TThe Republic of Singapore Air Force (Air Force) celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018, marking five decades of commitment and dedication in safeguarding Singapore’s skies. The Air Force has come a long way from its modest beginnings to become a professional and credible force that inspires confidence in Singaporeans. More than just possessing the latest technology and equipment, the Air Force holds the people in its heart.
Major (MAJ) Tan Xi Jie, 31, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Pilot – Intelligence Officer (Air Intelligence) [IO (Air Int)], is a recipient of the SAF Merit Scholarship. As part of the Air Force’s comprehensive and progressive efforts to develop its people, MAJ Tan has the opportunity to continuously learn and develop himself to be an effective leader. As the Commanding Officer (CO) of 119 Squadron, he leads and develops 100 UAV Pilots – IO (Air Int), Air Imagery and Intelligence Experts, and Air Force Engineers to watch over our skies. We find out why MAJ Tan chose to join the Air Force and what it takes to work in a fast-paced and dynamic organisation.
What sparked your interest in applying for the SAF Merit Scholarship?
The prospect of having an exciting and meaningful career that safeguards the peace and security of Singapore appealed to me. I always thought that the job of defending your country was a noble one. During my National Service (NS) days, I came across articles on unmanned technologies and found them exciting because the future of unmanned technologies has huge potential in the Air Force. In addition, the scholarship allowed me to study at a top overseas university and interact and learn alongside the best minds.
How has the SAF Merit Scholarship benefitted you?
One of the biggest benefits was the full sponsorship to study at a top overseas university with a student body that was diverse and filled with the best people possible. The scholarship also gave me the opportunity to participate in various multi-disciplinary projects to study complex and long-term issues affecting the organisation. These experiences have helped to broaden my perspectives beyond my primary role as a UAV Pilot – IO (Air Int). They have also allowed me to develop my leadership and soft skills, which have given me the confidence to work with Officers across the Air Force community.
What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your job?
It is immensely rewarding to be part of a competent team that builds unmanned capabilities in the organisation and to know that I have made a difference to the Air Force and people whom I have worked with. I take pride in knowing that my efforts have contributed to making the Air Force a stronger organisation and developing my people to become stronger professionals. As a CO, my challenge is to lead a group of diverse individuals, with varying experience, expertise, and abilities, well. This heavy responsibility compels me to continue to develop and push myself, to lead and serve the people under my charge.
MAJ Tan Xi Jie
SAF Merit Scholarship
Commanding Officer, 119 SQN
The Leland Stanford Junior University, USA – Master of Science in Management and Engineering
How does the Air Force continue to attract and retain bright young talent in your field?
The Air Force offers a dynamic, fast-paced, and challenging career. You will be systematically groomed to take on increasingly challenging tasks and appointments. You will also be stretched beyond your comfort zone and take on leadership positions early in your career to prepare you for heavier responsibilities. More than that, the culture of team excellence is a deeply rooted one, and I take comfort in working with like-minded professionals across different vocations and ranks to achieve mission success. The sense of camaraderie that we forge through common experiences is something that you do not find easily outside.
What advice do you have for those intending to pursue a scholarship with the Air Force?
You need to have the heart to serve your people. Beyond advanced systems and platforms, people form the core of the Air Force. As a leader in the Air Force, you will be responsible for training your people well and taking care of their development.
You also need to have the heart to serve the nation. Our mission is to protect the skies and this is a 24/7 responsibility. In some cases, one may be deployed on short notice in support of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations. These operations, while meaningful, may require personal sacrifices.
I believe that if you have the heart to serve and are keen to work with a high-performing team that watches your back, a career with the RSAF is definitely something you should consider.