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Not every hero wears a cape

For Military Expert 5 (ME5) Kok Khew Fai, 30, his experience during his full-time National Service (NS) motivated him to join the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

In 2007, as a Platoon Commander in Basic Military Training Centre, one of his trainees accidentally released a grenade too early during a live throw.

As the grenade landed behind them, ME5 Kok instinctively pushed his trainee down and shielded him from the grenade blast. His actions earned him the SAF Medal for Distinguished Act.

“I enjoyed the strong sense of camaraderie in the SAF — going through challenges with my peers and helping one another. I am also inspired by the officers whose professionalism and leadership helped to bring out the best in me,” he says.

Safe flights, safe skies
A love for aviation and his interest in mathematics and physics spurred him to join the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) as an Air Force Engineer.

With the SAF Engineering Scholarship, he went on to pursue a Master of Engineering in Aeronautical Engineering from Imperial College London in the United Kingdom.

Upon his return from studies, he was offered plenty of opportunities to interact and work with colleagues from different parts of the SAF.

“This broadened my horizons to understand strategic challenges that Singapore and the SAF face,” he says.

He has served in various appointments including a staff role in RSAF Headquarters where he was involved in the long-term strategic planning for the Air Force’s engineering capabilities.

He was also the Officer-In-Charge in a squadron, where he led a team to maintain the F-16 fighter aircraft’s propulsion system.

Now, ME5 Kok is the Officer Commanding of the Integrated Maintenance Flight in his squadron, responsible for the servicing and maintenance of the F-16 aircraft to meet the Air Force’s operational and training requirements.

“It is a role where we are constantly challenged to solve engineering problems, to prioritise and reallocate resources in a timely manner to ensure that the aircraft is safe to fly,” he says.

There were times he had doubts when the tasks were daunting. But he found strength in his team, knowing that they always had one
another’s backs and that he would not face his challenges alone.

He says the most important aspect of his job is the people.

“People are at the heart of the organisation. Once you take good care of them and ensure they are well-trained, competent and committed, they will take care of the mission,” he adds.

In his view, this focus on leading and developing the people under his charge is what sets the career of an Air Force Engineer apart from other engineering jobs.

For those considering a career with the SAF, he advises: “If you are looking for an enriching, challenging career in a dynamic environment, for a higher purpose like protecting your loved ones, then you should consider joining the SAF.”