Growing up with a younger brother with special needs has made Captain (CPT) Aaron Koh more sensitive towards the needs of the disadvantaged and imbued in him the importance of service and sacrifice. As the social and relations committee chairperson in his junior college student council, he embarked on several service-learning projects involving the intellectually disabled and lower-income segments of society.
“These experiences made me realise that I want to dedicate my life’s purpose to serving those around me,” says the 26-year-old Naval Officer.
Leap of faith
After his A levels, CPT Koh decided to continue serving the community by joining SAF as he “saw no higher calling than committing to the defence of our country.”
Within the SAF, the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) stood out for him. The tight-knitted family spirit he experienced during his visit to the RSN as a student, and the RSN’s role in expanding Singapore’s diplomatic and policy space inspired him to take the leap of faith. “I knew that the Navy plays a strategically critical role in ensuring the continued prosperity of our maritime nation and I wanted to be at the forefront in safeguarding this,” he shares.
He was awarded the President’s Scholarship as well as the SAF Scholarship, and went on to pursue a double degree in Economics and Political Science at Wharton School and College of Arts and Sciences at University of Pennsylvania in the United States.
Myriad of opportunities
Since his return from studies, CPT Koh has been involved in several memorable deployments and operations. However, the one that left the deepest impression on him was taking part in Singapore’s first International Maritime Review (IMR) in 2017, where he was the lead planner for three group sails involving 24 ships from 18 countries.
“I felt proud that a small navy like ours could organise such a large-scale exercise. It reifies the strategic role the Navy plays — forging friendships with countries all over the world as the diplomatic arm of the nation,” he says.
Last year, CPT Koh was also selected for the International Principal Warfare Course conducted by the Royal Navy in the United Kingdom, and graduated with Distinction as the top student.
During the course, he had the opportunity to interact and learn from officers from diverse backgrounds, such as Chile, Egypt, Germany, Greece, Malaysia and Pakistan.
Paying it forward
As the Operations Officer of RSS Supreme, one of six Formidable-class frigates, CPT Koh endeavours to command a warship in the service of Singapore one day.
“Command is a huge privilege but also a big responsibility. I hope to build on the good work of our predecessors, and continue to be a steward of our Navy’s future,” he says.
“Keeping the sea lines of communication free and open is key to Singapore’s continued prosperity. To be part of the maritime force fulfilling this critical mission gives me an immense sense of satisfaction.”