SINGAPORE - For many recreational skydivers, free falling through the air is a breathtaking experience that gives them a bird’s-eye view of the world.
For Singapore’s Red Lions, it involves a more serious business.
The crowd favourites at the annual National Day Parade (NDP) not only do their best to get oohs and ahs from the audience but also want to inspire in them a sense of patriotism.
“We don’t really have time to do any sightseeing, as we have to take many things into consideration once we jump out of the aircraft.
“We have to go through drills, consider many ‘what-if’ scenarios, and think of solutions while in the air,” said Third Warrant Officer Sim Chee Jin, 39, who will be doing his first NDP jump with the Red Lions this year.
3WO Sim was speaking to the media during an interview ahead of the first National Education (NE) show today (July 2).
The nine-member Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Parachute Team - also known as the Red Lions - will be making a comeback, after a two-year break, at this year’s NDP, held at the Marina Bay floating platform.
Last year (2016), the Red Lions could not parachute down from the National Stadium due to safety reasons. And during the SG50 celebration at the Padang in 2015, the jump had to be called off because of poor weather.
First Warrant Officer Ng Chin Hun, 44, is this year’s Red Lions team leader. He was also the head of the team in 2015. He said: “I am excited about getting to do a jump because for the past two years, there were no Red Lions at the National Day Parade. Hopefully, this year, we’ll have good weather... for us to jump and land perfectly on the platform and make Singaporeans proud.”
One key member of the Red Lions team is the cameraman, and this year, the duty falls on Second Warrant Officer Melvin Ho, 44.
This year will be the seventh time 2WO Ho is joining the Red Lions at the NDP jump. He has completed more than 1,300 jumps in his career.
2WO Ho will perform the drills with the rest of the team but he has the added responsibility of taking photographs and video footage during the jump. These will be later used in promotional material.
2WO Ho wears a helmet that weighs about 3kg, which is mounted with a DSLR camera and camcorder. To capture images, he bites on a mouthpiece and uses his tongue to trigger a button.
It is a key role but often out of the spotlight as he does not form the ring with the rest of the team. His uniform is also different. Instead of the red and blue uniform, the cameraman’s flight suit is black.
Said 2WO Ho: “I’m the man behind the show. But it’s an important job because without the footage, there’s no show.”