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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.

TEXT: KEENAN PEREIRA

PHOTOS: DAC (NS) HAM YEAN SOON

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.”

FOND MEMORIES

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. 

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

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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Focused on his family

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

TEXT: KEENAN PEREIRA

PHOTOS: LTC (NS) MUHAMMAD RASHID RAMLI

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.

TIME TOGETHER

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.

DUTY TO FAMILY AND COUNTRY

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.”

THREE CHEERS FOR DAD

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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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.

TEXT: KEENAN PEREIRA

PHOTOS: DAC (NS) PATRICK FUNG

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.”

CHANGES FOR THE BETTER

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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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.

TEXT: KEENAN PEREIRA

PHOTOS: SGT (NSF) MARC LOH

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.”

FROM TAEKWONDOIN TO TRAINER

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. 

THE DIFFERENCE I MAKE

“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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Meet the NSman of the Year 2022

Having patiently led a nursing home through an anxiety-fraught pandemic, LTC (NS) Marcus Lee proves that serving the nation is a life-long affair.

TEXT: KEENAN PEREIRA

PHOTOS: LTC (NS) MARCUS LEE

With the transition to DORSCON green, life is gradually returning to normal in Singapore. The wearing of masks on public transport is no longer mandatory. While some may forget just how scary and uncertain the early days of the pandemic were, those who had served on our frontlines would always remember this challenging period.

LTC (NS) Marcus Lee, a full-time Director (Operations) at Thye Hua Kuan (THK) Nursing Home, will never forget the anxiety that came with the pandemic.

“I joined Thye Hua Kuan Nursing Home in June 2021, as I find great meaning in its mission to serve seniors,” explains LTC (NS) Lee, who oversees all facilities and operations within the 285-bed nursing home in Hougang. “I’ve always had a fondness for public service. This role offered that and more.”

LTC (NS) Marcus Lee with colleagues at Thye Hua Kuan (THK) Nursing Home
LTC (NS) Marcus Lee with colleagues at Thye Hua Kuan (THK) Nursing Home
COPING WITH AN EVOLVING THREAT

LTC (NS) Lee’s job became more complex during the pandemic, given the potential panic and anxiety that accompanied the spread of Covid-19 in nursing homes in other countries. “Taking cues from such incidents, we were in our own ‘lockdown’ to minimise the risk of an outbreak here at THK,” recalls the 46-year-old.

The dynamic situation constantly challenged LTC (NS) Lee to consider the worst-case scenarios and draw up contingency plans to mitigate them in advance. He credits his eight-year stint as a career officer in the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) for his strong foundation in contingency planning and emergency preparedness. “I spent my time in the Search and Rescue Battalion (now Special Rescue Unit) and was also seconded to the Ministry of Home Affairs as a staff officer. These postings were instrumental in helping me to strategise for contingencies.”

Despite the constantly-evolving pandemic situation, thinking outside the box was crucial to instilling a sense of normalcy at THK Nursing Home. “We had to be very sensitive to the needs of our residents at all times. We not only have to take care of their physical and health requirements, but also their emotional needs,” says LTC (NS) Lee. Many of the residents had wanted to see their families, but were unable to do so due to the prevailing Covid-19 measures. To get around this problem, LTC (NS) Lee and his team became creative. “We shared roving iPads that allowed the residents to stay digitally connected with their families and loved ones, while minimising their risk from COVID-19,” he recounts.

FACING OMICRON

The stringent precautions had helped THK Nursing Home to remain safe from the virus, until the surge of the Omicron variant in late 2021. “At that time, there was great unease among our staff, as they were concerned about our residents’ welfare,” LTC (NS) Lee explains as he recounted the detection of the first Covid-19 case at THK Nursing Home in October 2021. “At that time, the safety measures required nursing homes to deliver Covid-19 test samples to the laboratory by themselves.”

To allay the concerns of his staff, LTC (NS) Lee volunteered to ferry the samples in his own car. “Of course, I was nervous about how it might affect my family, including my parents,” he shares. “But I had to lead the team by example.” In addition,  LTC (NS) Lee also ensured strict adherence to the infection control measures, such as the donning of personal protective equipment (PPE) and thoroughly disinfecting his car after the journey. He adds, “In situations like this, your team looks to you for guidance and above all, leadership.”

In recognition of his efforts to combat the pandemic, LTC (NS) Lee was awarded the Public Service Medal (COVID-19) 2022. He will also be named the Home Team NSman of the Year at the SCDF Appreciation Dinner in April 2023, to commend his commitment to serving the nation. To LTC (NS) Lee, leadership requires a “people first” philosophy when working with his colleagues. “One important thing that SCDF taught me is this — if you build strong  bonds with your team, you will be able to overcome any challenge together.”

Heroes among us

Introduced in 2007, the Home Team NSman of the Year Award accords greater recognition to Home Team NSmen for their contributions and achievements towards NS. The award ceremony for the Home Team NSman of the Year 2022 Award will take place on 14 April 2023 at the Istana.

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A baptism of fire for this Home Team NSF, literally

SCDF NSF SGT1 Jovian Ng has always held an affinity the Home Team, from his stint in the NPCC to his current role fighting fires with the SCDF.

TEXT: KEENAN PEREIRA

PHOTOS: SGT1 JOVIAN NG

SGT1 Jovian Ng isn’t likely to forget the incident on 6 December 2022, anytime soon. After their morning drills at the Brani Marine Fire Station, his unit was called to put out an engine fire on a vessel in Singapore’s southern waters. It was a staggering mission that took the team two-and-a-half hours to complete.

“It was the first time I had helped to put out a fire,” says SGT1 Ng, who supported the operations as a member of the feeding team that provided hoses to a unit manoeuvring the nozzle.

Days like this are strenuous to say the least – their shift doesn’t end immediately after a blaze is contained. In fact, it continues until the end of the 24-hour shift. Not that he’s one to grouse. “It’s something we do to keep our country safe and I’m glad I have the chance to help.”

AN AFFINITY FOR THE HOME TEAM

SGT1 Ng, who enlisted in July 2021, has always held an affinity for his current role in the Home Team. He had joined the National Police Cadet Corps (NPCC) as a Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) in secondary school, and had initially hoped for a posting at the Singapore Police Force (SPF) during his National Service (NS) days. But he was equally pleased to be accepted by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) instead. “Either way, we’re making a difference to the country,” he says.

The born leader credits his time at NPCC and later, his polytechnic student group, for shaping his career path. These experiences led him to SCDF, where he is an NSF Section Commander and a Navigation Specialist. In the latter role, he is responsible for assisting and operating the navigational equipment aboard firefighting vessels.

Because of his natural leadership abilities, SGT1 Ng was selected as part of the first batch of NSFs who attended the Port Limit Steersman Course. The course equips participants with the knowledge and practical skills to steer marine vessels through various ports. With this certification, SGT1 Ng can go on to work in the marine sector, although he tells Frontline that he has no current plans to pursue this option. “After I (reach my) ORD (Operationally Ready Date), I’ll be heading to Canada to study finance and economics,” he shares.

PEOPLE SKILLS MATTER TOO

SGT1 Ng is an avid runner who used to compete in the 400m, 800m and 1,500m events as a student.

But it’s not just marine and firefighting skills that SGT1 Ng will take away from his NS stint. He believes that his time in service has also honed his people skills, specifically through his appointment as an NSF peer support leader who oversaw the wellbeing of his peers. Furthermore, the 22-year-old has grasped several important principles related to leadership. For example, he says he understands that different personality types are partial to varied leadership styles. “So it’s important to learn how each person works instead of just commanding them straight away,” he adds. Such lessons were gleaned through spending time with his charges, from physical fitness activities to more social interactions.

An avid runner, SGT1 Ng particularly enjoys opportunities to bond with his men through fitness activities. “There’s something about a run that builds a bond with a leader and his men, as you feel like you’re all doing something together as equals,” explains the former track and field school team member. “My events were the 400m, 800m and 1,500m races,” he recounts, adding that he continues to run leisurely every week.

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FIGHTING FIRES AT SEA

It has been 10 years since SCDF assumed marine firefighting duties from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore. The Force has led numerous enhancements since then, including the introduction of state-of-the-art fireboats and the construction of new marine fire stations.

The fire SGT1 Ng and his teammates fought is by no means the first time the SCDF has been called to fight maritime fires. Looking back on 30 May 2022, the SCDF was called into action when a boat that was docked at Marina at Keppel Bay caught fire. The fire was extinguished after about one hour with assistance from a water monitor from the Maritime Port Authority.

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Complex problems don’t faze this HomeTeamNS Children’s Education Award recipient

Math whiz and HomeTeamNS Children’s Education Award recipient Mohamad ‘Afif Bin Mohamad Satari overcame personal challenges during the pandemic and still found time to serve the community.

TEXT: NUR ADLINA BINTE ADAM

PHOTOS: MOHAMAD ‘AFIF BIN MOHAMAD SATARI

On 8 December 2022, HomeTeamNS commemorated the achievements of its members’ children at the HomeTeamNS Children’s Education Award (CEA) ceremony held at Cathay Cineplex Cineleisure. The CEA recognises the efforts of primary- to tertiary-level students and aims to motivate them in their educational journey through bursaries. Among this year’s 80 recipients is Mohamad ‘Afif Bin Mohamad Satari. The 20-year-old is the only son of Mr Mohamad Satari Bin Sumar, a Home Team NSman who served his National Service (NS) with the Singapore Police Force in 1980.

‘Afif performed outstandingly in his General Certificate of Education (GCE) A-Level Examinations in 2021, despite setbacks experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. His first year in Raffles Junior College was marked by Home-Based Learning, which entailed late-night discussions with peers and a lack of physical interaction with his tutors. As a result, time management was crucial for ‘Afif, who had to juggle lessons, homework, discussions and revisions, while getting ample rest. Thankfully, he overcame those hurdles. “Of course, I could not have done it alone. This was only possible through the support of my family and peers, as well as the guidance of my tutors, which I am forever grateful for,” he said.

Academics aside, ‘Afif has proven to be an all-rounded student with a heart of gold. As a member of his school’s guitar ensemble, he and his teammates participated in the Singapore Youth Festival Arts Presentation, where they earned the Certificate of Distinction. On top of his achievements, ‘Afif also devotes time to giving back to the community. In total, he’s spent 43 hours volunteering as an orientation group leader as well as participating in community club programmes.

“I was taught from a young age to always give back to the community, especially the less fortunate. It feels good when I can make someone’s day better and put a smile on their faces. The little things I do could be of great help to others,” he shared.

AN ODE TO FAMILY

Mohamad ‘Afif Bin Mohamad Satari (centre) has received tremendous support from his parents, Mdm Sarimah Ali (left) and Mr Mohamad Satari Bin Sumar (right), in his academic pursuits.

‘Afif’s outlook in life is inspired by his parents, Mr Satari and Mdm Sarimah Ali. “We’ve always advised ‘Afif to respect others, regardless of age. Even now, we remind him to stay humble and reflect on his roots. He should remember all the support he has received and pay it forward,” shared Mr Satari.

The family comes from a humble background. Tutored by his mother, ‘Afif received financial support for his education through scholarships and bursaries, including HomeTeamNS’ CEA. “The CEA has definitely been a great help especially during COVID-19, and we appreciate the book vouchers and monetary award that we’ve saved for his tertiary education,” said Mr Satari.

With the support of his nurturing parents, it’s perhaps unsurprising that ‘Afif would excel in his studies. The couple encouraged his interest in science and mathematics, the latter for which he grew a fascination as a toddler. From playing with clothes pegs, blocks and an abacus, the young boy progressed to learning simple addition, subtraction and multiplication from Mdm Sarimah.

“Mathematics is a very wide-ranging subject. It can involve an abstract concept like pure mathematics, or be applied to other disciplines such as physics and engineering. I love to slowly unravel the answer to difficult questions and puzzles. The process is very satisfying and at times mind-boggling,” explained ‘Afif.

As soon as he reaches his Operationally Ready Date (ORD) as a platoon medic for the 8th Battalion in the Singapore Infantry Regiment (8SIR), the scholarly adolescent will be furthering his studies at the National University of Singapore’s College of Humanities & Sciences.

As he looks towards a new phase in his educational journey, he advises his peers to always believe in themselves, against the odds.

“Never let failure be a setback to future success. Always remind yourself that it is just another challenge. Look back on a seemingly impossible hurdle that you once overcame and tell yourself that you can do it again. It is important to realise that you are not alone in your journey. Your family and friends will be there for you in your time of need, and you can rely on them for anything.”

More than 2,600 children of HomeTeamNS Ordinary Members have benefitted from the CEA since its inception in 2004. With CEA, we hope to reward and celebrate families, and encourage students to excel academically. For the latest updates on the applications, visit our website or Facebook page.

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Protecting communities round the clock

Cybersecurity matters: How DAC (NS) Ng Sy Jang keeps communities safe, through his National Service role in the Singapore Police Force and his full-time job.

TEXT: KEENAN PEREIRA

PHOTOS: DAC (NS) NG SY JANG

Security and safety are big themes in DAC (NS) Ng Sy Jang’s life. By day, he serves as an IT Security Researcher at DSO National Laboratories (DSO), Singapore’s largest defence research and development organisation. But the 49-year-old’s efforts to keep Singapore safe don’t end there: He also does this as the NS Commander for the Singapore Police Force (SPF)’s Crime Investigation Department (CID).

DAC (NS) Ng’s journey with SPF began in the late 1990s, when he signed on following his National Service (NS). It was an exciting time as technology was quickly changing the way they operated. He explains how the widespread presence of closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) has been a gamechanger: “Back then, if we wanted to catch a loan shark runner, we would have to wait at the victim’s home to catch them in the act. But we don’t need to do that anymore, since we can rely on CCTV footage to help us.”

A SECURITY BOOST THROUGH TECH

Technology has also made it easier for the public to reach the police. For instance, the SMS 71999 Service allows members of the public who require emergency assistance to text the police when it is not safe to call ‘999’ or when they are unable to speak. Police reports can also be easily filed online.

But with the advancement of technology comes the risk of cybercrime. The SPF reported 22,219 such cases in 2021, a 38 per cent increase from 16,117 cases in 2020. These cases include online scams and cyber extortion, which can affect both civilians and the SPF.

“Cybersecurity is a matter of concern for everyone, both inside and outside of the Force. It’s important that we follow good tech practices, such as changing our passwords regularly, so that we do not fall prey to such crimes,” advises DAC (NS) Ng, whose full-time role in IT security gives him an edge in understanding tech issues. “At work, we have the tools and know-how to find out what different kinds of malware do and how best to detect and thwart them.”

AN UNENVIABLE BUT NECESSARY TASK

In his present role as NS Commander of the CID, he leads over 160 NSmen, more than half of whom are in its disaster victim identification group. “In the event of a mass casualty event, these men will assist the regulars in identifying victims using dental records and fingerprints,” explains DAC (NS) Ng. “The current NSman batch is being trained to learn how to carry out their duties and how to handle and identify bodies and body parts.”

Four members of his team were involved in Exercise Mayday, which concluded in June 2022. This exercise simulated a plane crash, with dismembered “bodies” lying around. It trained DAC (NS) Ng’s men to react to such situations and taught them how to handle body parts with care, so that they could later be used in victim identification.

“During a mass casualty event, families will report missing loved ones to us and provide certain identifying traits — a ring or mole, for example, which will be keyed into a system. This will then be matched against the body parts found to help us speed up the process of identifying victims,” explains DAC (NS) Ng.

He admits that some might find the task challenging but says that the unit’s focus on team spirit and collaboration helps get the job done. “All the unit’s leaders try to build rapport with the team and lead by example so we can ensure mission success. It’s an unenviable but necessary task.”

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CYBERSECURITY DOS AND DON’TS

DAC (NS) Ng shares tips on maintaining good cybersecurity:

  • Don’t share your password and ensure it’s long enough and unique.
  • Don’t click on links from unknown sources.
  • Don’t download apps from untrusted sources.
  • Do be more vigilant and aware of tactics used by scammers.
Categories
Close Up Featured

Meet the SCDF NSman who’s rock climbing to new heights

LTA (NS) Khairul Asyraf Khan Surattee discovered rock climbing in his late teens but and he hasn’t looked back since.

TEXT: KEENAN PEREIRA

PHOTOS: LTA (NS) KHAIRUL ASYRAF KHAN SURATTEE

To better understand how much stronger LTA (NS) Khairul Asyraf Khan Surattee became after he started rock climbing in junior college (JC), just look at his pull-up record. While he used to do six pull-ups, that has since swelled to 30, he says.

But the 27-year-old didn’t pick up the sport to gain muscle or physical prowess. He just thought it would be an interesting sport, he recalls. “Like many other boys, I grew up crazy about football. I would play every weekend with my father and I thought I would naturally go into football during JC.” But he found out early in his time at Serangoon Junior College that he was in one of the five schools that offered rock climbing as a co-curricular activity. “I thought, why not just give it a try?” he says.

That began a decade-long love affair with rock climbing that continued through his National Service stint, during which he served at Tampines Fire Station. He remains with the 2nd SCDF Division as an NSman, serving as a Deputy Company Commander in the 21 Rescue Unit. Rock climbing was also a passion when he enrolled in Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to read accountancy and business – he even became the president of NTU’s mountaineering club.

PEAK SATISFACTION

His rock climbing adventures had been confined to man-made spaces like climbing walls and boulder parks. Having gained confidence in his abilities, LTA (NS) Khairul began venturing into rock climbing at natural areas. “Most local climbers would know about the climb at Dairy Farm,” he says, referring to a quarry in Singapore that offers climbs of up to 28 metres.

He has also travelled to Southern China to climb. His most memorable climb was during his university days when he competed in the Overall National School Bouldering Championship “V Division – Boys Team” event and was crowned champion twice.

THE ONLY WAY IS UP

When asked about what drives his passion for the sport, LTA (NS) Khairul points to its unique blend of mental and physical effort. Contrary to popular belief, climbers don’t just climb to the top—they follow different routes and paths that can differ dramatically in difficulty.

“You may have to figure out how to make it from one point to another, even on a rock wall. That’s a lot of problem-solving and split-second decision-making, which is thrilling,” explains LTA (NS) Khairul, who works in the digital content and strategy arm of a global bank.

It’s no wonder then that he defines a “good climb” as one filled with challenging routes. But he adds that although it may seem like a solitary sport, rock climbers also benefit from having supportive friends. “I still meet a few friends whom I started climbing with in university every few weeks to climb for a few hours before we catch up over dinner. It is a great way of keeping our friendship going.”

And it’s not just old friends who brighten LTA (NS) Khairul’s experience. “The rock-climbing gyms I go to are buzzing with positivity; people are always cheering one another on, even amongst strangers,  and this creates a really warm environment for everybody to climb in.”

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ALL IN HIS STRIDE

“I’ve had nine years of injuries because of rock climbing,” jokes LTA (NS) Khairul, who was recovering from a wrist injury when we spoke. “I’m still not fully recovered yet, so I can’t wait to heal and get back to climbing.” Here are some tips for avoiding an injury if you decide to pick up rock climbing as well:

  • Warm up
  • Know your level (and stick to it). Don’t be too ambitious on your first attempt.
  • Rest sufficiently between attempts.
  • Climbing works very specific muscles, and many common injuries are caused by muscular imbalances. Finish every session by training the opposite muscles—good exercises to consider include push ups and reverse wrist curls.
Categories
Close Up

The dashing hero

HomeTeamNS REAL® Run participant, 57-year-old Kalaichelvan Ramachandran, has been ‘going the distance’ since he was a teenager and has inspired his children to take up the sport too.

TEXT: MELODY TAN

PHOTOS: KALAICHELVAN RAMACHANDRAN

Running is not just Mr Kalaichelvan Ramachandran’s lifelong hobby – it is also a passion that he’s proud to have passed down to his three adult children, who took up the sport when they were still young.

Mr Kalaichelvan, known as Kalai, started running cross-country races in secondary school. During his National Service stint, he continued to take part in marathons. Today, he runs twice a week for leisure, going up to three or four times when he is in training for a specific event – such as the HomeTeamNS REAL® Run, which he has taken part in an impressive 25 times.

With the physical race having taken place on 8 October 2022 at Gardens by the Bay, REAL® Run is currently holding a 10km Virtual Run for those who missed out on the earlier physical event.

The REAL® Run 10km virtual run 2022 allows participants to complete the given distance at their own time, pace and running route between 25 October 2022 to January 2023. All that’s needed is to register for the run – the last day to do so is 31 December 2022 – and send in a screenshot of your running app showing the date, time of run and the distance covered. Finishers receive an exclusive The North Face T-shirt and a 20-litre canvas bag, worth a total of S$59.

INSPIRING A NEW GENERATION TO KEEP MOVING

Mr Kalai and his daughter Divyaa after completing their events at the Yellow Ribbon Run 2012.

As a young man, Mr Kalai found running to be a rewarding hobby as he enjoyed beating the goals he set for himself: “Each time I clocked a new personal best, I wanted to keep improving it.” Now a spry 57, Mr Kalai – who works in the freight forwarding industry – has seen how running has enriched not just his own life, but also strengthened the bond between him and his children, two boys aged 25 and 19, and a girl aged 23.

Mr Kalai first introduced his children to running by enrolling them in age-appropriate races.

“They enjoyed running with other kids, so they looked forward to the events,” he recalled. “They wanted to run in order to keep fit. That’s the lesson I want to pass down to them – that running helps you lead a healthy lifestyle.” Running also helped him to maintain focus as a parent, despite all the pressures of daily life: “Running is a form of relaxation for me. On days that I am particularly stressed, I go for a run so that I keep my frustrations away from my kids.”

Mr Kalai has since ran in several events with his children, including a full marathon with his older son and two Yellow Ribbon Races with his daughter. Each event he and his children participate in creates new opportunities for bonding, he says. “Knowing that my kid is running in the same event as me is inspiring,” he reflected. “If we have an event together, I remind my children to train for it, and we run together a few times before the event. On the event day itself, although we may not be running side by side, we go down to the event together and return home together.”

CARING FOR OTHERS THROUGH RUNNING

Mr Kalai at REAL® Run 2004, where he represented Central Police Division during his National Service stint.

One of Mr Kalai’s favourite runs is the HomeTeamNS REAL® Run, which he participates in alongside his friends from a wide array of backgrounds and races. “When we used to train for REAL® Run races in Sentosa, a few of us from different walks of life would meet to have breakfast together on a lorry that was driven by one of the runners,” he reminisced.

While he finds the virtual REAL® Run – first held in 2020 – to be slightly less interactive compared to a physical race, he still embraces the challenge of completing the 10km on his own: “It has proved to me that running can be done anywhere and at any time. I find it rewarding that I can still run together with my friends for this event.”

When he is not training for events, Mr Kalai enjoys the social aspect of running – and has also started doing good with every step. “I am currently a member of a social running group known as the Thaarumaaru Runners, which is known not only among the Indian community but by many Singaporeans too.”

Originally founded in 2017 to encourage fitness among the Indian community, the Thaarumaaru Runners have expanded their activities to include helping others. “We are also a socially responsible group, as we have done fund-raising events,” he shared.

Besides connecting him to people, running has taught Mr Kalai more about his own strengths and resilience. Despite a slipped disc in 2010 that took him out of action for a year, he is proud to say that he is still capable of running long distances, while maintaining his previous timings. “I have realised that any injuries can be recovered from with good rest. They don’t have to hold me back from continuing in the sport after I recover,” he said. “I also feel that as an active person, we recover quicker from injuries in comparison to less active people.”

If Mr Kalai’s lifelong love affair with running has inspired you to participate in the HomeTeamNS Virtual REAL® Run for the first time, he has some useful tips for newcomers to the event. “When planning the route to run, try to follow those that offer the most realistic experience – including tarmac, beach and trail terrain. Also, form groups with friends who have the same interest, and run together.”

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