Republic of Singapore Navy
Feature | Organisation

Defending Our Maritime Nation

Republic of Singapore Navy
50 years on, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) continues to defend Singapore’s waters. Captain (CPT) Ho Chuan Calwin, Executive Officer of RSS Freedom (Fearless-class patrol vessel), shares with us his experience of serving at the frontline of Singapore’s maritime defence.

Singapore is a maritime nation and the sea is our strategic lifeline to the world. The RSN is entrusted with the crucial role of protecting Singapore’s sea lines of communication. This year marks a special year for the RSN, as it celebrates 50 years of defending our waters. Although sophisticated warships and weaponry are important, the RSN’s greatest assets are its people, because they are the ones who work tirelessly to keep Singapore safe and secure. One such individual is CPT Ho Chuan.

Currently serving as the Executive Officer (second-in-command) of RSS Freedom, CPT Ho Chuan’s decision to join the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) was first inspired by his soccer coach in junior college. “The stories he told of his time in the SAF were nothing short of inspiring. It also showed in his approach to our training – determined, driven and striving to be the very best,” he recalls.

When the time came to choose his career, the RSN in particular stood out. “The Navy presented itself as an attractive option as its culture was very much about family spirit and camaraderie,” he quips.

Dynamic Career

In his current appointment, CPT Ho Chuan oversees all operational, training and manpower matters on board. He ensures that the ship is kept at the highest level of readiness with a motivated and well-trained crew to patrol the Strait of Singapore. The patrol vessels are entrusted with the crucial role of maintaining round-the-clock surveillance of the Singapore Strait, ensuring that all friendly ships transiting through our waters can do so safely.

CPT Ho Chuan highlights time, manpower and resources as challenges he encounters daily. “I try to overcome these constraints by being clear of the mission, looking ahead and prioritising. I think the key is to be clear of why we do things we do as this helps us gain clarity on what is important and what we can potentially weed out,” he says.

Over the course of his career, he has been afforded the opportunity to undertake different roles and has served on different warships, ranging from frigates to patrol vessels.

He shares with us that one of his most memorable experiences in his career was when he participated in the counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden in 2014, under the ambit of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151. He was serving as the Assistant Operations Officer of RSS Tenacious (Formidable-class frigate) during the three-month voyage to safeguard the sea routes from pirate attacks. “It was an amazing experience to have participated in such a large-scale mission. Also, the opportunity to interact and work alongside foreign navies was really an eye-opener,” he shares.

CPT Ho Chuan Calwin

CPT Ho Chuan Calwin 
SAF Merit Scholar

Executive Officer
RSS Freedom (Fearless-class patrol vessel)

“The culture in my team is that we believe everyone is equally important and it is crucial that we help one another to grow.”

More Than Meets the Eye

Many may not know that the RSN’s ships are leanly-manned with highly trained crew. “A frigate in other navies is manned by over 200 crew. Our Formidable-class frigates are manned by only 72 crew, meaning one crew technically does the work of three or more. We overcome this mainly with automation, streamlining processes and crucially, with the help of a committed and capable crew,” shares CPT Ho Chuan.

These challenges have also made CPT Ho Chuan deeply aware of the difficulties to excel in his role. “A Naval Officer needs to truly care about his people, be resilient and be clear of your purpose. Without which, you will find yourself unable to make tough decisions when it matters,” he shares.

One Team, One Family

Behind the exterior of a strong, dignified force lies the quiet confidence of a sea of personnel who are sure of their roles, believe in the ethos of the Navy, and is more like family than anything else.

CPT Ho Chuan explains, “The culture in my team is that we believe everyone is equally important and it is crucial that we help one another to grow. As the often-quoted phrase goes, ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. While cliché, it has helped us stay together and achieve much as a unit. I always muse that as colleagues, we already spend so much time together and see each other every day. If we are willing to spend personal time outside of work together, it means we are on to something good.”

Words of Advice

CPT Ho Chuan advises students who are considering to join the Navy to find out what the RSN does for Singapore and to think of it as not purely a job, but a lifestyle. “It may seem daunting at first, but this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to receive a scholarship and be a Naval Officer. There will be bumps along the way but as long as you are willing to work hard and keep an open mind, it will be immensely rewarding,” concludes CPT Ho Chuan.