Following in granddad and dad's footsteps

Former chief of defence force Winston Choo hugging grandson Daniel Choo at the commissioning parade yesterday, while son Warren Choo looks on. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO
Former chief of defence force Winston Choo hugging grandson Daniel Choo at the commissioning parade yesterday, while son Warren Choo looks on. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Military life is in the DNA of this three-generation family. From the time he was a toddler riding on his grandfather Winston Choo's shoulders at the army open house, Second-Lieutenant (2LT) Daniel Choo, 19, knew he wanted to be an officer.

Although the 78-year-old retired general used to command the entire defence force, his grandson wanted to go through national service under his own steam.

"I did not want who my grandfather was to affect how people saw me or how my superiors treated me," he said.

2LT Choo's father, Mr Warren Choo, 49, was also an officer in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). He is now an assistant general manager at import-export firm Tridex.

2LT Choo was one of 418 officer cadets who received their commissions as SAF officers yesterday in a parade at the Singapore Armed Forces Military Institute (Safti).

The eldest grandson in the family, with an older and younger sister, 2LT Choo said growing up, he never fully understood the role his grandfather played. "It was kind of just, oh yeah, I get free passes to the army open house to check out all the cool equipment and gear."

Few of his peers in basic military training knew of the connection until the retired general, who is now Singapore's ambassador to Israel, went to Safti on a family day visit.

Mr Winston Choo said he looked forward to his grandson's visits every week. "It's like living my life again. I listen to him and try to relate to him some of my experiences I had as a cadet nearly 60 years ago," he said.

The ambassador rose to the top of the Singapore Armed Forces in 1974 as Chief of the General Staff and later served as Singapore's first Chief of Defence Force from 1990 to 1992 when the title was renamed. Mr Choo, who retired in 1992, said he did not place any aspirations on his son or grandson to be officers.

 
 
 

He and his wife Katherine Seow also have a daughter, Karina.

President Halimah Yacob, in a speech to the cadets at the commissioning parade, said that the harsh realities of geopolitics mean that small states like Singapore "have no intrinsic relevance to the rest of the world and limited influence on our own - we cannot unilaterally determine the global agenda".

"As a small state, we have to take the world as it is, and not as we wish it to be," she added.

The choice is "even more stark" when strategic competition between large powers intensifies, because "the manoeuvring space for small states like Singapore will correspondingly be reduced".

Singapore will have to preserve its policy space as much as possible, by "forging mutually beneficial agreements with partners and friends, and by advocating for an inclusive and rules-based international order", she said.

She added that the SAF will need to continue to adapt to combat threats in the areas of cyberspace, terrorism and climate change.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2019, with the headline 'Following in granddad and dad's footsteps'. Print Edition | Subscribe