Colonel (COL) Lau Boon Ping grew up enthralled by war stories of World War II, the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm. Along the way, he also developed a passion for flying.
To the 37-year-old, defence is paramount for the protection of his fellow countrymen and the nation’s sovereignty. Growing up, his parents constantly reminded him that because- of Singapore, his family has a comfortable life and opportunities for advancement.
After his ‘A’ levels, COL Lau signed on with Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) to be a pilot, embarking on a career that would allow him to contribute to nation building. With the SAF Scholarship, he completed both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering at Cornell University and Stanford University respectively
A dynamic career
COL Lau was trained as a helicopter pilot and flew the Super Puma in 126 Squadron, taking part in search and rescue operations.He says: “The adrenaline rush of being activated for rescue duties is real. We knew the importance of our mission and every life saved reminded us of it.”
COL Lau also worked on sensor and weapon acquisition for fighter jets in 2008. He also had a short stint seconded to the civil service as the Assistant Director in the Land Transport Division of the Ministry of Transport in 2009, where he dealt with land, planning, road and bus policies.
In 2014, after a tour as Commanding Officer in 126 Squadron, he helmed the manpower policy department in the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), formulating human resource policies for MINDEF and the SAF.
Last year, COL Lau took over as the Commander of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Command in the RSAF. In his current role, he oversees UAV operations and plays a key role in shaping the way SAF deploys these systems. He says: “I have the unique opportunity to influence the development of UAVs, which is one of the key areas of development in the defence industry today. They play an important role in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.”
COL Lau learnt how big this impact was when he helped oversee the work of the team that planned and prepared for a potential deployment to southern Philippines after Singapore decided to offer UAV support to them as part of the larger anti-ISIS effort last year.
As part of the development opportunities in the SAF, COL Lau was sent for various courses. For instance, he attended the Command and Staff College in the United States in 2011 for a year, training alongside and pitting himself against the best US Air Force and other international officers there. He eventually clinched the Commandant’s Academic Award.
Last year, he was awarded a postgraduate scholarship by MINDEF to pursue an MBA at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management under the Sloan Fellows Program. The course allowed him to broaden his perspectives and upgrade his management skills, which he applies to his role in the SAF.
For those considering a military career with MINDEF/SAF, COL Lau recommends looking beyond the immediate vocational skills or trade and consider what the SAF is fundamentally about — defence of the nation, people, and leadership.
He elaborates: “Everyone plays a part in protecting their homes. As you progress, you will also be honing your leadership abilities, leading the men and women of MINDEF/SAF to fulfil this sacred role, and exercise the art of command at different levels. Are you ready to take on this challenge, and inspire people to be the best they can be to serve in the defence of Singapore?”