is this important element that distinguishes man from animals, translating to empathy and the ability to see through the lens of others. A deeper understanding of people and issues will lead to better responses and solutions. Lastly, it is important to stay grounded. The nature of scholarships necessitates a certain progression that is fast by certain standards, and it is easy to get caught up in strategic ideals and neglect the needs of the people on the ground. The RSAF is founded on the strength of its people and we must remain connected in order to develop the force.”
His sincere advice reflects his strong dedication to the RSAF. He concludes the interview by highlighting that the SMS Scholarship is more than just a ticket to an overseas education. “Don’t take the scholarship at face value and merely look at it as a chance to study overseas,” he advises. “The organisation behind the scholarship is more important. Understand the career that awaits you after graduation and be sure that they align with your beliefs and personal values.” LTC Benjamin’s journey in the RSAF embodies how interest, ambition and core values come together to provide meaning and fulfillment in a military career.