In The Force

Supporting a well-oiled SCDF machine

These Corporate Services Hub National Servicemen perform a crucial, if often overlooked, role in ensuring SCDF operations run like clockwork. Here’s how.



For every successful Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) event or exercise, there is a team of dedicated National Servicemen working tirelessly in the background to provide essential support services.

Three Corporate Services Hub (CSH) National Servicemen share with us what their vocations mean to them, and how they support SCDF frontliners.

Meet SGT1 Lioh Yong Hao and LCP Raden Zulfiqkar Bin Zulkifri, who are both with CSH (West), and SGT1 Aloysius Ng who serves with CSH (East). Earlier in March, they supported Exercise Northstar XI in their capacities as a supply and operations assistant (SGT1 Lioh), an info-communications assistant (LCP Raden) and a provost officer (SGT1 Ng).


The massive exercise – which simulated a terrorist attack on Jurong Island – involved over 300 personnel from multiple agencies including the SCDF, Singapore Police Force, and Singapore Armed Forces, as well as other public and private stakeholders like the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, the Ministry of Health, ExxonMobil and Keppel Infrastructure.

“In addition to working closely with the other stakeholders, our SCDF colleagues needed to be on-site for long hours to prepare and execute the exercise,” explains SGT1 Lioh. “Be it exercise equipment, refreshments or transportation needs, we support our frontliners behind the scenes so that they can focus on the mission.”


LCP Raden (right) guiding his juniors on the operation of a portable sound system, in support of parade rehearsals.

During Exercise Northstar XI, SGT1 Ng and his team were asked to simulate a Tactical HQ scenario where command vehicles were deployed. “We are responsible for safeguarding the command vehicles, which is of critical importance to overall command and control of SCDF’s frontline operations during a major incident,” he describes.

 LCP Raden, whose day-to-day tasks include routine checks, maintenance of info-comms equipment and attending to info-comm and technological issues, notes that such major exercises can require significant technical and communications support.

“During these major events, our team had to ensure that all communications channels between the event organisers and working party ran smoothly,” he said.

Their support is not limited to large exercises. During recruit enlistments, graduation parades and the National Day Parade (NDP), LCP Raden and his team can be found setting up portable mixing consoles, speakers and other audio and visual equipment: “For events such as parades and ceremonies, we have to be very alert to visual and audio cues to ensure that the music is in sync with certain event sequences. This requires quite a fair bit of concentration and situational awareness,” he says.

The 2022 NDP was also a busy occasion for SGT1 Ng: “During the NDP, my team and I were stationed at Kallang Fire Station to prepare the Command Vehicles for a Tactical HQ deployment, in case there was a major emergency. After securing a perimeter for the command post, we remained on high alert to safeguard all personnel and equipment on site.”

Adds LCP Raden: “I always thought that CSH only handles routine logistics and communications services that are far removed from other SCDF operations. However, I soon realised that all departments really need to work closely together to conduct our mission — protecting lives and property — effectively.”

This story is based on interviews originally published in Rescue995.

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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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In The Force

Ordinary people with an extraordinary mission

These Home Team volunteers who serve with dedication and passion have been recognised for their contributions.


The Home Team gives out the Minister for Home Affairs (MHA) National Day Award annually to a group of individuals, to recognise their outstanding contributions as volunteers. This year, MHA acknowledged seven individuals who have made significant contributions.

Let’s hear from two recipients, Ms Tham Yoke Leng and Mr Nadanasigamani Senthil, on what keeps them motivated to devote their time and effort to helping out with the Home Team.


Ms Tham Yoke Leng has been volunteering under the Prison Volunteer – Buddhist Fellowship scheme for 10 years.

Ms Tham: I am a Buddhist Fellowship volunteer and conduct weekly counselling sessions at Selarang Park Complex Prison for the inmates. During these sessions — which are conducted in English —  we aim to share the Buddha’s teachings with the inmates so they can bring positive change and improvement in their lives.

I also share my personal experiences of practising the Buddha’s teachings. This helps the inmates gain insights into the positive effects of embracing compassion and wisdom, and how it can help diminish negative emotions like greed, hatred and delusion.

We also introduce them to the Noble Eightfold Path, as taught by the Buddha, which provides a framework for their journey towards a better life. During the sessions, we include guided mindfulness and awareness meditation to help calm the mind. This helps the inmates to be present in the moment and cultivate gratitude for everything they have.

Mr Senthil: Our Citizens on Patrol (COP) team conducts monthly patrols around our neighbourhood. Our objective is to enhance the safety and security of our residents. Whenever the residents see us wearing our COP vests, it encourages them to share any feedback regarding suspicious activities or gatherings they may have noticed.

We take note of these and will notify the police when necessary. It’s a collaborative effort and we serve as community partners, working hand in hand with the Home Team to contribute to a secure neighbourhood and safer nation.


Mr Nadanasigamani Senthil has been volunteering with the Citizens on Patrol scheme for eight years.

Mr Senthil: On 16 June 1995, I arrived in Singapore as a work permit holder in the construction industry. I felt blessed to be able to work and live in a country that is known for its safety, security and commitment towards fair laws and equal rights for its diverse population.

Over the years, I embraced the opportunities offered by the Singapore government, and through hard work and dedication, I progressed from a worker to become a Director in a Small and Medium Enterprise (SME).

Even after obtaining Permanent Resident (PR) status and citizenship, I volunteered actively and was driven by both passion and a sense of responsibility to give back to the community that has provided a safe home for my family. I hope that one day my son will follow in my footsteps, becoming a volunteer and serving the nation as the next generation.

Ms Tham: During the sharing sessions, I noticed the inmates’ eagerness to learn and embrace the Buddha’s teachings in their daily lives. Their desire for a happier, more peaceful existence for themselves and their loved ones was evident. One particular inmate, who initially seemed disinterested, transformed over a few weeks, actively seeking ways to improve himself. Witnessing their determination to reform motivates me to support their journey and remind them that they are not alone.

Buddhist Fellowship has received appreciation letters from both inmates and ex-offenders, expressing how much they valued the sharing sessions and the positive impact of the Buddha’s teachings on their lives. Some ex-offenders have even visited the Buddhist Fellowship Centre to deepen their understanding and continue their practice. They also volunteer and help with wholesome group activities, including assisting in homes.


Ms Tham: Everyone makes mistakes. As a volunteer, avoid judging a person’s mistakes. Instead, keep an open mind and an open heart to accept the inmates for who they are and the errors they have made. Remember, these inmates also possess a loving heart and are not bad people.

Mr Senthil: Volunteering with passion makes the work truly interesting. It is the responsibility of every citizen to actively participate in ensuring our country’s safety and security. By receiving public support and involvement, our Home Team can focus on safeguarding other parts of the nation from internal and external threats.

Relying solely on the Home Team for our safety could leave us vulnerable to our enemies, leading to issues within our community. Threats can happen anywhere. Therefore, we must act as vigilant “third eyes” for the Home Team, promptly providing information to the authorities on any abnormalities or suspicious activities we come across. Strengthening the unity in our multiracial society is vital in securing the well-being and safety of our future generations.

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In The Force

An NSman’s tale of growth

LTA (NS) Sean Loh reveals how his father’s mentorship helped him throughout his National Service (NS) stint.



LTA (NS) Sean Loh was the Full-time National Serviceman (NSF) of the Year in 2021. He credits his success to his father, whose mentorship helped him to face the challenges of NS. This also helped LTA (NS) Sean discover the true value of personal growth as he became a young adult. Perhaps most importantly, it forged an unbreakable bond between LTA (NS) Sean and his father.


LTA (NS) Sean Loh receiving the Best in Knowledge Award during the 21st Rota Commander Course (RCC) Closing Ceremony.

When he was a child, LTA (NS) Sean fondly remembers his father’s captivating tales from his NS days – the tough training, the challenges faced, and the unyielding spirit of the men who face these challenges head-on. During his NS stint, LTA (NS) Sean quickly realised the parallels between his father and himself, as they went through this phase as young men. Both had experienced similar trials and he was glad that he could count on his father’s guidance.

LTA (NS) Sean credits his father’s mentorship, as it has helped him to realise the importance of dedication and the pride of serving others well.

“My father’s guidance played a pivotal role in helping me navigate the challenges of NS. He taught me to view every trial as an opportunity for growth and to remain dedicated to every task, no matter how demanding,” he said.


LTA (NS) Sean experienced a gamut of emotions during NS – joy, apprehension and even sorrow. Throughout, his father offered heartfelt advice and a listening ear. When the opportunity arose for him to defer his NS to further his studies, his father advised him to continue serving as a Rota Commander at Kallang Fire Station. LTA (NS) Sean is glad that he had listened to his father’s advice.

“This was invaluable as it gave me extra time to reflect upon my passions and aspirations. My experiences in the fire station opened my eyes to the impact of saving lives and helping others. It ignited a burning desire within me to continue this mission throughout my life, aspiring to become a doctor and heal those in need,” he added.

For all young men about to embark on their own NS journey, LTA (NS) Sean advises them to face each challenge fearlessly, and to believe in themselves and their goals.

“Adversity is the spark that ignites our growth, and every experience, be it good or bad, has the power to shape us into the best version of ourselves,” LTA (NS) Sean said. He also believes in the importance of people expressing themselves openly. While this may make one vulnerable, this also helps one to discover the people who matter most in life.

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In The Force

Our Role Model: A Father’s Day Special

This father, also a Citizens on Patrol volunteer shares why it’s important to be a role model for his children.



Portrait photographer Anne Geddes said: “Any man can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad.” On this special Father’s Day feature, Mr Shankar Tarakad, a Citizens on Patrol (COP) volunteer, shares his story of being a father and a Home Team volunteer.


As a COP volunteer, Shankar works with a team of volunteers to keep the area around River Valley, Havelock and Lower Delta safe. They patrol in groups of four or more, ready to answer any questions raised by residents. He shared, “The goal is to allow the residents to reach out to us when we patrol while keeping a visible presence of law, and keep Singapore safe.” Additionally, Mr Shankar also volunteers as a Crime Prevention Ambassador (CPA), which is also part of the Home Team Volunteer Network.


Shankar emphasised, “As a father, I believe children will learn by example when they see their parents stepping out to do something meaningful like volunteering. It allows them to see another perspective of life. This is something I truly believe in.” Since young, his children have witnessed their parents volunteering in many other organisations such as the Community Paying it Forward (CPF) and Samaritans of Singapore (SOS).

Through his volunteering efforts, his children learned that there is a positive impact in helping the community.

His son, Anshul Shankar, who is currently serving his national service with the Singapore Civil Defence Force, as well as his daughter, Anusha Shankar, mentioned that their parents passionately spend their free time volunteering and share with them their voluntary work experiences. In turn, they understood the importance of giving back to the community and being involved in their neighbourhood and society.

Mr Shankar with his family (from left): his daughter Anusha, his wife Anupama Puranik and son Anshul.
Mr Shankar with his family (from left): his daughter Anusha, his wife Anupama Puranik and son Anshul.


Shankar discovered by being a volunteer, it teaches him many valuable lessons in life such as:

  • Two-way street communication: You learn from people and you impart your knowledge to them at the same time
  • Widen your vision to the undiscovered: You learn more about the neighbourhood and the residents. Besides giving crime prevention advices, patrolling comes with many “perks”. For example, Shankar now knows which fruit shop sells fresher and cheaper products than supermarkets. He also discovered new food stalls that he now enjoys, such as the Char Kway Teow at Zion Rd.
  • Fulfilment in life: Your life will feel complete and meaningful by doing things that you are passionate about and at the same time, benefitting the community.

Shankar’s acts of kindness and generosity in volunteering showed us that life is more than just work and family. 

Get to know Mr Shankar better through a game of ‘This or That: COP Edition’.

Find out more how you can make a difference in your community. Volunteer with the Home Team Volunteer Network today! You can also check out our Instagram and Facebook Page, @htvolunteers, to learn more about the 11 schemes.

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In The Force

How staying cool helped these PNSmen save a life

This team of PNSmen used their first aid training and teamwork to make a crucial difference during their in-camp training.


On 20 November 2022, four Divisional Special Task Force (DSTF) Police National Servicemen (PNSmen) officers from Jurong Police Division, INSP (NS) Maung Kyaw Yan Shinn, SGT (2) (NS) Cao Liang, SGT (1) (NS) Kor Zhe Ming, and SGT (1) (NS) Faiz Hakim Sim Jun Wei, were patrolling along Block 501-504, Jurong West Street 51.

A member of the public informed them that someone had fainted at a nearby market and required immediate medical assistance. The DSTF officers rushed to the scene and noticed a large crowd surrounding an unconscious person whose spouse was crying beside him.


INSP (NS) Maung and his team calmly took charge of the situation while awaiting the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel to arrive. Relying on the first aid training received during his full-time National Service, SGT (1) (NS) Faiz performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) while INSP (NS) Maung ensured that his airway was clear and removed metal items from the patient’s body.

SGT (2) (NS) Cao Liang retrieved an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) from a nearby community club, while SGT (1) (NS) Zhe Ming summoned for an ambulance and updated his Ops Room and Jurong West NPC of the situation.

An SCDF ambulance arrived soon after and the officers were informed that the patient was resuscitated en route to the hospital. They were relieved and glad that their initial assistance during the critical period had helped the patient survive.

SGT (2) (NS) Cao Liang believed that teamwork was a crucial factor in the team’s ability to help save a life.  

“Clear communication, trust, and mutual respect among team members were key to a successful outcome. Each team member was aware of his role and responsibilities and was able to communicate effectively with one another. The team’s cohesion and cooperation made a significant impact on the outcome of the situation and helped save lives,” he said.

SGT (1) (NS) Faiz felt the incident highlighted the importance of first aid knowledge.

“It has also made us realise that more people should know how to administer first aid. From now on, we would highly encourage everyone to take up first aid course as it is a very important life skill,” he said.


The DSTF officers credited their ability to respond quickly to the training during their Police Officer Basic Course as well as vocational training at Jurong Police Division.

“Life is unpredictable. Anything can happen to our loved ones at anytime. I think with general medical knowledge and training, you might be able to save a person’s life one day. I will expand my knowledge in the general medical field so that I would be able to save another life if the same scenario takes place again,” said INSP (NS) Maung Kyaw Yan Shinn.

“In this new year, we would definitely encourage our friends and families to take up a First-Aid Course as this is a life skill that would come in handy in a medical emergency. We would also try out the myResponder app, serving and providing assistance to the communities even when not donning on our blue uniform,” added SGT (1) (NS) Kor Zhe Ming.

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In The Force

This young Home Team Volunteer may be able to give you deadlifting tips

Visiting the gym is as much about building mental resilience as it is about gaining muscle for Cadet Lieutenant (CLT) Mohammad Shafie.


Many of us face challenges that can be stressful or overwhelming, for which we have different coping mechanisms. Working out is Home Team Volunteer Mohammad Shafie’s way to destress. But the Cadet Lieutenant (CLT) from National Civil Defence Cadet Corps (NCDCC) wasn’t into sports growing up – not till his brother piqued his interest in gym sessions about three years ago. “I was not invested in working out at first, but I eventually took my training seriously because I realised that it was a good way to overcome negative thoughts,” shares the 17-year-old, in reference to moments where he felt he could have done better in his personal life and had not reached his full potential. He now works out four times a week.


You could call (CLT) Shafie a gym buff.
You could call CLT Shafie a gym buff.

And the Business Services student at Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Central might well have lapsed into gloom last year, when he suffered a back injury during one of his workouts, putting him out of the gym for close to two weeks. “I was in pain and had trouble sleeping. When I started working out again, I felt weak and had to build up my strength.” Thankfully, his training had equipped him with the mental fortitude to overcome the physical challenges at hand.

CLT Shafie’s hours spent lifting heavy equipment have also proven valuable in his volunteer work with the Home Team. “In 2022, I attended a firefighting course held at Civil Defence Academy. I was able to carry heavy equipment such as the breathing apparatus and fire hose, thanks to my increased strength and improved conditioning from working out at the gym,” he recounts. “It was mentally and physically draining but I managed to stay calm and fight through the challenges.”

CLT Shafie’s hobby has also taught him self-discipline. “If you feel like giving up, always push through because your pain or struggles are temporary. If you let yourself be overcome by negative thoughts, you will not go far,” he concludes.

(CLT) Shafie with National Civil Defence Cadet Corps members from Christ Church Secondary school.
CLT Shafie with National Civil Defence Cadet Corps members from Christ Church Secondary school.

Community calls

As someone who enjoys interacting with others, CLT Shafie regularly helps train his NCDCC juniors on their co-curricular (CCA) days at Christ Church Secondary School. You can also pay it forward. Volunteer with the Home Team Volunteer Network to make a difference in your community.

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In The Force

How my National Service changed my views on lifesaving

A harrowing encounter turned SGT1 (NS) Muhammad Zainal Abidin from reluctant National Serviceman to passionate fire and rescue specialist at SCDF’s Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit.


Like many other Singaporean males, SGT1 (NS) Muhammad Zainal Abidin enlisted for National Service (NS) when he was 18. “Initially, I did not see the importance of serving NS — and I must admit that I was not the most enthusiastic in training,” says Zainal, 30, recalling his experience as a full-time National Serviceman (NSF) with SCDF.

But SGT1 (NS) Zainal then experienced a turning point that would shape a life-long passion. “One day, my fire station crew and I were instructed to help out during a suicide attempt,” he recounts. “When we arrived at the scene, we were tasked to set up the life pack as quickly as we could. As I was not very serious during my training, I struggled to keep up with my colleagues when handling the equipment. Yet there I was, caught in a situation where a life was at stake. Fortunately, it was a team effort and my personal shortcomings did not adversely affect the operations.”

Realising that he could have done more to support his team, SGT1 (NS) Zainal resolved to focus on his NS training and learn as much as possible from veteran SCDF career officers. “After the incident, I realised how self-centred and immature I was,” concedes SGT1 (NS) Zainal. “I decided to put in my utmost effort to do my best in NS. Ever since then, my passion for saving lives has continued to grow.”

After completing his full-time NS stint in 2014, SGT1 (NS) Zainal went on to work as a technician and obtained a diploma in aerospace engineering. He is currently pursuing a degree in psychology. Over the years, he has developed a passion for lifesaving, which led him to join the SCDF’s Civil Defence Auxiliary Unit (CDAU) as a fire and rescue specialist at Bishan Fire Station. “Joining the CDAU was a great milestone in my life. Lifesaving is a noble endeavour and I believe this is something that my son will be proud of,” asserts the father of a 6-year-old.


His son would certainly be able to regale friends with tales of his father’s heroic acts. On the evening of 20 March 2018, SGT1 (NS) Zainal and his crew were alerted to an oil storage tank fire at Pulau Busing. From where he stood, kilometres away from the island off Singapore’s southwestern coast, SGT1 (NS) Zainal could see raging fire and clouds of thick black smoke.

SCDF personnel fighting the oil storage tank fire at Pulau Busing.
SCDF personnel fighting the oil storage tank fire at Pulau Busing.

“The fire was burning on a massive scale when we approached the site in our fire engines onboard a vessel,” says SGT1 (NS) Zainal. “This reminded me of the stories that some SCDF career officers shared from their experience fighting a pumphouse fire at Pulau Bukom years ago. The Bukom pumphouse fire was so intense that one of our emergency appliances was partially burnt.” Bearing that in mind when setting up the ground monitor this time round, SGT1 (NS) Zainal was careful to maintain a safe distance from the raging fire and constantly check on the wind direction to ensure safety.

A total of 31 firefighting and support vehicles, 128 SCDF personnel and Company Emergency Response Team members along with the Police Coast Guard, Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore, Republic of Singapore Navy and the National Environment Agency were involved in the highly challenging six-hour operation at Pulau Busing. “When the Pulau Busing fire was ultimately extinguished around midnight, my crew and I had to stay behind to monitor the site until 8am the next morning,” notes SGT1 (NS) Zainal. “As there were about five of us in my section, we took turns to monitor the site every two hours to ensure that the area remained safe. Such precautions are necessary because re-ignition can happen in oil storage tank fires.”

Despite the lack of sleep after the arduous firefighting mission, SGT1 (NS) Zainal managed to stay alert during the long hours of standby duty. “What I have learnt from my experiences as an NSF and a CDAU officer, is that we must never take Singapore’s safety for granted,” he cautions. “Every time I put on my firefighting bunker gear and lift the rescue equipment, I am carrying not just a heavy physical load but also the weight of responsibility.”

Today, SGT1 (NS) Zainal passionately imparts his rescue and firefighting knowledge and skills to NSFs at Bishan Fire Station. He always reminds them to take their NS seriously – they are, after all, young men entrusted with a noble mission of safeguarding the lives and property of others.


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Featured In The Force

These Operation Lionheart doctors witnessed courage and resilience amid tragedy in Türkiye

Safeguarding the health of SCDF officers and earthquake victims was all in a day’s work for SCDF’s NSF Doctors CPT (DR) Amos Lee and CPT (DR) Nicholas Tan at the disaster site.

TEXT: Cara Yap
PHOTOS: CPT(DR) Nicholas Tan

Approaching midnight on February 8, three hours into a multi-national earthquake search and rescue mission in Türkiye, CPT(DR) Amos Lee’s training as a medical officer (MO) in SCDF’s Emergency Medical Services Department (EMSD) kicked in.

As part of the Singapore Civil Defence Force’s (SCDF) 68-strong Operation Lionheart (OLH) contingent, he had travelled 20 hours with the contingent to Kahramanmaraş, Türkiye, which had been devastated by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake on 6 February.  

SCDF's Operation Lionheart contingent cooperated with members of international rescue teams in Türkiye.

Here, in frigid temperatures of about two degrees Celsius, CPT (DR) Amos prepared to receive a 12-year-old Turkish boy, who had been extricated from the rubble by the elite Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART) officers in the OLH contingent.

The rescued boy was suffering from hypothermia and psychological shock after being trapped for several days, so Dr Lee and the other medical professionals had to act swiftly. “Thankfully, he didn’t sustain any life-threatening injuries. After taking his vitals, we stabilised him, administered fluids intravenously and kept him warm with a thermal blanket, before the local paramedics brought him to the hospital,” he recalls.

The successful rescue was a bright spot in an otherwise sobering experience for the 27-year-old, who had witnessed courage, resilience and sorrow during the deployment. “As Medical Officers, we were taught to be resilient to hardship during our SAF Basic Military Training. Nevertheless, it was heartrending to see the locals cry and mourn amid the death and destruction,” shares Dr Lee.

As a healthcare professional, Dr Lee anticipated the disaster’s emotional toll.  “We do respect the grieving process of the victims.  However, as part of the OLH contingent, we must have sufficient coping mechanisms, so that we can carry out our duties professionally,” he explains. Such stoicism is essential, as Dr Lee and other medical officers bore the responsibility of ensuring the health of all SCDF officers and search canines throughout the mission. Given their training in Advanced Trauma Life Support, they possess the skills to manage traumatic injuries and effectively support the OLH contingent.

Paying attention to details

CPT (DR) Amos Lee and CPT (DR) Nicholas Tan shared a tent during the mission.

While the general public read play-by-play accounts of successful rescues conducted by the OLH contingent, not many are aware of the roles played by supporting team members such as Dr Lee.

Yet, these  roles are essential to the smooth operations of the OLH contingent, even if they are not directly involved in rescue work. CPT(DR) Nicholas Tan, from the Home Team Medical Services Division (HTMSD), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), who shared a tent with Dr Lee throughout the deployment, can certainly attest to that. The 27-year-old served mainly as an onsite GP for OLH contingent members and members of other international rescue teams that were based in the same camp.

“Minor ailments such as coughs, colds and runny noses may appear to be trivial, but how will our teammates concentrate on search and rescue, if they are not feeling well?” muses Dr Tan.

Throughout the mission, Dr Tan routinely treated ailments and minor injuries, not just for the contingent members, but also the search canines from SCDF’s Search Platoon. When one of the search canines sustained a cut on its paw during a search, Dr Tan was able to neatly clean and bandage the wound, thanks to a three-day course in basic veterinary care he underwent prior to the mission.

Search and rescue troops braved freezing temperatures in Kahramanmaraş.

The swift deployment of the OLH contingent within hours of the earthquake, has reinforced Dr Tan’s belief in the importance of watertight and agile logistics. “You must prioritise what to bring on overseas missions because you’re limited by space and time constraints,” shares the full-time NSF doctor, whose job scope includes drafting policies to improve the welfare of servicemen under the Ministry of Home Affairs. “We focused on variety instead of depth, packing medication and equipment to cover many types of emergencies – this involved a lot of pre-planning. Nothing was left to chance.”

Sorting through medical supplies at the disaster site.
Sorting through medical supplies at the disaster site.

Like Dr Lee, this was Dr Tan’s first time working in a disaster site, and he recalls being awakened by aftershocks on several occasions while resting in their tent. “As the base of operations was sited in an open area, we knew that the dangers from a tent collapse was minimal. However, the aftershocks did make us feel uneasy at times,” recounts Dr Tan.

Despite the potential risks, both doctors did not hesitate when they received the deployment notice. “As a doctor, you have to step up when duty calls. This sense of responsibility is no different from that of other healthcare workers who worked hard to take care of COVID-19 patients, despite the potential risk of being infected by the virus,” reflects Dr Tan, who recounted his stint at Singapore General Hospital during the pandemic, prior to enlisting in National Service.

Courage and camaraderie

Both Dr Lee and Dr Tan, who underwent BMT and the Medical Officer Conversion Course (MOCC) before joining SCDF, were equipped with both the physical and mental capacity to work under challenging circumstances. “We gained leadership skills during our SCDF induction course. We also learnt how to perform field amputations — on top of the veterinary course — and were engaged in regular exercises to familiarise ourselves with how OLH functions,” explains Dr Lee, who also volunteers on overseas humanitarian missions with his church. He joined the medical profession as it is “a privilege to be present for those who are in need.” Although he has yet to decide on his medical specialisation after NS, he has plans for an upcoming humanitarian trip in Cambodia. 

The OLH deployment struck a chord with Dr Lee, especially for the hospitality he received from the locals. “The Turkish people were really welcoming. Although they were having a difficult time in the aftermath of the earthquake, they kindly offered us drinks and warm meals,” shares Dr Lee. Equally encouraging, was the camaraderie shared among members of the various international contingents, which transcended language and cultural differences.

“When I was queuing for food in front of a Turkish rescuer, I mentioned a few big names in Turkish football, as I knew that the sport is popular in Turkey. We started chatting and he showed me football clips on his phone. It shows that through patience and good will, we can find much common ground with others ,” recounts Dr Tan, who will continue his internal medicine residency with SingHealth after NS.

OLH team members with their Turkish counterparts.
OLH team members with their Turkish counterparts.

Dr Lee echoes this sentiment, saying that he maintains friendships with the Turkish translators assigned to his team. Despite the tragedy he witnessed he remains buoyed by the resilience displayed by the locals, as well as the collective strength of the international rescuers.

“My biggest takeaway through this experience was that regardless of nationality, race or religion, medical professionals have a duty to render help to those who need it,” he concludes.

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Featured In The Force

These ProCom officers rushed to help when every second counted

Three off-duty ProCom officers were honoured with the SCDF Community Life Saviour Award for their calm assistance rendered in an emergency.

It might be one of many people’s greatest fears: Seeing a loved one collapse and fall unconscious, with no one around to help except yourself.

Thankfully for one elderly couple on 21 September last year, three off-duty Protective Security Command (ProCom) officers from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) happened to be passing by around 11am, after completing their morning deployment shift. 

SGT (1) Muhammad Khairul Anam Bin Abdul Halim, SGT (1) Muhammad Izuwan Bin Kamsani and SGT (2) Muhammad Nur Syahmi Bin Mazlan were walking to the public open carpark near Block 343, Clementi Avenue 5 when they realised there was a commotion taking place within the carpark.

“When we got nearer, we understood that there might be a medical emergency,” said SGT (1) Anam. “Without thinking, we instantly rushed over to assist.”


An elderly man was desperately carrying out cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on his unconscious wife, who was lying in the middle of the carpark road with a bloodied face.

Upon finding out that he had been performing CPR for 15 to 20 minutes already, SGT (1) Izuwan asked him if he could help as the man was sweating and fast becoming exhausted.

“While my friend Izuwan continued with CPR, I asked the man some questions like ‘How did it happen?’ ‘Did you call an ambulance yet?’” recounted SGT (2) Syahmi.

According to SGT (1) Anam, the aim was to calm the man down and get a full account of the incident. They were thus able to give the necessary information to the attending paramedics, and assisted the ambulance to the exact location where it was needed.

In the meantime, SGT (1) Izuwan was quelling his own internal anxiety about performing CPR on a person suffering a real-life medical crisis – the first time he had ever done so.

“I felt responsible,” he explained. “I had to do my best because I knew that her loved ones were depending on me to save her.”

He stayed calm and composed, and made sure to follow his training precisely: “The situation will make you nervous, but you have to make sure to count, and not rush. I had to just trust what I learnt in performing CPR.”

When the ambulance arrived shortly after, the paramedics took over and the three ProCom officers fell back, knowing that the elderly woman was in safe hands. Still unconscious, she was conveyed to hospital along with her husband.

SGT (1) Izuwan made sure to follow up on her condition afterwards. It turned out that she had suffered a cardiac arrest when she was crossing the carpark towards the void deck. The fall caused her to suffer injuries to her face – hence the blood – and unconsciousness, but she is now in the process of recovering without any other major complications.


The three ProCom officers’ unhesitating actions were recognised in the form of the Singapore Civil Defence Force Community Life Saviour Award.

Downplaying his own efforts, SGT (1) Izuwan said: “While we didn’t do much, I feel that every second counted in this situation where there was a life that needed to be saved. Looking at how helpless the victim was as she lay on the floor unconscious prompted me to come in and assist. I think it’s normal for everyone to react that way.”

The sudden nature of the event also offered some food for thought. Said SGT (1) Anam: “We learnt that we might come across such incidents unexpectedly, even when we are not on duty. And as NSmen from SPF, to ignore such a situation happening in front of us does not seem to be the right thing to do.”

While SGT (2) Syahmi admitted that even during his National Service days with ProCom, he had never encountered an incident where CPR was needed, putting his CPR skills to the test has given SGT (1) Izuwan the confidence to use them again if needed in the future.

“I feel it’s important to have at least the CPR skillset – not only to help others, but maybe even your close ones around you,” he pointed out. “I hope the Community Life Saviour Award brings awareness of this to everyone in Singapore.”

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