LTC Bertram Ang (left) representing the RSN at a trilateral foreign military exercise with the Indian and Thai navies.
Singapore is a maritime nation whose success stems from its advantageous geographical position that facilitates sea trade and commerce. Its continued prosperity depends on the free and accessible maritime routes in and around its territorial waters, and the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) has played an integral role through the years in keeping our seas safe and secure.
Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Bertram Ang was attracted to the RSN and its purposeful work as he wanted to contribute to the defence of Singapore in more ways than one.
“The RSN appealed to me because I felt that the RSN, as a maritime force for a maritime nation, has a key role to play in Singapore’s defence,” explained the Executive Officer of RSS Tenacious.
“I was particularly interested in the role that the RSN played in Singapore’s defence diplomacy. Beyond the traditional role of deterrence, the RSN also has a unique role in diplomacy given our many interactions with our counterparts from around the world through overseas exercises and port calls.”
LTC Ang was awarded The SAF Scholarship in 2006 and he pursued a double degree (Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Political Science) from Stanford University.
The education and experience that he gained proved to be valuable when he returned to serve in the RSN after his graduation.
He told us: “As a practitioner of defence diplomacy, having a good understanding of current affairs and geopolitics is important so that I can appreciate our operating environment. In turn, I am able to better translate context into purpose for the people under my charge.
“The ability to frame problems, think critically and link seemingly disparate ideas together are also key skills that I have developed as part of my education. These skills are necessary for dealing with the increasingly uncertain and complex environment that we operate in today.”
The learning never stops: LTC Ang embraced the opportunity to take on various roles within the RSN that have allowed him to acquire a breadth of skills and expertise.
One of his defining moments as a Naval Officer came when he attended the Naval War College in the United States from 2018 to 2019.
“Thanks to the strong support of my wife and family, as well as the prior experience and knowledge I had accrued through my time in SAF and the RSN, I came in top of my cohort at the Naval War College. This was one of my proudest moments in my Navy career as I was able to fly Singapore’s flag high and further Singapore’s reputation in an esteemed military institution,” he reflected.
Currently, he serves as the Executive Officer of RSS Tenacious, a Formidable-class stealth frigate that comes equipped with an array of state-of-the-art weaponry. He is responsible for keeping the ship operationally ready to undertake any mission or task in the defence of our country, and this includes the overall well-being and training of the crew on board.
“Most importantly, being in the SAF and the RSN has given me the chance to interact with many people from different walks of life and allowed me to make a direct and positive difference in their lives. This is a great privilege and responsibility,” added LTC Ang.
Conquering Unchartered Waters
Over the course of his career, LTC Ang has had many opportunities to take part in what drew him the most to the RSN - defence diplomacy. He participated in various overseas military exercises where he worked closely with foreign navies to plan and achieve mission success. Through such international cooperation, LTC Ang and the RSN were able to strengthen Singapore’s defence relations with the foreign navies.
Beyond his military appointments, LTC Ang also served in the Defence Policy Office in the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) in two different roles.
“In the first, I worked to enhance bilateral defence relations with our neighbouring countries. In the second, I was involved in crafting strategies to address emerging trends with defence-related implications. While the work was demanding, there was a significant sense of accomplishments as what I was involved in helped to shape MINDEF’s strategic and policy direction.”
He was also grateful for the chances offered to him by the SAF to develop him into a well-rounded leader in the public service.
“I have had the privilege of attending several courses that have exposed me to the wider civil service. Interacting with my peers from the rest of the civil service gave me a better understanding of our domestic policies and their considerations. At the same time, I have gained deeper insights into public sector leadership by learning from my peers through these courses.”
LTC Ang highly recommends a career with the SAF if you are driven by a higher sense of purpose: “Pursuing a career with the SAF is more than just a job – it is a calling. Taking up the mantle of military leadership means being people-centric, putting others before yourself on a daily basis, and serving those whom you lead.”
He concluded: “My advice would be to take up the SAF scholarship only if you see yourself belonging in the profession of arms, if you strongly believe that your values are aligned, and if you are willing to take up the challenge of leading others and serving a cause larger than yourself.”