Former NCC cadet with interest in military intel receives prestigious SAF Scholarship

ME4T Elizabeth Chen Jing Wen receiving the SAF Scholarship award from Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on July 29, 2022. PHOTO: NG ENG HEN/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE- As a member of the National Cadet Corps at Raffles Institution, Ms Elizabeth Chen Jing Wen enjoyed activities such as foot drills, learning field signals and military operations in urban areas.

Her experience in the youth uniformed group gave the 19-year-old confidence to sign on and set a target of playing a part in the country's defence with the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

On Friday (July 29), Military Expert 4 (Trainee) Chen became the first recipient of the prestigious SAF Scholarship from a C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) background.

She was one of six recipients of the scholarship at this year's Defence Scholarship Awards ceremony held at the Istana.

The C4I community was inaugurated in 2012 to enhance the resilience of the SAF's networks and systems. Previous scholarship recipients have been from the army, navy or air force.

ME4T Chen, who will be heading to the University of Oxford to study law (jurisprudence), said she had always wanted to pursue a career in the public sector.

"I wanted to give back to the community and I don't think there's anything more meaningful than safeguarding our country's defences," she told reporters at the Istana, adding that she is particularly drawn to military intelligence.

A new branch of the military called the Digital and Intelligence Service - to be set up by the year end - will bring together cyber and C4I units under one service.

Formerly called the SAF Overseas Scholarship, the SAF Scholarship has been awarded to 358 people to date, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean and Education Minister Chan Chun Sing.

On Friday, 93 awards were handed out, including four Public Service Commission Scholarships (Engineering) - Defence and Security, 19 SAF Merit Scholarships and six SAF Engineering Scholarships.

The recipients came from 22 junior colleges and polytechnics - the highest number of institutions to date.

Scholarship recipients (from left) Pothakamuri Tulsi Kiran, Michael Eugene Ng Zeming, Elizabeth Chen Jing Wen, David Ethan Ng Zewei, G. Solai Valli and Florian Kuhan Ableitner. PHOTO: MINDEF

Speaking at the ceremony, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the scholarship recipients share the same responsibility of protecting the sovereignty and security of Singapore.

Images of war from Russia's invasion of Ukraine show that "prolonged peace, stability and progress are not a given", he noted.

More contestation is expected in Europe and the United States-China rivalry will sharpen in Asia, said Dr Ng, who sounded a similar caution in his SAF Day message earlier this month.

"With goodwill and cooperation on the decline, existing transnational challenges such as climate change, terrorism and supply disruptions of essential goods are unlikely to get the attention they need," he added.

Defence scholars will need to pursue diverse fields to train their minds and aptitude, he said.

This is needed not only to make sure the SAF's military platforms see farther and shoot faster and more precise, but also to deal with cyber threats and misinformation campaigns that can sow disunity, added Dr Ng.

Military Expert 4 (Apprentice) Florian Kuhan Ableitner, who completed his diploma in aeronautical engineering at Singapore Polytechnic, was awarded the SAF Merit Scholarship.

The 23-year-old said: "Diversity allows for there to be people with different opinions to come together and for new ideas to form, especially those from perhaps the polytechnic background.

"It's important to recognise everyone, not just based on their academic background, but also as an individual and why they want to serve."

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