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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.

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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