TAs a port city, Singapore takes pride in its status as one of the top maritime capitals of the world and a major confluence of transhipment shipping and international trade. With over 1,000 vessels dropping anchor in our waters daily and the maritime industry accounting for over 7 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), safeguarding our waters and sea lines of communication is crucial to retaining our position as the preeminent logistics and sea hub.
Tasked with this monumental and critical role are men and women of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) like Captain Yeo Shang Xuan, 26, Navigation Officer of RSS Endeavour (Endurance-class Landing Ship Tank), who ensures that the ship arrives at its intended destination in a safe and timely manner to achieve mission success. We sit down with the SAF Merit Scholarship recipient as he shares more on his journey of earning his stripes as a Naval Officer, and how his time serving in the RSN has groomed him into a better leader.
Navigating The Waters Of Uncertainty
Currently into his seventh year in the RSN, CPT Yeo found that the decision to join the RSN was not an easy one. Just like anyone fresh out of school, he was unsure of his next move. But the opportunities to study overseas, widen his world view, and achieve personal growth led him to take the leap of faith.
Captain Yeo Shang Xuan
SAF Merit Scholarship
Bachelor in Government & Economics,
Claremont McKenna College
“As a 19-year-old, a scholarship was a big commitment and I wasn’t sure if that was what I wanted to do for at least the next decade of my life,” recalls CPT Yeo. “In my journey thus far, there were definitely difficult moments. Yet these were also the moments that brought the most personal growth and clarity about my life purpose. In retrospect, I see that joining the RSN was the right decision for me, not because the job scope was exactly what I had envisaged, but because it has moulded me to become a better person.”
From School To Starboard
With the multifarious threats to our maritime security such as terrorism and piracy, the RSN has to stay one step ahead of the game through collaboration and adaptability. For CPT Yeo, these qualities were honed through his scholarship and eventually translated into his pivotal work for the RSN. “I studied Government and Economics at Claremont McKenna College (CMC). The small community at CMC (my graduating class had about 300 students) allowed me to engage in deeply-forged relationships with my professors and classmates alike,” he explains. “The broad-based liberal arts education also challenged me to learn, draw from, and apply knowledge across disparate fields of study.”
It is this extensive range of study that has proved useful when faced with the need to take on a wide spectrum of roles – a key feature of a dynamic career in the Navy. The rotation of opportunities has seen CPT Yeo serve stints of varying durations on four different platforms – missile corvettes and frigates during his vacation attachments; as an Assistant Navigation Officer on one of the patrol vessels; and his current tenure as the Navigation Officer on RSS Endeavour.
“The relatively short periods of time we have in each appointment demand that we learn quickly so that we are able to lead our teams with confidence. Furthermore, every ship has its unique culture, and it requires us to be flexible in our leadership and management styles so that we can get the best out of ourselves and our teams,” shares CPT Yeo.
Full Steam Ahead
Nothing brings people together better than sailing on a month-long deployment in a 140-metre long ship, and to CPT Yeo, what makes the RSN unique and motivational is the enduring Navy family spirit and a dedicated team of professionals who are willing to grow together, while achieving common goals.
That said, the challenge of serving in a dynamic environment like the RSN means that one can never become too comfortable with what one is doing, according to CPT Yeo. It is also important for aspiring students looking to join the RSN to embrace open-mindedness. “Prior to enlistment, I had not thought that I would join the Navy. Seven years on, I count it as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Life could take you in an unexpected direction. Keep an open mind about your options, and you could find yourself pleasantly surprised the way I have!”