Driven By Transformation

Joining the Army was a leap of faith for ME4 Sebastian Tan. What he discovered was a meaningful career rooted in purpose and engineering expertise, and one that challenges him on a daily basis.

What was your initial impression and/or understanding of a MINDEF/SAF career? What got you to join?

My initial perception of a career in the Army was one influenced by the stories of my seniors, as well as my own experiences when I was in the National Police Cadet Corps (NPCC). I envisioned it to be challenging, where one would require strong willpower, resilience and discipline to excel through months of physically and mentally demanding courses, before assuming a leadership role in the SAF. I expected it to be dynamic and anything but regular, due to the diverse operations that the Army supports using the multitude of platforms and capabilities it possesses.

Apart from liking the challenge and the dynamism, what ultimately motivated me to join was the profound sense of purpose and meaning embedded in the job. During my enlistment into National Service (NS), I learnt that safeguarding our nation is a responsibility we cannot take lightly. The peace and prosperity that we enjoy daily are indebted to the service and sacrifices of our fellow countrymen and regulars in the Army. I was inspired and felt compelled to do my part to contribute to this noble cause.

Ultimately, I chose to pursue a career as an Army Engineer as it aligned with my aspirations to work in an engineering-centric environment while having the opportunity to employ and grow deep expertise in a wide range of military-related engineering domains.

Tell us more about your current role, day-to-day responsibilities and challenges.

I am currently a Lead Engineer in HQ Maintenance and Engineering Support (MES) Formation, under the Ordnance Support and Engineering Group (OSEG).

I am responsible for ensuring the operational readiness of our Army’s Preserved Fleet, and working to constantly improve its effectiveness and resilience. I am employing my engineering knowledge to deliver cost-effective vehicle preservation systems for our Army’s fleet, which includes a vast array of platforms, from common wheeled platforms like our 5Ton trucks, to more sophisticated fighting platforms like our Leopard tanks. Being under OSEG, I also have the opportunity to work with the Ordnance Supply Chain Centre on projects and initiatives that aim to digitalise and transform our current Ordnance Supply Chain processes.

The scale, criticality, and diversity of my work make it challenging; Our Army’s Preserved Fleet consists of many platforms and is constantly involved in a wide range of operations (e.g. peacetime training, overseas exercises, etc.). Hence, deliberate up-front planning is essential in ensuring mission success. Furthermore, there is a constant need to adapt to the multitude of diverse and unpredictable conditions, and to make critical decisions in high-pressure situations.

Despite the challenges inherent to my role, I find it particularly rewarding. Knowing that my responsibilities have a significant impact on SAF’s operations add a profound sense of purpose. Furthermore, the continuous learning opportunities contribute to the fulfilment I derive from my work.

How is the MINDEF/SAF career a rewarding one?

A career as an Army Engineer has provided me with ample opportunities for personal and professional growth. Informal coaching sessions with seasoned colleagues coupled with structured courses and mentorship programmes have enriched my quality of thinking and skill sets. The dynamic nature of my work has also fostered a more resilient mindset, while the emphasis on leadership and teamwork has strengthened my core values. Overall, these valuable experiences have transformed me into a more mature and adaptable individual.

Moreover, the robust and positive support systems within the Army have offered me a conducive environment for growth and positive character development. It also reassures me that I can always find reliable help through tough times in both my career and personal life. These are instrumental in shaping not just my career, but also my well-being in general.

Transcend limits. How have you experienced this taking place in MINDEF/SAF, be it in personal and professional development, and/or as an organisation?

In my MES Formation, we are constantly challenged to never accept things as they are, and to improve our day-to-day workings. Personally, I have the opportunity to transform our Army’s Ordnance Supply Chain where we tap on the wonders of the 4th IR technologies such as unmanned systems to eliminate or reduce the need for mundane, repetitive, and laborious tasks, and data analytics to help make more data-driven decisions. This increases work productivity and enhances the experience of our soldiers. I am also inspired by my fellow Army engineers who, together with DSTA and ST Engineering, conceptualised and deployed the Mobile Swab Stations to conduct swab tests on-site in a safe environment for over 300,000 dormitory residents in just three weeks.

What have you learnt from your MINDEF/SAF career?

The decision to join the Army was initially daunting, clouded by uncertainties about myself. Nevertheless, I embraced the challenge, wholeheartedly committing to the decision, and today, I am grateful to have grown and be recognised for my contributions.

This journey has underscored the paramount importance of taking the leap of faith to make bold decisions at critical junctions. Such decisions, when grounded in authenticity and values, and coupled with unwavering commitment and determination, will not only open up meaningful paths but also transform one’s life altogether.

2017 SAF Engineering Scholarship Recipient
Bachelor of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering, National University of Singapore
Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering, National University of Singapore
Now: Lead Engineer, HQ Maintenance and Engineering Support