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Defender of the deep

University can be a transformative period in one’s life.

CPT Thia Shan Zhi, 25, feels that he grew and matured, both as a person and a military professional, while pursuing a four-year Bachelor of Arts in History at Tufts University in Massachusetts, in the United States.

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) scholar says: “My scholarship gave me opportunities to broaden my horizons. For example, I could take classes that interested me, as well as go on research trips abroad.”

During his university vacations, CPT Thia was attached to various units in the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) to experience life on board ships as well as in shore units.

This enabled him to experience how different parts of the Navy come together to contribute towards the defence of Singapore.

Learning the ropes

Currently an officer in the submarine squadron (171 Squadron) after returning from his overseas studies, CPT Thia remains open to learning new skills.

After completing his initial submariner qualification course, he is now undergoing training to be qualified as an Assistant Operations Officer. The role involves navigating the submarine safely, diving and surfacing it, and leading the crew to achieve mission success.

“The RSN puts a lot of effort into training every individual, with the desired outcome of transforming them into committed, competent and confident submariners.

“I can see that change in myself,” he says.

In just two years, one of his career highlights include becoming a qualified Officer-of-the-Watch (OOW) to bring the patrol vessel safely home to Singapore.

While the experience of keeping his first watch was nervewracking, CPT Thia felt a great sense of accomplishment.

On another occasion, he was serving as a junior officer on board the missile corvette when the ship was deployed as part of the RSN’s force for that year’s Ex CARAT (Co-operation Afloat Readiness and Training), an annual bilateral exercise with the US Navy.

He witnessed the complexity of joint naval exercises and the professional respect between both navies.

New horizons

The RSN is currently embarking on the next phase of the submarine journey, with the acquisition of four new Type-218SG submarines that will be replacing the existing submarines.

CPT Thia points out that these next-generation submarines will be outfitted with advanced sensor and weapon suites, and a state-of-the-art air-independent propulsion system.

The Type-218SG submarines will enhance Singapore’s underwater force, and continue to protect Singapore’s sea lines of communication.

He adds: “As a maritime nation, we need to ensure that our sea lines of communication are kept safe and open, which in turn keep Singapore connected to the word.”

“The entire RSN does our part to ensure this, with the submarines providing the RSN a strategic capability to achieve any mission it is tasked with.”

CPT Thia looks forward to qualify as a submarine OOW and contribute to the safe and effective operations of the RSN’s submarines.

He says: “I hope to be worthy of the privilege and responsibility of commanding one of our submarines. That, to me, is the most exciting thing anyone can do in the Navy.”