Growing up, Colonel (COL) Yong Wei Hsiung did not initially plan on joining the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN).
But all that changed when he was undergoing Basic Military Training as part of his National Service.
Recalling a sleepless night during field camp, COL Yong, 38, says: “I started to ask myself what it meant to be serving National Service, and correspondingly, what it meant to be Singaporean.
“The more I probed, the more I realised how much I was grateful for, how much there was worth defending.
“I remember thinking about my platoon mates and deciding that there would be enough doctors, lawyers, engineers and bankers among them.
“That night, I decided that I would serve my country in uniform.”
Securing the future
Under The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Scholarship (previously known as the SAF Overseas Scholarship), COL Yong pursued Science, Technology and International Affairs at Georgetown University in the United States.
His education — coupled with Master’s degrees in international policy studies and in management from Stanford University — and experience gained from myriad roles he has undertaken enabled him to take on senior leadership roles and chart the future of the RSN.
Previously, as Head of Naval Plans Department, he oversaw the development and delivery of future warfi ghting concepts and capabilities for the RSN.
“You really need to be able to think long-term and build enough future growth potential in our systems to enable the Navy to stay relevant to Singapore’s current and future defence needs,” COL Yong explains.
Today, as Deputy Commander of the Maritime Security Task Force (MSTF), he oversees the RSN’s daily operations to safeguard Singapore’s sovereignty and ensure our waters are safe for the free flow of trade that sustains Singapore’s economy and our way of life.
A career in the SAF is not meant to be a cushy one — you get different roles that will push you out of your comfort zone and help you grow.
“The highlight of my career was when I was the Commanding Officer of RSS Intrepid, one of our stealth frigates.
“The sense of independence and satisfaction commanding 3,000 tons of fighting fury and sailing over the horizon for various missions and exercises with a crew of highly trained young men and women is indescribable,” says COL Yong.
Besides shipboard experiences, he has also previously served in MINDEF’s Defence Policy Office, where he managed defence relations with other countries; and the Naval Operations Department, where he was responsible for the Navy’s day-to-day operations.
He also had the opportunity to be deployed to Iraq, in support of post-war multinational reconstruction efforts.
“It never gets dull as you move through different appointments, managing different aspects of Singapore’s defence needs.
“It can be challenging being always thrown into unfamiliar environments, but I overcame these often steep learning curves by being humble — to always be willing to learn, listen and ask questions,” he says.
More than a job
The peace and security of Singapore can never be taken for granted — a point that COL Yong knows all too well.
He remembers an occasion where Singapore’s maritime rights were being challenged, and his ship had to face off against three foreign warships in the area.
He says: “As a small country, these are the odds we will always face. We must be exceptional every day — so Singaporeans can rely on us and sleep soundly knowing the SAF will always be there for them.”
For him, being part of the SAF is more than a job.
“This is our home. This unique jewel by the sea deserves defending so that Singaporeans from all walks of life can live, not in fear or uncertainty, but in confidence of their place and ability in the world to fulfil their dreams, whatever they may be,” he says.