Serving the greater purpose of public service, Military Expert 5 (ME5) Gerald Goh has grown in myriad ways in his SAF journey. Being a leader calls for him to be a responsible steward of the units and the people he leads – a role he finds both humbling and immensely gratifying. Being able to make a difference to people’s lives inspires him.
What was your initial impression and/or understanding of a MINDEF/SAF career? What got you to join?
I was drawn to the SAF initially because it offered leadership opportunities, a dynamic career, and a strong emphasis on people development. On top of that, I see a public service career as a meaningful one, as my contributions would directly serve the needs of Singapore and Singaporeans.
Tell us more about your current role, day-to-day responsibilities and challenges.
I am currently the Commanding Officer (CO) of 809 Squadron, and am responsible for the operational maintenance of the RSAF’s Island Air Defence systems. The men and women of my squadron play a critical role in ensuring that our Air Defence remains operational at all times. As CO, I lead this group of professionals to accomplish the mission; and work hand-in-hand with my operational counterparts to maintain a sustainable and robust defence posture against any potential air threats.
There are definitely significant logistical and manpower challenges in maintaining 24/7 operations across the entire nation, but there is a clear sense of purpose in knowing that what we do directly contribute to the protection of our skies.
How has a career in MINDEF/SAF changed your life and/or thinking?
Before joining the SAF, I would say I was a typical ‘aspiring scholar’, having performed well in school. As a result, I had a tendency to think I would always be the smartest in the room, and always be right. My leadership journey in the SAF has been a humbling one, and it has taught me that admitting that you lack knowledge or experience in specific areas, or that you were wrong when you made a mistake, can develop you so much more as a person. There will always be opportunities to learn, from the people you lead, from your peers, and from your seniors, and keeping your mind open is paramount to your growth as a leader.
How is the MINDEF/SAF career a rewarding one?
The most rewarding moments for me personally would be instances when I have had the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life, be it personally or professionally. Leadership plays a central role in every MINDEF/SAF career, and with it comes the responsibility of being a responsible steward of the units and the people we lead. Oftentimes, a rewarding moment is not defined by tangible achievements but is defined by moments such as when someone makes a passing remark that they have seen a positive cultural change in the unit you lead, or when someone in your unit fulfils their potential.
What is the most memorable moment in your career?
The most memorable moments in my career would be my involvement in operations such as the Trump-Kim Summit and ASEAN Summit, among others, in 2018. It was an incredibly busy year for us and these operations required us to operate on a 24/7 basis. It was heartening to see everyone close ranks and help each other through the difficult times, especially as we had to sacrifice time with our families. The successes of these operations are the best validation of the unit’s capabilities and cohesion, and I am proud to have played a small part in it.
Transformation and transcending limits – how would you say MINDEF/SAF is transforming or has transformed and how does your role (and the roles of future personnel) play a part in it?
I would say the most apparent transformation I have experienced in MINDEF/SAF, beyond the capabilities, structural changes and people development, would be the innovation drive across the SAF. I can sense a genuine shift in the innovative culture, and this has manifested in many outstanding projects that have improved the operational capabilities or administrative efficiencies in the force. The leadership has placed very strong emphasis and dedicated large amounts of resources to expand ground-up innovation and encourage agile development, and it is up to each of us to sustain the momentum moving forward.
What keeps you motivated at work?
My family keeps me motivated at work; knowing that what I do contributes to keeping them safe makes my work a little more meaningful.
What makes a good, effective leader?
In my mind, a good, effective leader is one who can deliver clarity, enable competence and inspire confidence. Delivering clarity means that the leader is able to bridge the higher intent to the last man on the ground, so that there is unity in purpose across the organisation. Enabling competence means that the leader must train his people to be ready for the mission, and that includes having the professional competencies himself. Inspiring confidence means that the men and women of the unit must have conviction and poise when carrying out the mission, and this must be built upon clarity of purpose as well as strong competencies.
ME5 GERALD GOH
2009 SAF Engineering Scholarship Recipient
Master of Engineering in Aeronautical Engineering, Imperial College London
Commanding Officer, 809 Squadron,
9 Air Engineering and Logistics Group (9 AELG)