Flashback Friday: SAF officers honoured for brave acts on May 30, 1998

Lieutenant-Colonel Lo Yong Poo (right) and Captain (NS) Kok Yin Khong were awarded the SAF Medal for Distinguished Act, becoming the first SAF personnel participating in United Nations missions to receive the medal. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Lieutenant-Colonel Lo Yong Poo (right) and Captain (NS) Kok Yin Khong were awarded the SAF Medal for Distinguished Act, becoming the first SAF personnel participating in United Nations missions to receive the medal. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Lieutenant-Colonel Lo Yong Poo and Captain (NS) Kok Yin Khong were awarded the SAF Medal for Distinguished Act, becoming the first SAF personnel participating in United Nations missions to receive the medal.

They were aged 40 and 31 respectively when they received the medal from then Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tony Tan.

The award is given to those who are courageous in hazardous circumstances, and was given out for the first time in July 1997.

LTC Lo was the first Singapore officer appointed as Military Adviser to the United Nations Special mission in Afghanistan (UNSMA).

Civil war broke out in Afghanistan in the early 1990s, and up to five factions were fighting for control of the country's 32 provinces. The mission was set up to help lay the groundwork for peace in the war-torn country.

LTC Lo had fierce exchanges of rocket and artillery fire on many occasions during his meetings with local commanders. Days after the commando officer evacuated several UN staff from a remote village, a faction there announced that it wanted his head.

He hid in a bunker for more than two weeks, with constant artillery shelling and bombing over his head, until he got out in a helicopter carrying supplies. He is now retired from SAF as a Colonel.

Capt Kok, then an insurance agent, had volunteered to be a military observer at the demilitarised zone between Iraq and Kuwait, as part of the United Nations Iraq-Kuwait Observer Mission.

On Nov 20, 1997, the base came under fire. As 150 rounds pelted at the camp, he heard a cry for help and realised that his colleague was shot. When the firing paused for a while, he went to help the colleague, disregarding his own safety.

He applied pressure to the wound to stop the bleeding and bound the wound. He then stayed with his colleague to keep him calm until the medical team arrived half an hour later.

LTC Lo also received the SAF Overseas Service Medal, with bronze, for participating in the overseas mission under hostile conditions. Capt Kok and his seven team members received the SAF Overseas Service medal for participating in the overseas mission.