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LTC John Nehemiah Samuel had always wanted to join the Public Service.

When the friends and school seniors whom he looked up to joined the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), he decided to follow in their footsteps. In 2005, he applied for The SAF Scholarship after graduating from junior college.

On the scholarship, he pursued a three-year Bachelor of Arts in Politics, Philosophy & Economics (PPE) at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

This was followed by a Master of Science in Middle East Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

The SAF also had a structured programme for scholars during their summer vacations each year.

They served Vacation Attachments with various SAF units that were bracketed by programmes run by the SAF Centre for Leadership Development.

During his 12 years of military service, LTC Samuel has risen through the ranks to become the Commanding Officer (CO) of 119 Squadron in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).

As the CO, he is responsible for missions and maintaining a high standard of professionalism, discipline and administration in the squadron.

His team consists of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) pilots, Air Imagery Experts and Engineers who operate the Heron 1 UAV — the latest addition to the RSAF’s UAV fleet.

“We are the ‘Eyes of the SAF’. The RSAF’s drones can be deployed to provide information for both conventional and counter-terrorism operations,” he says.

119 Squadron provides vital situational awareness for commanders on ground and work together with fighters and attack helicopters to conduct precision strikes with the UAV’s on-board targeting lasers.

Wide exposure
SAF officers are regularly rotated between command, staff and instructional appointments — one of the most meaningful aspects of the military career, says LTC Samuel.

Officers formulate policies and plans that strengthen the SAF for the long term, as well as execute plans and manage the short-term issues.

He says: “The military career therefore spans all the way from policy to execution. This helps us build a sense of ground reality and practicality into our plans.

“It also reminds me that leadership is not just about having the most brilliant plan, but also being able to convince and lead people in pursuit of shared goals.”

From 2012 to 2014, LTC Samuel held the appointment of Staff Assistant to the Chief of Air Force.

Working closely with the Chief of Air Force gave him much exposure into what it takes to defend Singapore’s skies, while at the same time preparing the RSAF to meet the
challenges of the future.

“I got to know many people from every part of the RSAF and it was really heart-warming to see how our SAF servicemen take extraordinary pride and ownership in their jobs to defend our nation,” he adds.

In all, he is grateful for the opportunities that the SAF has given him, including the exposure both within the organisation and across the wider Public Service.

He says: “The SAF has a noble mission and it is really an organisation that believes in developing its people. I hope to pay it forward to the people I lead.”