Air Force engineer and family of four kids carve out new home in Mountain Home, Idaho

Military Expert 2 Lee Ban Chin and his wife Angelia Giam have lived on the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho for the past two years. They have four children: (from right) Clemens, 14, Fayth, three, Damir, 12, and Eytan, five.
Military Expert 2 Lee Ban Chin and his wife Angelia Giam have lived on the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho for the past two years. They have four children: (from right) Clemens, 14, Fayth, three, Damir, 12, and Eytan, five.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

MOUNTAIN HOME - As an air force engineer at the Peace Carvin V training detachment in the United States, Military Expert 2 (ME2) Lee Ban Chin is kept busy not just with his professional duties, but also in managing his four children.

ME2 Lee and wife Angelia Giam have lived on the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho for the past two years.

The couple, who have been married for 15 years, have four children, all Singapore citizens: Clemens, 14; Damir, 12; Eytan, five; and Fayth, three.

Three of the children attend school in Mountain Home while Eytan goes to school on the base itself.

Their parents are concerned about whether their children can reintegrate back into Singapore schools when ME2 Lee's posting ends this year so they have been preparing them for the School Placement Exercise for Returning Singaporeans (Spers).

"When my eldest son was preparing for his Secondary 2 Spers, I saw him struggle a lot," said Ms Giam.

"Because he doesn't have our Singapore primary school foundation - his foundation is not that strong. For him to skip Primary 6 and then study for the Secondary 2 exam, I saw him struggle."

The family now use online tutoring and printed out papers to replicate the Singapore exam system when Clemens was preparing for tests earlier this year.

The family spoke with reporters ahead of the permanent training detachment's 10th anniversary celebrations at the Idaho base on Thursday (Oct 10).

The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) PC V detachment, inaugurated in 2009, trains pilots, weapon systems officers and air force engineers to operate the F-15SG fighter jets alongside US Air Force counterparts.

 

A typical stint overseas for these RSAF airmen lasts two to three years.

Ms Giam, 36, a former executive administrator with DBS, said the family creates a home away from Singapore. "We replicate a lot of dishes from home. And when you look after the kids, it's still the Asian-mum style - a little bit more restrictive."

"My son would come back and ask, 'Mum, my American friends, their mums don't have a curfew, they get to take their phones all day long, why can't we do the same?'"

Ms Giam added that she had no hesitation in following her 37-year-old husband to Mountain Home. "I always believe that as a family, we should always be together, so I knew it was a choice I wanted to make from the very beginning."

A typical weekend consists of going to the neighbouring city of Boise, about an hour's drive away, for grocery shopping and activities with the children, including going to the playground and visiting a pumpkin farm for Halloween.

There is also strong community support among the 375 or so RSAF personnel deployed at PC V and their families, with regular potluck sessions at different homes.

Ms Giam said: "When I first came, I already had a colleague's wife asking me, 'If you need something, you just buy it online and send it to our house'.

"So the very first day when we arrived at the base, we already have everything all prepared for us - food, utensils, everything. You name it, we have it."

The family will miss the friends they have made - and the cool weather, which can range from 2 to 22 deg C in October - when they return to home.

ME2 Lee said: "For my family and my kids, they got to know new friends. I'll miss this and the weather when we go back to Singapore."