Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Katrina Pang’s leap of faith to join the Singapore Army has since propelled her into the role of Commanding Officer (CO) of the 35th Battalion, Singapore Combat Engineers (SCE). Here, the SAF Scholar finds joy and purpose in creating meaningful experiences for her colleagues and those under her wing.
Did You Originally Plan On Having a Career in the MINDEF/SAF?
The idea of pursuing a career in MINDEF/SAF never crossed my mind until I visited a scholarship exhibition where I was in Junior College. Back then, all I wanted was an opportunity to pursue tertiary education overseas, because I wanted to enjoy learning in a different environment. At the scholarship exhibition, a scholarship with MINDEF/SAF caught my eye at the exhibition. While I was not aware of what the work fully entailed, I thought that serving the nation was something meaningful that I could commit myself to in the near term. Also, it was a job that I figured would keep me on my toes in terms of physical fitness and health.
Tell Us More About Your Current Role, Day-to-Day Responsibilities and Challenges.
I currently serve as CO of 35 SCE. We are also otherwise known as the Bridging Engineers because we help the Army to move its equipment and forces across water obstacles. In general, I am responsible for my unit’s training standards, safety, morale and discipline.
I participate in various activities each day, ranging from physical training to chairing and attending meetings in various domains such as manpower, logistics, and capability development. I am responsible for conducting lectures, and the approval of training plans and other battalion events. As CO, I also visit and engage my soldiers in training or operations. Training during this COVID-19 pandemic can be challenging, so I have started to film video messages to better reach out and connect with their family members.
I face many challenges as a CO, as I need to ensure that those under my charge are able to train rigorously and safely. I need to keep learning and improving myself every day as the battalion and I undertake new and unfamiliar tasks, and this requires a lot of commitment and sometimes sacrifices. However, I am thankful for a command team that supports one another and is aligned in how much we care for our soldiers and what we can do to get through any challenge we may face.
How Has a Career in MINDEF/SAF Changed Your Life And/or Thinking?
I took a leap into the unknown when I first joined the Singapore Army. I did not start out being the most confident, eloquent or adaptable soldier, but I have seen myself improve progressively. My journey thus far has taught me very valuable personal lessons and further strengthened my convictions for my career choice.
I find the work that we do in the Army inherently meaningful because we defend Singapore’s peace and prosperity. To me, it is its own reward. I have learnt to define my own success and believe in celebrating even the little successes.
How Is the MINDEF/SAF Career a Rewarding One?
It is rewarding to be given opportunities to positively influence the lives of the next generation – those who come to serve their full-time National Service (NS), and to be able to create something bigger than myself.
I hope that I have inspired the NSFs under my charge (past and present) and given them a positive experience and greater reason to commit to serving NS. I hope that I have also created an environment where Regulars feel supported and are able to enjoy their work and do it well.
What Is the Most Memorable Moment in Your Career?
One of the most memorable moments for me was in 2019 when I was the Battalion Operations and Training Officer of 35 SCE. We were celebrating our unit’s Golden Jubilee and I helped coordinate the various activities leading up to the final celebration. I was most proud of how we had set up our own heritage display of legacy bridging equipment, and invited past COs and Regimental Sergeant Majors of 35 SCE to launch the display at our unit’s parade square. I was also extremely proud of how we did a never-before-seen Parade on Water with our own Bridging Equipment, where I had the privilege of being the Parade Commander.
What Keeps You Motivated at Work?
Hearing stories of my servicemen who go the extra mile in their service reminds me to keep going at work. I am always appreciative of anyone who gives more than what is expected of them.
It can be in the way they overcame physical challenges to do well in their IPPT, in the way they demonstrated exemplary leadership, or in the way they proactively came up with creative or innovative efforts to improve our current processes because it shows their ownership over their work. Sometimes, seeing that they carry themselves well in front of external audiences, or seeing them care for their buddies when times are difficult, keeps me very motivated.
What Makes a Good, Effective Leader?
I think a good leader is someone who has taken time to align what he or she believes in and what he or she wants to create. When that person is aware of his or her limits and weaknesses, he or she is better positioned to work in a team towards a collective outcome. To be a good, effective leader, one should also be others-centred and able to adapt well to different situations quickly.
What Do You Aim To Achieve as an SAF Officer for the Nation?
I hope to grow in others an appreciation for what we have in Singapore, and a commitment to continue building on what our predecessors have done. The reasons for serving become clear when you understand why Singapore is able to enjoy the peace and prosperity it has today, and also when you know what kind of future you aspire for Singapore.
What’s Your Advice To Aspiring Scholars Who Wish To Embark on a Military Career?
It is okay not to know fully what you are getting yourself into at the start. Sometimes you find that meaning along the way or you learn to love what you put your heart into.
But if you are clear you would like to contribute to Singapore’s defence, join us. You will find yourself growing and learning in ways you would not have imagined at the beginning.
LTC KATRINA PANG
Commanding Officer 35th Battalion, Singapore Combat Engineers, Singapore Army
Recipient of The SAF Merit Scholarship, 2008
Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts and Sciences Major in Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Master in Human Resource and Industrial Relations, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign