The head of the task force that secured Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas during a maritime border dispute with Malaysia at the end of last year, Colonel Seah Poh Yeen, has been promoted to rear-admiral.
Col Seah, 47, commander of the Maritime Security Task Force (MSTF) set up in 2009, was among personnel from the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) promoted yesterday at a ceremony held at the Mindef auditorium in Bukit Gombak.
They received their promotion certificates from Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong.
This year, those promoted included 470 officers, 89 military experts and 30 warrant officers from Mindef headquarters, the army, navy and air force.
Among them is the Chief of Air Force, Brigadier-General Kelvin Khong, who rose to the rank of major-general.
Their new ranks will take effect on Monday.
Col Seah, who has been in the SAF for about 28 years, said the role in the MSTF is a 24/7 job.
He noted that 2018 was a significant year as many events took place which added to the pressure on his task force members.
"Last year, we had the Trump-Kim Summit, we had the Asean Summit, and in between we continued to conduct operations in the waters around Pedra Branca. The contestations are similar to the ones in the Tuas waters," he said, referring to the maritime border dispute.
Number of officers from Mindef headquarters, the army, navy and air force promoted this year.
Number of military experts promoted this year.
Number of warrant officers promoted this year.
"We also conducted other operations like security for F1 (Formula One race), security for National Day (Parade). If you line them up, you realise every other day we are quite busy. The stress is high, and the challenge is to keep up the morale of the guys, and make sure they are always ready and able to respond, and (they) keep their heads up."
Col Seah said that in handling operations in the Republic's territorial waters off Tuas, there was a need to deploy more resources sometimes in many places at once.
He also said that Singapore's organised response was helped by the fact that the contestations were similar to the Pedra Branca dispute, also with Malaysia, which Singapore has "quite a lot of experience" in.
"Of course, the area is a little bit different so we have to make some adjustments. But otherwise, I would say they are largely the same, short of, of course, ramping up our forces to deal with it, sometimes on multiple fronts at one go," he said.
Col Seah said his promotion is a proxy recognition of the work and efforts of his task force members.
"I think this is more important - to recognise the men," he said.
He shared that when operations were ramped up during the maritime border dispute, many of his officers were raring to take part.
Mindef said the annual promotion exercise is part of efforts to recognise, reward and groom officers, military experts, warrant officers and defence executive officers who have performed well, and demonstrated potential to contribute further to the organisation.
Another officer who was promoted was Major Lynn Lee, a senior force transformation officer in the Joint Plans and Transformation Department, who has been in the service for 14 years.
She was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel.
Maj Lee, 32, who was the first female pilot of the Gulfstream 550 Airborne Early Warning aircraft in the air force, called her promotion "a milestone in my journey as a leader".
"For women who join the SAF, we all have a spirit of adventure. I wanted to take the path less trodden and try out something new and different which would be challenging. The journey so far has proved itself quite right," she added.
Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Fairoz Hassan, 40, who was promoted to colonel, felt that the promotion showed the organisation's faith in him and he felt motivated to contribute even more.
In his current role as commander of the Army Training Evaluation Centre, SLTC Fairoz, who enlisted in 1997, said it was key to shape the mindsets and behaviours of soldiers, so they can achieve the task at hand safely, and also develop as better people.
"I think the fact that I'm being promoted shows that the organisation values my contributions and, for me, it means taking on more responsibilities in the SAF."