Close Up Lifestyle

These former convicts now mentor others to prevent re-offending

As part of the Singapore Prison Service’s Desistor Network, the ex-offenders offer friendship and support to newly released inmates looking to forge a better path.



Thrice a week, a small group of cyclists meet at Seletar Aerospace Park. They then cross the island together, covering distances of more than 50km on two wheels.

But this collective — known as Break The Cycle —  is no mere hobbyist group. Founded in 2020, Break The Cycle is part of the Desistor Network launched in April 2023 by Singapore Prison Service (SPS), where 53 agencies work with ex-inmates to create a support ecosystem that steers them away from re-offending. 

During cycling breaks and breakfast sessions, the cyclists chat about work, family, as well as their struggles and hopes for the future. They form a deep bond that often extends beyond cycling. The group’s co-founder, ex-offender Andrew Ong, sums up the clique: “We do life together.”


Andrew Ong founded Break the Cycle, a cycling group for ex-offenders.
Andrew Ong founded Break the Cycle, a cycling group for ex-offenders.

Approximately four in 10 former inmates return to prison within five years of release, according to SPS. Ong is part of a small but growing group of ex-convicts helping others navigate the challenging transition from prison life to reduce recidivism. The 45-year-old himself was sentenced to 30 months of imprisonment at the age of 18 for his involvement in a gang fight, though he only served nine months after a successful appeal. He shared that his parents’ divorce drove him to seek a sense of belonging in gangs.  

However, after his release, he slipped back into his old lifestyle of drug consumption. An overdose at the age of 21 proved to be the wake-up call he needed to get clean. He worked hard to build his career and is now the director of partnership and strategic communications at HCSA Community Services — a charitable organisation that helps ex-offenders, abused teenage girls and single parents, among others. Knowing how easy it is to backslide into crime, Ong has been volunteering at church and halfway houses for many years to help others stay the course.

Bruce Mathieu regularly shares his experiences as a former inmate with the public.
Bruce Mathieu regularly shares his experiences as a former inmate with the public.

Such support makes a huge difference, says Bruce Mathieu. The 54-year-old joined a gang at the age of 13, quickly became hooked on heroin — an addiction with which he struggled for 30 years — and was imprisoned five times, serving 20 years in total.

Some 11 years ago while serving his fifth prison stint, he resolved to turn his life around for his then three-year-old daughter. Since his release in 2016, he has been giving talks at schools, organisations and public events, as well as mentoring newly-released inmates as an SPS volunteer. These include Tian Boon Keng, who was featured in the CNA documentary Inside Maximum Security.

“A common misconception about mentoring is that it involves a lot of counselling. But no, it involves being a friend in the true sense of the word — that’s it,” explains Mathieu, who still meets Tian at least once a month, and recently supported him when he shaved his head for Hair For Hope.


David King Thorairajan with mentee Ravin Sadanadan.
David King Thorairajan (left) with mentee Ravin Sadanadan.

While prison life is known to be challenging, life after release from incarceration isn’t necessarily easy, and re-offending does occur. One possible reason for this is that many inmates find that they have fewer job opportunities upon release, especially those without a good education, notes David King Thorairajan, 41, who volunteers at prison chapel services and through prison befriender programmes.

Thorairajan joined a gang in his teens, got involved in violent fights and was imprisoned twice for a total of eight years, enduring 18 strokes of the cane. During his second sentence, he studied hard and completed his N-, O- and A-levels. Upon discharge, he enrolled at the Singapore Management University, graduating with a double major in psychology and human resources. Despite his qualifications, he had difficulty securing a good job, and eventually started his own life coaching and training company in 2012. Over the years, he has engaged, trained and mentored ex-offenders to coach at-risk youth in schools.

Andrew Ong (third from left) with fellow members of Break the Cycle.
Andrew Ong (third from left) with fellow members of Break the Cycle.

Before they can bounce back, get a job or study, they need to deal with their trauma and baggage – the hurt, disappointment, unforgiveness. There needs to be a major overhaul because there are patterns of thinking that need to be broken, otherwise the cycle will keep repeating.

Mathieu adds that drug addictions are hard to break. “Those who have never been addicted to drugs may think (that kicking a habit) is just a case of mind over matter. That is absolutely hogwash. Drugs rewire your whole brain, so that you cannot function without them,” says Mathieu. “It is very easy to fall back into addiction. If you veer off half a degree and don’t pull yourself back, in a matter of time, you will realise you are too far off,” he adds.

Despite these challenges, all three men agree that the most important factor to avoid re-offending is internal change. “People don’t understand that former offenders may have suffered trauma in their lives,” Ong says, adding that many sought solace in gangs because they come from broken families.


Ex-offenders meet up on weekends for Break the Cycle's group cycling outings.
Ex-offenders meet up on weekends for Break the Cycle's group cycling outings.

Mentorship under individuals with similar experiences is a powerful avenue to help ex-convicts resolve their internal conflict and drive positive change.  “Because who better to know their problems than us? We’ve been through it and done that,” reasons Mathieu.

These individuals don’t just relate to their mentees on a personal level; they may also serve as a better sounding board than friends from their past life, who may still be involved in crime. Groups like Break The Cycle provide a safe and accepting community under which ex-offenders can thrive. One such individual is Ravin Sadanadan, whom Thorairajan hired as a coach in his company after mentoring him.

“David coached me to get back on my feet and gave me opportunities to reach out to other youths in need. I was so motivated to work with them and their families that I completed my diploma, degree and masters in psychology,” said Sadanadan, who is now a senior counsellor at a non-profit organisation.

Because who better to know their problems than us? We’ve been through it and done that.

Mentoring former offenders however, is not without its challenges, says Ong. “It’s not like distributing groceries or cleaning someone’s house – you don’t see the outcome immediately. There is a lot of backend work, and mentees can often misunderstand you.”

“You have to understand that these are things they project because of their childhood experiences and things that they are dealing with. You must be thick-skinned and not take it personally,” adds Ong, who recently reconnected and began cycling with a youth he had mentored more than 10 years ago.

Ong maintains that planting the seed of hope can start a positive and powerful cycle of change.

“Some of our cyclists have also volunteered to be befrienders with SPS, journeying with inmates for 12 months upon their release from prison,” he shares.


To help reintegrate former inmates into society upon their release, SPS works with Yellow Ribbon Singapore to offer support for job placement and retention, skills assistance subsidies and other education assistance. SPS also helps inmates to apply for financial assistance and provides addiction treatment to those in need of it. Community support is also extended to them via drop-in centres, self-help groups and befrienders, as well as family programmes and family resource centres to support bonding.

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Close Up

Fauzi Aziz: You’re never too old to become a content creator

The HomeTeamNS volunteer gets candid on how he became an influencer, life after The Smart Local, and the irrepressible Uncle Raymond.



Given the ease with which one can post content on social media, it’s no surprise that many think being an online content producer is an easy job.

But the profession is no bed of roses, says content creator SGT (NS) Fauzi Aziz, who gained a following while working for local travel and lifestyle platform The Smart Local (TSL).

“Many people think this job is just about posting videos and photos and making money out of it. But there’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes,” explains the 34-year-old, who served his National Service at the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s technology department, and now volunteers with the HomeTeamNS Branding and Publicity committee.

“Besides planning the content and finding the right people to help produce it, you also have to network and scour for business opportunities, negotiate with clients and manage finances. You’re basically a one-man production house!”

Today, Fauzi may be considered a micro-influencer, having notched some 25,000 followers on Instagram. But it wasn’t always the career he’d envisioned for himself.


Born to civil-servant parents, Fauzi aspired to become a dentist, though he eventually realised he did not have an aptitude for the sciences. He was, however, fascinated with the arts and the English language. This led him to pursue a degree in theatre studies at the National University of Singapore, though he later gravitated towards the media industry.

Upon graduation, he spent six months applying for various publishing roles while working part-time. Finally, in 2014, he accepted an unpaid internship at TSL.  

While TSL was then a fledgling start-up which – some may argue – did not provide the same level of security as a more established organisation, Fauzi relished the opportunity to contribute to the company’s growth. This is something he has accomplished, having eventually been hired as one of the firm’s full-time producers. Today, TSL Media Group is a multi-platform media tech company that reportedly has more than 200 million annual page views across its content channels.

It’s been a fulfilling journey for Fauzi. Over the past eight years, he has worked in various departments where he picked up skills in events management, marketing and social media content production. He’s also hosted several productions, including The $100 Nomad, a reality show produced by TSL and broadcast on Mediacorp’s Channel 5.

“This was a major milestone for the company,” says Fauzi, in reference to the programme that challenged contestants to live on S$100 for three days.

“It was rare to see something like this (an independently produced show) make it onto national television. I really enjoyed the process. It was probably the most exciting project I got to work on at TSL,” he recounts.


Having parted ways with TSL Media Group earlier this year, he’s struck out on his own as an independent content creator. One of the main reasons he says, is the desire to mentor young content creators and help them advance their careers.

It’s the same spirit of altruism that compelled him to become a HomeTeamNS volunteer. Here, he advises the marketing and communications team on social media best practices. “It’s honestly always a pleasure to be able to use my skills and experience to help brands, especially since social media is something that I live and breathe. It’s also very heartening to know that people take my advice seriously!” he quips, before adding that volunteering has also contributed to his personal growth.

He’s also happy to share his tips with those looking to carve out careers as content creators. He says that anyone can be a content creator, with a good dose of self-motivation. “Learning how to use your smartphone creatively for video and photography is easy. There’s just so much information on the Internet. I’ve learned a lot about video editing just by watching YouTube tutorials.”

Age is not a barrier to success either. One example of this, says Fauzi, is Uncle Raymond, the lanky sexagenarian who rose to fame after TikTok videos of him dancing in public went viral.

He asserts that aspiring content creators should always try to be original and true to themselves. “I think the best way to go about it is to show things from your perspective. Don’t try to copy anyone else,” he advises.

But above all, he says that content creators should always possess interpersonal skills. “I never knew how important forming connections is until recently, when many of my past acquaintances reached out to inquire about collaborations,” he shares.

“I’ve noticed that many younger creators don’t really bother about talking to potential clients, including brand representatives. It is imperative to build relationships and leave a good impression, because someone you interact with might be signing your next pay cheque!”

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Close Up

Meet the former gymnast who’s also been trained to save lives

SGT1 Jim Pon’s contributions to Singapore go way beyond his service with the Singapore Civil Defence Force and National Day Parade.



SGT1 Jim Pon, 24, fondly recalls his childhood days, when his parents sold satay at the renowned Newton Food Centre. He would always cherish the moments spent running through the intricate pathways between the stalls.

“From savouring diverse dishes to making friends, those days will forever be etched in my memory. Our family still dines occasionally with the other stallowners,” Jim shared.

Such experiences instilled in him a love for Singapore’s multicultural heritage. “It was heartwarming to witness different communities coming together, sharing their food and culture in a friendly setting.” With this sentiment in mind, Jim is always full of anticipation whenever National Day is around the corner.


The National Day Parade (NDP) 2023 was Jim’s final one as a Full-time National Serviceman (NSF) with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). Although he was not part of SCDF’s marching contingent during the parade, Jim played an important role during Exercise BOCA, a multi-agency exercise that prepares first responders for a possible bomb or chemical attack at the NDP venue.

As a fire and rescue specialist (FRS), Jim was responsible for leading his crew in the rescue of victims, so that they could be decontaminated and receive prompt medical attention. Jim and his crew had to wear Chemical Agent (CA) suits, to protect themselves in the event of a chemical releasee.

Reflecting on the experience, Jim said, “Our duty underscores the importance of readiness for unforeseen situations”. After the successful completion of Exercise BOCA, Jim and his crew were also involved in the contingency standby for the NDP, staying vigilant for potential incidents until the end of the parade.


After their NDP contingency standby, Jim and his colleagues at Ang Mo Kio Fire Station remained on duty until 8am the subsequent day. “Our shifts span 24 hours,” he clarifies. “It is important to pace ourselves, yet remain alert and ready throughout the shift.”

Jim shared how a seemingly peaceful and quiet shift could turn out to be eventful. He was recently involved in putting out a vehicular fire at Yishun Dam. “A car was engulfed in flames.  Fortunately, the driver managed to escape the car early, so we could focus on the firefighting and minimise traffic disruptions.”

Apart from his duties in the Life Saving Force, Jim is also an accomplished gymnast who has represented Singapore in numerous global events. “It’s an honour to be able to fly the Singapore flag high,” he shares. While he has stepped back from professional gymnastics, he aspires to mentor the sport’s future champions. “I would really like to contribute more to the future of Singapore’s sporting scene.”


Jim on his Lion City favourites:

Favourite place: “City Square Mall, which is my go-to for anything from food to daily essentials.”

Favourite local TV show: “Kin. It brought my family closer as we watched it together.”

Favourite Singaporean trait: “Our ability to pursue our dreams in a safe and secure environment.”

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Close Up Lifestyle

This teacher became a HomeTeamNS volunteer — and got schooled!

Working on the development of the HomeTeamNS Bedok Reservoir clubhouse proved to be a lesson in patience and humility for LTC (NS) Bryan Chao.



For the past 20 years, LTC (NS) Bryan Chao has taught Physical Education at East Spring Primary School. As someone who believes that “academic excellence isn’t the only thing that matters,” he encourages his students to develop their character and values. To inculcate independence, for instance, he advises the children: “In life, there are two groups of people — those who work out their own problems and experience personal growth in the process, and the ones who always go to people with questions, expecting them to solve their issues. Don’t live like the latter!”

While he is accustomed to dispensing such wisdom to his young charges, the 43-year-old educator has also been on the receiving end of life lessons, in his role as a HomeTeamNS volunteer. Having served his National Service (NS) as a fire officer at the Singapore Civil Defence Force, Bryan decided to “contribute more to the nation” by joining the HomeTeamNS East Development Committee in late 2021. His first task, which was helping to manage the design and construction of HomeTeamNS’ newest clubhouse, HomeTeamNS Bedok Reservoir, proved challenging to the teacher who usually has the answers.  


Bryan (far right) with his fellow HomeTeamNS volunteers.
Bryan (far right) with his fellow HomeTeamNS volunteers.

Like many other projects that faced COVID-19 pandemic related restrictions, the construction of the HomeTeamNS Bedok Reservoir clubhouse was fraught with setbacks and delays. Seeing it to completion was an uphill slog, but Bryan notes that his fellow committee members demonstrated remarkable forbearance and composure under fire. This was particularly eye-opening for the HomeTeamNS volunteer, who by his own admission tends to be short on patience.

He credits his Development Committee’s Co-Chairman, SUPT (NS) Jim Tan, for helping the team overcome numerous obstacles that stood in the way of the clubhouse’s launch. He shares that the leader employed charisma and decisiveness to foster cohesive teamwork among the committee, as well as liaise with various partners involved in the clubhouse’s development and construction.

“Jim was able to make the tough decisions with such patience and humility that everyone was convinced to take his lead,” Bryan recalls. We thus managed to pull through and make the Bedok Reservoir Clubhouse a reality.”

Bryan with his mentor LTC (NS) Muhammad Faizal Bin Abdul Kadir (right).
Bryan (left) with his mentor LTC (NS) Muhammad Faizal Bin Abdul Kadir.


Bryan cites patience, humility and empathy as important virtues, especially for volunteers such as himself, as they interact with the many people they serve. “People tend to respond better when we show that we’re listening and care for them,” he adds.

Tensions can run high when you’re required to engage with various stakeholders. Thankfully, the married man can also draw on his NS experience with the Home Team to navigate challenging situations with grace. In that respect, he cites his fellow HomeTeamNS volunteer, LTC (NS) Muhammad Faizal Bin Abdul Kadir, Commander for the 22 Public Shelter Resilience Unit, as a positive influence. Recounting an incident whereby a dissatisfied Home Team NSman had raised a concern due to administrative issues during his reservist call-up, he shares that Faizal managed to resolve the problem by keeping his cool, and calmly convincing the affected party that he would help. “Despite his high rank and level of experience, Faizal does not throw his weight around to get things done, which is an attribute I admire immensely,” he says, in reference to his mentor’s hands-on approach.

And how does he personally deal with similar difficult encounters as a HomeTeamNS volunteer? Well, a good dose of humour can come in handy, says Bryan. “From time to time, we casually share our experiences with one another within the committee. Such exchanges help us to balance our emotions, have a good laugh together, and most importantly, move on!”.


Bryan with his primary school students.
Bryan with his primary school students.

Despite some frustrating moments that can accompany the role, Bryan says that being a HomeTeamNS volunteer has made his life fuller. “Working behind the scenes in the Development Committee, I’ve learnt that it takes a complex operation to get things up and running like clockwork. Individually, we can put in more effort to make the gears tick more smoothly,” he explains.

Motivated to continue making a positive difference in the organisation, Bryan has stepped up to the plate as Vice Chairperson of Bedok Reservoir HomeTeamNS’ Executive Committee, where he proudly leads a group of like-minded volunteers. And he hasn’t forgotten the values of patience, humility and altruism he has developed over the years and — in turn — hopes to impart to the fellow volunteers under his wing. “Being privileged to be placed in a position of authority, I want to use the opportunity to serve others and help create a better environment for everyone at HomeTeamNS,” he concludes.

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Close Up

Teamwork helped this Singapore Police Force veteran in high stakes missions

DAC (NS) Lim Kok Hwa relied on strong bonds with his teammates during major security operations and a dramatic rescue. Now, he wants to help generations of National Servicemen to reinforce these ties.



Close ties within a unit can make a huge difference during day-to-day police work, where stress can build up in an instant. This was evident early on in DAC (NS) Lim Kok Hwa’s career in the Singapore Police Force (SPF), when his team was mobilised to handle a case initially thought to be an individual suicide.

To their shock, the situation on the ground was far more sinister. It turned out that the suicide victim had actually stabbed a family member before taking his own life. “What we initially thought would be an investigation quickly became a mission to save the life of the family member who was left bleeding from serious injuries in the flat, which was stressful and tiring. Thankfully, it was a successful one, and we got through it knowing we were all in it together.”

Such unity is also important during large-scale security operations for major events such as the National Day Parade (NDP). He recalls his experience at the NDP 2000, which marked Singapore’s 35th year of independence. “We had a mobile column at the Padang for the first time. The space is much more open than the National Stadium, where the parade was previously held, so we had to consider different security concerns. We had to plan safeguards against vehicles ploughing into the audience,” he explains. “Teamwork got us through those months and months of planning,” he adds.

His biggest takeaway from the experience? “Strong foundations inspire trust as a team and trust in the system. Your men will feel comfortable to share their problems, which you can then step in to rectify,” shares DAC (NS) Lim, who is currently the Director, Professional Officers Division at Singapore Institute of Technology.

DAC (NS) Lim Kok Hwa (second from right) has been deployed on various missions througout his career.
DAC (NS) Lim Kok Hwa (second from right) has been deployed on various missions througout his career.


DAC (NS) Lim has amassed his share of wisdom from being involved in SPF’s operations for more than 20 years and now carries this into his latest role as the L Division’s NS Commander. Here, the 49-year-old leads about 2,000 men at different life stages. “You’ve got those who are just starting their journeys as National Servicemen and others who are well into their reservist cycles,” he shares, adding that it is crucial to bring these different groups together to develop resilient bonds.

Such connections can be nurtured beyond reservist training sessions and recalls, through cohesion activities and those organised by partners such as HomeTeamNS. He maintains that the success of cohesion activities is as much dependent on the participants as it is on the organisers. “They have to come with an open mind and be eager to get to know their fellow men,” DAC (NS) Lim says. “Our NSmen are very vocal in their feedback about our events, which is useful, as it allows us to plan and do better the following year,” he adds.

DAC (NS) Lim Kok Hwa (in light blue) with his squad mates from the Singapore Police Force.
DAC (NS) Lim Kok Hwa (front row, in light blue) with his squad mates from the Singapore Police Force.

DAC (NS) Lim also stays close to the ground in his other roles, as the chairman of the HomeTeamNS Balestier Executive Committee and the co-chairman of the HomeTeamNS Strategic Review Committee.

Summing up the Executive Committee’s function, he says, “My team’s goal is to make our HomeTeamNS clubhouse attractive to National Servicemen and their families and to provide services and programmes that add value to them.” The Strategic Review Committee adopts a more big-picture view, looking at trends to gauge how HomeTeamNS can better serve its members, through new initiatives or even clubhouses. “Gathering feedback from National Servicemen is very important in both these roles,” he shares. HomeTeamNS clubhouses, he adds, help foster camaraderie within the organisation. “They are spaces for families to gather, for National Servicemen to train for IPPT together and even unwind as a team.”

DAC (NS) Lim Kok Hwa (second from right) at the Total Defence Awards Dinner 2019, where SIT received the NS Advocate Award for Organisations.
DAC (NS) Lim Kok Hwa (second from right) at the Total Defence Awards Dinner 2019, where SIT received the NS Advocate Award for Organisations.

Moving forward, he reveals that the team is considering new clubhouse programmes which allow National Servicemen from previous generations to reconnect with their unit mates from, say, 30 or 40 years ago. “These are friendships that truly last. After all, NS friends understand your character and temperament very well. You’ve lived with them in close quarters and have been with them through thick and thin.”


Detective stories: “When I was younger, I read Sherlock Holmes books, which have been made into many TV shows and movies. But I haven’t kept up with them.”

Exercise:Running helps me calm my mind and think about strategic issues at work. Not to mention, it helped with my IPPT back when I still served those obligations. I run around 5-10km every day.”

Lesson from his SPF career:Always prepare for the unexpected. Some of my most memorable missions in SPF started out a certain way and then turned around completely. That happens in life too.”

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Close Up In The Force

How We Nabbed a Suspected Serial Shoplifter

Excellent teamwork and quick thinking on the part of these SPF officers proved key to getting the job done.


When shopping at the supermarket or mall, we tend to go about our activities without paying much heed to those around us. In fact, not many are aware of the crimes that take place in our midst. According to figures released by the Singapore Police Force (SPF), shop theft cases in Singapore rose by about 22 per cent, from 2,652 cases in 2021 to 3,244 cases in 2022.

To deter theft and apprehend shoplifters, Police National Servicemen (PNSmen) from Clementi Police Division regularly conduct patrols in crime-prone retail areas. PNSmen SSSGT (NS) Elisha Lim, SGT(2) (NS) Zestin Soh, and SGT(1) (NS) Santosh S/O Gunalan were recently deployed on one such patrol as part of their In-Camp Training.

While making their rounds at a supermarket in Clementi, the trio crossed paths with an individual who was wanted by the police for his suspected involvement in a series of shoplifting cases. The suspect had allegedly stolen hair-care products from a supermarket on three occasions between the end of May and early June. The supermarket filed a police report on 10th of June 2023. After an investigation, the suspect’s identity was established.

The officers who were on patrol immediately recognised the suspect as they had been briefed earlier by Community Policing Unit officers from the Clementi Neighbourhood Police Centre (NPC) to be on the lookout for someone matching his description. They had identified him by his distinctive hair colour, tattoo and facial features.

Rather than rush to make an arrest, the officers maintained their composure and verified the suspect’s identity with the help of Ground Response Force (GRF) officers from Clementi NPC. They continued to monitor him from a distance while pretending to distribute flyers, to avoid alarming him.

“It pays to be alert and watch our surroundings when on patrol,” noted SSSGT (NS) Lim.

Thanks to the seamless planning and coordination between the GRF officers and the PNSmen team, the officers were able to stall the suspect and lead him to a quiet area away from the public eye. The suspect was subsequently interviewed for his suspected involvement in the earlier shop theft cases. This is yet another fine example of how SPF officers effectively fight crime through strong teamwork, dedication and courage.

“I am thankful for the training that keeps us operationally ready and prepared to handle various situations. It reaffirmed my belief that by following a well-prepared shift work plan and patrolling conscientiously, it is possible to make a meaningful difference,” said SGT(2) (NS) Soh.

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Close Up Featured

Protecting our sea lanes, serving others

Outgoing Police Coast Guard NS Commander DAC (NS) Ham Yean Soon looks back on a long career in the force.



At the end of 2020, Frontline featured Police Coast Guard (PCG) NS Commander DAC (NS) Ham Yean Soon, where he candidly recalled his journey from the land division of the Singapore Police Force to its arm that protects Singapore’s Territorial Waters (STW). That journey came to an end earlier this year, when he marked the end of his National Service career and passed the mantle to new NS Commander DAC (NS) Alan Tan.

“It was a bittersweet drive to Pulau Brani, where the Police Coast Guard headquarters is located,” recalls DAC (NS) Ham, 52. “Service has been such a big part of my life for so many years that it’s definitely something that I will miss a great deal. But at the end of the day, no organisation thrives when a leader has been there for too long. Succession, and new energy and ideas are always necessary.”

The bittersweet note is something that many others have felt at the end of their NS stints, both as NSFs and NSmen. “I hear about NSFs who can’t wait for their Operationally Ready Date (ORD). But when the date comes, they feel like they’re leaving behind something. It’s quite a special journey for us Singaporean sons.”


Still, DAC (NS) Ham ends his tenure with many fond memories of his time with the PCG, where he led its National Service (NS) wing comprising over 2,000 active servicemen. This wing supplements existing deployments by providing manpower relief and support to the regular units, which means DAC (NS) Ham and his team were often close to the action.

One incident that stands out involved a suspicious craft approaching STW. “They hadn’t crossed into our waters yet, but we sped down in our PT Class Patrol Craft to show our presence. They eventually turned away, so I can say it was a successful operation!”

Regular training is key to securing success at sea, says DAC (NS) Ham. PCG officers undergo regular training in areas such as live firing, boat handling and navigation. “I think live firing at sea is the most challenging,” he says. That’s because targets are often further away, from the firing post when out at sea. Controlling the cannons can become challenging when the waters turn choppy, which is a common occurrence during the monsoon season. 


Apart from the operational experience, DAC (NS) Ham is also grateful for the opportunity to positively impact the lives of his fellow servicemen. Under his stewardship, the PCG has made the fitness, skills and morale of National Servicemen a priority. For example, National Servicemen are now grouped and assigned to their posts based on where they live, preventing long commutes and allowing them to make the most of their time in service. National Servicemen are now also recalled with their peers so that teams can continue to build lasting bonds.

DAC (NS) Ham, who is the Head of Service Management at a telco company, has much to look forward to. He is a father of three young children: Two daughters, aged 10 and seven and a son, aged five. “The kids would always get excited to see me putting on my uniform, so they may not quite understand why I’ve stopped. And for my boy, it will be at least 13 years before I get to see him off to NS! As he gets older, I’ll be sure to tell him about NS and how important it is for our nation.”

Given his ties to the PCG, does he hope that his son will follow in his footsteps? “That goes without saying,” he adds with a laugh.

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Close Up

Focused on his family

Fatherhood has changed LTC (NS) Muhammad Rashid Ramli’s approach to life and leadership.



Fatherhood is a milestone in life that can forever change your perspectives. For proof of this, look no further than LTC (NS) Muhammad Rashid Ramli. Although the 39-year-old has always wanted children, he was surprised at how his two sons — aged seven and two — have altered his leadership style. 

As the Unit Commander of 14A Public Shelter and Resilience Unit (PSRU), LTC (NS) Rashid leads about 100 personnel to oversee the maintenance and management of public shelters. These personnel ensure that public shelters remain fully functional during national emergencies. “It’s a tough job and we expect a lot out of our personnel,” he says. “But now that I’m a father, I’m also more empathetic to their needs: As NSmen, we juggle various responsibilities such as work, family, and our NS commitments. It’s not easy and I want our men to be able to enjoy time with their loved ones, while doing their part for the country.” LTC (NS) Rashid demonstrates this empathy during his unit’s bi-annual recalls.


For LTC (NS) Rashid, time with his family is especially precious, given his grueling duties as an Airport Emergency Officer. Hisweek begins with two day shifts that last from 8am to 6pm, followed by two-night shifts that keep him working from 6pm to 8am, before he can have two days of rest. While emergencies at Singapore’s airports are rare, his team consistently trains and prepares for any crisis that may arise.

The long hours and tough trainings are challenging, admits LTC (NS) Rashid. “But it’s worth it — I get the same sense of purpose that I do from my NS role.” Therefore, he is fortunate that he could count on his wife, a homemaker, to help take care of their children. “Things at home would not be so smooth without her,” he shares. When he first met her nearly 10 years ago, he was drawn to the fact that she also cherished family life. “I grew up in a large family, so I’ve always looked forward to having my own family. Meeting my wife and realising that she shared the same views towards family really helped to seal the deal,” he adds with a laugh.


After a recent family visit to the Yishun Fire Station Open House, LTC (NS) Rashid saw how both his sons were fascinated by how a fire station was run. “They met firefighters and paramedics and learnt about how we deal with emergencies.” he elaborated.

Such outings are a regular fixture for the family, who try to spend as much time as they can together. Their favourite haunts are water theme parks, such as Wild Wild Wet and beaches, where they can enjoy each other’s company while staying active at the same time. “That’s important for my wife and I,” he reveals. “With two boys, there’s lots of running around, so we need to have the stamina to keep up with them!”

As Father’s Day has just passed, we asked LTC (NS) Rashid how he had celebrated the occasion. “For our family, every day is Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and Children’s Day,” he declares. “We don’t do anything special because we already make an effort to spend time together whenever we can.”


Here are some unique ways to have fun with your Dad — whether you’re a father, son, or both!

Feel like a Masterchef with a cooking class. Dads usually have a ravenous appetite, so this is one way of spending time and enjoying a decent meal together. D’Open Kitchen offers halal cooking classes.

Give back to the community. There are plenty of causes that would benefit from an extra pair of hands. Find your calling and support a cause that’s close to your heart.

The Specialist Obstacle Course is a staple for NSmen but few would have done it with their dads. Try the next best thing together: a treetop obstacle course that pits you against your father — all in the name of good fun.


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Close Up

The Singapore Police Force: Transforming through the generations

The ‘A’ Division NS Commander of the Singapore Police Force, DAC (NS) Patrick Fung, has witnessed a lifetime’s worth of changes during his 40 years in service.



For a sense of how the Singapore Police Force (SPF) has evolved, look no further than senior officers like DAC (NS) Patrick Fung, 56, who enlisted in the mid-1980s. This transformation is even evident in the way National Service officers are selected to join the SPF. “It was a different path to the Force back then,” he recalls. “We all did our Basic Military Training on Pulau Tekong and a handful of us were selected for training at the Police Academy from there, unlike today, when most start with police training.”

DAC (NS) Fung was first posted to Police HQ, within its Strategic Planning Department. He only began serving in a land division – in his case, the ‘A’ Division – during his subsequent in-camp training cycles, whenever he returned on holiday from law school in the United Kingdom.

Patrolling the streets of Singapore in the early 1990s was an “eye-opening” experience. “I got to see a very different side of Singapore,” he reminisces. “On the surface, everything is very nice and polished. But when you start walking the streets, you’re exposed to another side of life: Suicide, domestic disputes.” Like many of his counterparts, DAC (NS) Fung acknowledges that he himself had lived quite a sheltered life. “But being in the Force was a privilege as I got to see and understand these social issues first-hand and not take our own luck for granted.”

He remembers the first suicide he was dispatched to assist with. “I think it was in Toa Payoh. Back then, we didn’t have those blue tents to cover the bodies. We had to use newspapers, or whatever we could find to clean up the area.”

How would today’s officers fare in that world? “It was a different time,” he stresses. “There was no channel for us to talk about how we felt or to prepare us for what we were going to do. Of course, that’s not the case anymore. Now, the wellbeing of our officers is something we are very concerned about — and with good reason, I think.”


As the NS Commander of the Singapore Police Force’s ‘A’ Division, DAC (NS) Fung is tasked to look after the welfare and wellbeing of his NSMen. Structural changes have made this easier, as there are policies to support SPF officers, both NS and regular. “These extend to mental wellbeing and care, which is very encouraging,” he explains.

He sheds light on progressive changes within the organization as well. “Most admirably, we’ve moved away from being a ‘boys’ club’ — women now have a place in every part of the SPF, which was very different from the past, when they were restricted to operating our phone lines or manning our stations. As a father of three daughters, I can confidently encourage any of them to take up a career in the SPF today.”

DAC (NS) Fung also oversees the deployment of NSmen to support key events in the ‘A’ Division, which covers central Singapore. Given this area, this means that he and his team are responsible for supporting the security operations for major events like the F1 Grand Prix, New Year’s countdown parties and the Shangri La Dialogue. But the event that stands out the most to him is the annual National Day Parade, which comes under the ‘A’ Division’s purview, whether it is held at the Padang or the Marina Bay Floating Platform. “I think the only time we didn’t support it was during the first year of COVID-19, when it was held at the STAR Arts Performing Theatre.”

NDP holds a special significance to the servicemen of ‘A’ Division shares DAC (NS) Fung. “And because we do so many events a year, our people are quite up to date on what needs to be done. Doing it once gives our men a good idea of what is expected of them. Through regular deployments like these, our NSmen can build closer working relationships with their regular counterparts and learn more about current policing procedures.”

It is usually at events like these that many of his men interact with members of the public as well. Just as the SPF has evolved to meet with the times, it has also had to rethink the way it interacts with the public. “In the old days, you could easily get compliance from the public. But as our population has become more educated and discerning, we have had to change our tack,” he explains. “There may be questions about our procedures and instructions, so our officers need to be trained to answer those sensitively and yet, firmly.” In this area, NS officers have an advantage over their regular counterparts. “They spend most of the year as civilians, so they definitely have a good grasp of public sentiment.”

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Close Up

Finding positivity as an EMT instructor after a crushing injury

The glass is always half-full for SCDF (NSF) SGT Marc Loh, despite experiencing a torn hamstring that dashed his hopes of earning a taekwondo black belt.



As an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Instructor with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), SGT Marc Loh is responsible for ensuring that his trainees are prepared to handle medical emergencies in the real world, whether it’s a heart attack or respiratory failure. Judging by their success, it is clear that SGT Loh has aced this task. “I’ve seen my trainees do well for their tests and later win awards within the Force,” says the 24-year-old full-time National Serviceman.

SGT Loh knows how important emergency medical response is, having been on the receiving end of their care back in 2019. “It was a really tough day for me. I had to euthanise my beloved dog and after that, rushed to taekwondo training. It was the last session before my assessment to attain a black belt,” recalls SGT Loh.

Because he had arrived late, SGT Loh’s instructor told him to quickly warm up and get on the mat. After running several quick laps around the school, he attempted a high jump kick and immediately felt something go horribly wrong. “I fell to the floor and wasn’t able to stand up. The EMS team that conveyed me to the hospital went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and reassured me that everything would be okay.”

Doctors later discovered that he had torn his hamstring, possibly because he had not performed sufficient stretches before the intense physical exercise. “As it was a chronic tear, they advised me to hang up my taekwondo dobok (uniform) for good.” And just like that, his three-year journey practising the Korean martial art ended.

He had picked up the sport in 2016, as a student pursuing a diploma in Telematics & Media Technology at Nanyang Polytechnic. “I always had an interest in the martial art but initially shied away from it because of how expensive lessons were. I took the opportunity to learn it in polytechnic, where classes were subsidised.”

SGT Loh’s commitment to the sport is reflected in the strict diet and exercise regime he adopted to stay fit and improve his endurance. “People don’t realise how much of a cardio workout taekwondo is. Plus, we compete in categories determined by weight, so I had to lose four kilos.”

Despite these sacrifices, he prefers to look on the bright side of an unfortunate situation. Even though he can no longer practise taekwondo, he remains grateful for the lessons he gained from it, such as discipline and focus. “I can apply these to other areas of my life.”


SGT Loh tries to share this positive approach to life’s setbacks with his trainees, alongside the technical skills required to become an EMT. He says this opportunity to make a difference in their lives has given him a renewed sense of purpose.

This passion is reflected in his extensive efforts to teach his trainees and help them improve. “It’s one thing to operate medical equipment, such as a defibrillator, but another to teach someone else to use it,” he explains. “As a young trainee without any medical knowledge, I remember struggling to familiarise myself with the equipment. Now that I have the opportunity, I want to emulate my trainers who gave me plenty of support and guidance.” The dedicated instructor even went to the lengths of creating infographics and visual aids to better impart first aid knowledge and skills to his trainees.

This ability to communicate complex concepts in a manner that is easy to understand will undoubtedly come in handy in the next phase of SGT Loh’s life, as he prepares to study software engineering at the Singapore Institute of Technology. His Operationally Ready Date falls on 12 April 2023.

As he looks to an exciting new endeavour, he admits in retrospect, that it was a shame he came so close to achieving his black belt. But if these two years in the Force are anything to go by, his tenacity will soon lead him to excel in new passions. 


“As a trainer, there’s definitely pressure to ensure that our trainees are well prepared to handle real-world emergencies. But it’s all worth it when you realise that the life-saving skills you impart to them may prove useful even after they leave the Force. We also have a chance to build close ties with trainees, since our work isn’t just about regimentation. I find that they learn more effectively when I make the effort to get to know them better and understand their learning styles.”

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