Republic of Singapore Navy
Feature | Republic of Singapore Navy

Sailing On a Mission

MINDEF – Republic of Singapore Navy

Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Lee Jan 
Commanding Officer, RSS Tenacious (Formidable - class frigate)
SAF Merit Scholarship

The Republic of Singapore Navy fiercely guards our maritime nation while fostering friendships with other navies. Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Lee Jan details his experiences in the Navy and an all-encompassing scope of designations he had assumed in his career.

The role of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) is crucial - defending Singapore’s sea lines of communication. Many of the things that Singaporeans need for survival pass our sea routes and the RSN’s role is to ensure that Singapore’s sea lines of communication are never strangled.

Therefore, operations that a warship undertakes have to be seamless. From safe navigation, to overseas exercises with like-minded navies to strengthen defence bonds, the competence of our warship and people is inextricably linked to Singapore’s survival as a small nation.

One such personnel who is responsible for the full spectrum of operations a warship undertakes is LTC Lee Jan, who is the Commanding Officer of RSS Tenacious (Formidable- class frigate). He is the pinnacle appointment holder on board, and for the pivotal role he embodies, he shares how it fulfils the overarching objectives of the RSN.

Charged with a Mission

“As a Commanding Officer, my main responsibilities include the safe navigation of the ship, effective operation of the ship’s combat systems, and the successful conduct of the missions assigned to my ship,” he begins. “I am also in charge of the morale, competency and discipline of every single crew on board my ship.” LTC Lee continued.

He emphasised that at the heart of any smooth operation lies in sound and proper training of the crew and the wellbeing of the people he works with. These are his top priorities as a leader.

Dynamic Career Voyages

LTC Lee shares that his leadership was groomed steadily by the RSN through rotational opportunities across roles throughout his career. “I started out as a Navigating Officer of a patrol vessel, and subsequently a Navigating Officer, Operations Officer, and Executive Officer of a frigate, before taking on my current appointment. In between, I also did a tour as a staff officer in the Joint Operations Department (JOD), planning operations for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF),” he details.

Lieutenant Colonel(LTC) Lee Jan

“My appointments have given me breadth of exposure and experience in the SAF. I handled maritime security issues and operations, and managements matters such as crew morale, manpower and postings, finance, and logistics and engineering. In the Headquarters, I was tasked with long-term projects, and the SAF’s strategic relationships with other armed forces,” he elaborates.

This wide spectrum of roles has bolstered a dynamic career, which transformed him into a confident and compassionate leader who is able to understand what his crew and officers needed in order to do their work, and mentor them in their roles.

“The wide spectrum of roles has bolstered a dynamic career, which transformed me into a confident and compassionate leader who is able to understand what my crew and officers need.”

Building Friendships with Foreign Navies

LTC Lee touched on another aspect of the RSN’s mission - diplomacy. “We participate actively in overseas exercises to extend a hand of friendship with like-minded navies, and RSN officers are given the opportunities to be ambassadors for Singapore,” he says.

For instance, LTC Lee was deployed for Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), a 3-month deployment to Hawaii where he participated in the world’s largest maritime and high-end warfare exercise, partnering with international navies such as the United States Navy, the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force, and the Royal Australian Navy.

One of LTC Lee’s more memorable deployments was his participation in the counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. The RSN had taken command of Combined Task Force (CTF) 151, leading multinational naval forces to keep piracy at bay in this vital waterway for sea trade. “This was a deployment in an entirely new area of operations, to conduct coalition counter-piracy. I learned the ropes in planning operations in a completely new setting, where I had to analyse the social, economic, and political situations to develop a holistic plan for counter piracy,” he explains.

“In these opportunities to be an ambassador for Singapore, I learned to be tactful and sensitive to differing perspectives. To forge diplomatic ties and deep friendship, it is important to understand the concerns and cultures of these nations so all parties can benefit mutually,” LTC Lee shares.

Calling to Aspiring Seafarers

For aspiring students who wish to join the RSN, LTC Lee advises, “Keep an open mind and learn as fast and as much as possible. The RSN is a place in which character and values are important traits as officers. Experience and competency will come in time, and so long as you hold the right values and mind set, the RSN will provide a tremendously fulfilling career”.