First female senior officer to vie for a place

Lieutenant Gan Chea Hui in action during the SCDF's Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team selection this month.
Lieutenant Gan Chea Hui in action during the SCDF's Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team selection this month.PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF
Lieutenant Gan Chea Hui (in a yellow firefighting suit), is the first female senior officer to attempt the Dart selection.
Lieutenant Gan Chea Hui (in a yellow firefighting suit), is the first female senior officer to attempt the Dart selection. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF

In a squad of 15 Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) personnel, Lieutenant Gan Chea Hui was easy to spot.

She was the only one dressed in a yellow suit for firefighting. Only senior officers wear yellow, while junior officers wear black.

Lt Gan, 30, who is from the Civil Defence Academy, became the first female senior officer to attempt the Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Dart) selection on Feb 13.

In 2009, an emergency response specialist became the first female candidate to try to get into Dart. She did not manage to pass.

While Lt Gan did not complete the punishing process, she bravely endured 27 hours in the selection. The first officer in her cohort who quit did so after seven hours.

For most candidates, it takes mental courage and at least a year of physical training and conditioning to be ready for Dart selection, where typically half the candidates quit. As a result, the pool of Dart officers is small.

There are about 70 Dart officers in the unit and they are called upon to handle dangerous and complex rescue operations, such as those involving gondolas as well as overseas earthquakes.


Candidates go through almost 30 hours of endurance, tests, fitness and rescue challenges during the SCDF Dart selection. Lieutenant Gan Chea Hui (tag number 15) is fourth from the left in the foreground. ST PHOTO: ZAIHAN MOHAMED YUSOF   

In the recent selection, the other candidates, with an average age of 30, were fire and rescue section commanders or emergency medical technicians/fire bikers from several fire stations.

Staff Sergeant Kamarul, 27, who goes by one name and who passed the recent Dart selection, told The Sunday Times: "When I got home, the first thing I did was to hug my parents and wife. After a light meal, I immediately fell asleep and I woke up only at about 1pm the next day."

Some candidates shared their strategy of surviving "one test at a time". In general, failing a first attempt seldom discourages a candidate as the hunger to be part of a small band of elite rescuers is great.

Said a Dart officer after a candidate rang the infamous bell that signalled he was quitting: "I know he will be back. I passed my selection only on my second attempt."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 25, 2018, with the headline 'First female senior officer to vie for a place'. Print Edition | Subscribe