LTC Nichola Goh conducts long-term planning for the SAF as a Senior Force Transformation Officer at the Force Transformation Office. She is an SAF Merit Scholar and she holds a Master of Science with Merit in Comparative Politics (Conflict Studies) from the London School of Economics and Political Science.
Keeping its airspace secure is pivotal to the sovereignty of Singapore, or any country for that matter. For that, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), with its state-of-the-art assets and weaponry, has always provided the first line of defence to counter any aerial threats.
At the heart of this first-class air force is its people, who are well-trained, competent and do their jobs with a heightened sense of mission. Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Nichola Goh, 32 years old, shared with us her decision to embark on a meaningful career with the RSAF and her current role as a Senior Force Transformation Officer at the Force Transformation Office.
How did you get interested in a military career? And in particular, the Air Force?
Back in Junior College, I already knew that I did not want a corporate desk-bound job. My interest in a military career started after I attended a sharing session by a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officer in Junior College. I wanted a career that would be dynamic, exciting and different. I also knew that I wanted a job where I could contribute to the nation. I felt that a career in the SAF would allow me to do exactly that.
Basic Military Training (BMT) gave me a glimpse into what life in the military might be like, and my time in BMT reaffirmed my decision to join the SAF. I chose the Air Force because I have always been fascinated with aviation and I knew I wanted a vocation related to aviation.
You studied at the London School of Economics and Political Science. What was your biggest takeaway during your university days, and how has it guided you in your career so far?
Completing my university degree overseas taught me how to be resilient. The first few weeks abroad were intimidating and I was terribly homesick, which I think is quite common! However, I quickly learnt to embrace the new environment, culture and friends. In many ways, this experience was similar to my initial days in the SAF. BMT was a very different experience than anything I had experienced during my school days.
Tell us more about your role and responsibilities as a Senior Force Transformation Officer.
As a Senior Force Transformation Officer, I conduct long-term planning for the SAF. My job entails making sure our manpower, budgetary and capability development plans put the SAF in good stead to face future challenges. I also develop new operational concepts together with the Services.
What are the challenges you have faced, and how did you overcome them?
My current appointment is in the Joint Service. While I am fairly familiar with the operations in the RSAF, my current job requires me to have more in-depth knowledge of the operations and capabilities of the other Services as well. This was the first challenge I had to overcome in this Joint appointment, and I leveraged on the knowledge and experience of my colleagues from the other Services to do so.
The second challenge is the wide span of responsibilities that the Force Transformation Office undertakes. As part of long-term planning, we deal with a wide range of issues that span the domains of manpower, budget, technology, policy and many more. The learning curve was and continues to be steep, as I have been exposed to many domains that are new to me.
What is your most significant career achievement to date?
My most fulfilling appointment was of Officer Commanding (OC) in 203 Squadron. 203 Squadron is a 24/7 Air Traffic Control squadron and we take our operations very seriously because we are entrusted with national security and the safety of our aircrew. As an OC, I was in charge of the safe and successful conduct of operations on a daily basis, as well as the training, morale and discipline of the group of airmen and women reporting to me. It was a challenging job, but it has given me the greatest satisfaction knowing that my team contributed to safeguarding Singapore's skies.
What is the work culture like in the RSAF?
The RSAF is a professional organisation where everyone takes great pride in the work they do, regardless of their vocation. We undergo tough and rigorous training to ensure that we are well-qualified to do our jobs. It is not always easy, but this ensures that we are always up to the task when called upon.
The RSAF works as a team instead of individuals – we are effective as a fighting unit only when all vocations execute their duties well, and this is something I have personally experienced in by tours and appointments.
What career pathways and opportunities are there at the RSAF?
In the RSAF, we are exposed to a wide range of appointments in operations, staff work or training. We get rotated through these appointments on a regular basis, and every appointment comes with its own set of unique challenges. It also means that we have to regularly work in different environments with different teams of people. Every new job might seem daunting initially, but resilience and a can-do attitude will tide you through new challenges.
I have also been fortunate enough to be appointed as an honorary aide-de-camp to the President for 3 years.
Finally, why should aspiring scholars join RSAF?
The RSAF safeguards Singapore's skies, which allows our citizens to sleep soundly and the nation to function effectively. Serving the country is a high calling, and this is what makes a career in the RSAF meaningful.