Eleven years ago, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Siswi Herlini, 33, took a leap of faith when she decided to join the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) as a Naval Officer.
The Victoria Junior College student says: “I wanted to do something different, something that was bigger than myself.” A career talk by the Navy led her to that decision. “I sensed such a deep family bonding among the Navy personnel who were there to engage us. There and then, I knew I wanted to be part of this Navy family,” she says.
She was awarded the SAF Merit Scholarship in 2003 and went on to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Master of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, graduating in 2007.
LTC Herlini has no shortage of stories to tell, from participating in exercises with the Army and Air Force in the seas of Australia, sail- ing with regional navies, bringing doctors and medical supplies to less privileged communities in our neighbouring countries, to being deployed to the Gulf of Aden for counter-piracy operations.
Of these, the experiences she treasures the most were those closer to home, while she was at the frontline of Singapore’s maritime defence as Commanding Officer of RSS Resilience, a Fearless-class patrol vessel.
“The patrol vessels work tirelessly to defend Singapore’s waters round the clock. You would have read the news about Pedra Branca. We are deployed there to stand our ground and enforce Singapore's sovereignty. You might also remember back in 2016 when militant in Batam plotted a rocket attack on Marina Bay Sands - thankfully that plot was foiled," she says.She highlights the quiet sacrifices that her crew made during periods of high tension. "They were concerned about being away from families and loved ones, but I did not habve to do much explaining. The crew was professional and committed to the mission that had been entrusted to us. I am very proud to serve alongside them.”
Transforming the future of the Navy
Today, LTC Herlini is contributing to the maritime defence of Singapore in a different capacity. She ishe Head of the RSN Strategy Office and together with her team, she is responsible for the transformation effort to ensure the RSN is future-ready.
She takes pride in her current role as she is acutely aware of the importance of keeping the RSN relevant and ready to deal with the future maritime challenges. "Many Singaporeans, including myself, have grown up in a time of peace but we must guard against complacency. The threats that we face today are real- maritime terrorism, challenges to our sovereignty, threats to our economic lifelines. Living on land, it is easy for us to forget that Singapore is an island surrounded by waters - a maritime nation."
Contribution beyond self
In particular, she highlights the daily relevance of the RSN to Singapore. “We obtain most of our resources through shipping, from basic needs like food and milk powder for my three-year old son, to lifestyle products like smartphones that we all cannot live without.” "We don’t feel it, but the seas are being more and more contested. If we are not strong and cannot stand up for our rights, our free access to sea trade routes risks being cut off. Being defenders of the sea, I feel that the impact our our work goes beyond what is seen by the public,” she adds.
Joining the Navy is more than just a career, she says.
“It’s a profession; perhaps even a calling. The journey will not be easy, but we remain motivated because of the conviction that we are part of something that is larger than ourselves.