MINDEF – Republic of Singapore Navy

Anchored in Leadership Excellence

At the heart of the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN)'s defence lie individuals like Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Sam Tan Wei Shen. LTC Tan is currently the Commanding Officer of RSS Stalwart – one of the six Formidable-class stealth frigates in the RSN. As the RSN’s principal strike craft, the frigates are equipped with high-end weapons and sensors, and has the unique capability to operate with an embarked Seahawk Naval Helicopter for extended reach. These systems allow RSS Stalwart to undertake multi-dimensional warfare; against surface (ships), air (aircraft and missiles), and sub-surface threats (submarines). In peacetime, LTC Tan ensures that his ship and crew remain operationally ready to undertake various missions such as deploying overseas to train and exercise with foreign navies to enhance Singapore’s defence diplomacy.
Mindef - RSN

Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Sam Tan is the Commanding Officer of RSS Stalwart in the Republic of Singapore Navy. He was awarded the SAF Merit Scholarship and earned a Bachelor of Science in Ocean Engineering (Honours) from the United States Naval Academy.

Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Sam Tan has long been fascinated by the idea of a meaningful career within the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) since he was in junior college. “I felt that the SAF offered the perks of a non-deskbound job and the opportunity to lead and make positive changes in the lives of people around me,” he said.

Driven by this passion and a thirst for adventure, LTC Tan was drawn to the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN). The RSN acts as our first line of defence, bearing the responsibility of protecting Singapore's sea lines of communication and contributing to regional peace and security. But beyond its defence mission, it offers something unique – the chance to serve as a diplomat, even at an officer cadet stage. LTC Tan recognised this unique prospect and saw this as a chance to broaden his horizons.

“I thought such experiences would offer excellent opportunities to challenge myself beyond my comfort zones and at the same time, allow me to gain a better worldview as a young adult.”

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Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Sam Tan

A Life-Changing Opportunity

This realisation led him to apply for the SAF Merit Scholarship, which allowed him to pursue a world-class education while developing his operational know-how and expertise related to the SAF. “The prospect of pursuing an overseas college education was a prime factor, as it would allow me to take the financial burden off my family while meeting my aspirations to study abroad,” he added.

LTC Tan was particularly drawn to the United States for its diverse educational opportunities. He subsequently earned a Bachelor of Science in Ocean Engineering (Honours) from the United States Naval Academy, where he was the first ever foreigner to top his cohort since the U.S. Naval Academy was established in 1845. Reflecting on his four years at the military college, LTC Tan shared that it was a truly unique experience – one that equipped him with resilience, a global network of friends, and a deep understanding of engineering principles – all invaluable in his current role as a Commanding Officer (CO) of a warship.

“As a leader in the SAF, I find deep meaning in effecting sustainable, enduring change that positively impacts the lives of our servicemen and women.” Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Sam Tan

Riding the Waves of Excellence

As CO of the RSS Stalwart, LTC Tan plays a vital role in safeguarding Singapore’s maritime shipping routes and its sea lines of communications.

LTC Tan shoulders a multitude of responsibilities. “I am first and foremost responsible for maintaining my ship’s operational readiness, such that the ship is ‘fighting fit’ and ready to sail for all our deployments and assigned tasks,” he explained. “This is accomplished through training my crew well and upkeeping well-being and morale, both at seas and ashore. It also includes overseeing the logistical upkeep of our shipboard sensors, weapons and machinery.”

Beyond his role as a ship captain, LTC Tan Also wears many ‘hats’ – he is also a coach, mentor, counsellor, and many a time, a ‘fatherly’/ ‘brotherly’ figure to his officers and crew. “Some members of my command team may even be more senior to me in terms of age/sea-time, such as my senior Military Experts. When there’s a mission at hand, my Experts become my close consultants as we exchange perspectives on moving the ship forward,” he said.

LTC Tan considers his leadership role in the RSN to be the most rewarding aspect of his career. “As a leader in the SAF, I find deep meaning in effecting sustainable, enduring change that positively impacts the lives of our servicemen and women,” he said.

He feels these moments even more keenly when his team achieves mission success in their operational duties and when witnessing the growth and development of individuals within his team.

“At the end of the day, it is also about recognising the SAF’s and RSN’s efforts to contribute towards safeguarding our peace and the Singaporean way of life,” he concludes.

Currently, his ship is gearing up for deployment for the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC) from June through September. Exercise RIMPAC stands as the largest multilateral naval exercise till date and is hosted biennially by the US Navy in the waters off Hawaii. This deployment marks a significant milestone for both the RSN’s Fleet and LTC Tan's crew, representing the culmination of a year's worth of intensive training and preparation.

“Together, I look forward to flying the Singapore flag high at the global stage as we exercise alongside fellow naval professionals,” he shared proudly.

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Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Sam Tan enjoys the culture of camaraderie at Republic of Singapore Navy.

Setting Sail in a Culture of Camaraderie

The RSN isn't just a force to reckon with; it's also a tightly knit family, as LTC Tan aptly describes it. "A family which relies on the strength of our people, and which remains bonded through our common seafaring experience,” he added.

This sense of camaraderie only grows stronger with each step forward. LTC Tan also highlighted the noticeable demographic shift, with more servicewomen now compared to a decade ago when he was a junior officer.

“Our workplace today is more diverse and open than ever, and we encourage constructive feedback and ideas to improve our processes across all ranks.”

For those eyeing a career as Naval Officers, there's a unique opportunity to embody multiple roles simultaneously – leader, diplomat, and warfighter.

He emphasises, “Most importantly, you will be given opportunities to lead and usher change alongside our partners from the Singapore Army, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the Digital and Intelligence Service (DIS), and collectively work towards strengthening our operational edge in the defence of Singapore and our collective future.”