LTC Bernard Tay, Commanding Officer of 3rd Battalion Singapore Guards, is in charge of priming his troops to ensure that they are operationally ready. He is a recipient of The SAF Scholarship and holds a Bachelor’s as well as a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Decisive and principled leadership are the typical cornerstones of any successful organisation. But, what makes an establishment truly exceptional is when the key decision-makers awe and inspire.
As a trainee in Officer Cadet School, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Bernard Tay was enthralled by his instructors’ commitment to the training and well-being of their soldiers. This motivated him to join the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
“I wanted a career that allows me to make a positive difference to people’s lives and the defence of Singapore,” explains LTC Tay.
He adds: “I wanted to be that source of inspiration to the soldiers that I lead, and hopefully be able to impact their lives in the same way. Being offered the opportunity to study overseas on The SAF scholarship was the icing on the cake, as I would not have been able to do so on my own.”
Indeed, LTC Tay took on The SAF Scholarship and went on to enjoy a fulfilling stint at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He came back with a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering.
“With my engineering background, I am trained to think more critically and approach problems systematically and analytically. Living in a foreign place also helped me develop my interpersonal and communication skills, which are important competencies as a leader in the SAF,” he says, when asked on how his overseas education has primed him for his career.
Upon his return to the SAF, LTC Tay fulfilled his command tours as a Platoon Commander and Company Commander in 3rd Battalion Singapore Guards. He also served as a staff officer in Army Headquarters, which gave him valuable insight into the Army’s training and human resource issues.
Before taking on his current role as Commanding Officer of 3rd Battalion Singapore Guards, LTC Tay underwent training at the Indonesian Army Command and Staff College, which allowed him to learn more about the culture, military history and warfighting doctrine of the Indonesian Army. Beyond the course, he forged strong bonds with fellow course mates. All these experiences have developed him into a more effective military leader.
Now, LTC Tay is entrusted with the responsibility of developing the operational capabilities of his unit. Unsurprisingly, he reckons that leadership is pivotal to building an operationally ready and cohesive Battalion.
“I believe that everybody has an innate desire to achieve excellence and that the key to unlocking that potential is through strong leadership. Hence, I focus a lot of time and energy to develop commanders,” he says.
“I see myself as a steward of the lives entrusted to my charge and a steward of national resources provided to my unit to fulfil our mission. It is thus my personal vision for every soldier to leave the unit on the day of their ORD (Operationally Ready Date) as a better and stronger individual, and for the unit to be a more effective unit than when I first took over.”
Undoubtedly, LTC Tay’s penchant for excellence has brought him plenty of success as a student, trainee and now, a leader of hundreds of men. Looking ahead, he wants to inspire as much as he was inspired.
On the most gratifying aspect of his job, he says: “It is witnessing my soldiers grow in their character, physical and mental strength from the day they enlisted. Together with my command team, I want to build a strong Battalion that is capable of defending the security interests and sovereignty of Singapore for the next 10 years of ORNS (Operationally Ready National Service).”