Home > Scholar's Profile > SAF – Nothing Less Than The Best

SAF – Nothing Less Than The Best

CPT Jerik Mok found his military ­career to be enriching, purposeful and ­rewarding.

What is your job like as an Army officer?
As a commander, I am entrusted with my men’s well-being, development and moulding them into a cohesive and effective working unit. My job entails guiding my junior commanders in conducting training and management of our men.

What are the working environment, colleagues and culture like?
We have a strong camaraderie in our company, and we are constantly collaborating and learning. With our strong support culture, we are always looking out for each other, overcoming challenges and working towards a common goal and striving towards excellence.

How does your work and the culture encourage personal growth and career development?
The SAF  career  constantly challenges me to push my limits and boundaries. In each of my appointments, the learning curves are always steep and often stretch the individual to develop all-rounded, hard and soft skills.

Please share with us any overseas training experiences and exposure you have had.
Thus far, I have been privileged to be selected for overseas attachments and professional exchanges with foreign armies. In 2012, I had the opportunity to participate in a month long attachment to the 1st Division of the United States Army in Fort Riley, Kansas and was appointed as a platoon leader. The highlight of the experience was the training raid operation from a BlackHawk helicopter, with the platoon as part of a battalion exercise. My greatest takeaway from that experience was the pride I felt to be an ambassador for our Singapore Army.

In 2014, as an Officer Cadet School instructor, I was sent on an exchange programme with our Indonesian counterparts. This exchange was eye-opening as I gained insights into how our foreign neighbours viewed the security landscape within our region. Making friends with my foreign counterparts was also enriching and enjoyable as was the chance to represent Singapore and the SAF at a foreign military institute.

Was it a conscious decision or an unexpected event that led you to a career with the SAF?
Initially, I only wanted to follow my family tradition of becoming an officer as a national serviceman. As I spent more time in the army, I found myself relishing the opportunity to contribute towards its mission of enhancing Singapore’s peace and security.

The journey that led to this career was not without its disappointments and challenges. As an 18-year-old, it was not easy convincing my parents that this was the path I wanted. The decision marked a personal ­milestone of taking ownership for the direction of my life and being ­responsible for its outcome; a coming-of-age moment if you will.

What were the motivations for taking up the scholarship?
In my opinion, any decision about which scholarship to take up should be preceded by serious contemplation of whether the career that comes with the scholarship is the right fit for you. It is critical that individuals gather as much information from a wide variety of sources in order to make the most informed decision they possibly can. This entails considering a wide range of career options before committing to one. The fully-funded opportunity to broaden my horizons at some of the world’s top universities through the scholarship proved appealing. I was also fortunate to have the chance to speak to seniors who had taken this path before me and were forthcoming in sharing their perspectives, experiences and objective advice on this matter.

What courses did you pursue and how is it relevant to your job?

For my undergraduate degree, I did Economics at University College London. This course was a good fit to my academic interests and developed my critical thinking and analytical skills. The mental rigour required in understanding complex economic models and problems prepared me well for tasks in my future career that would require me to make sense of seemingly intractable problems. Additionally, the experience of learning has tremendously structured the way that I learn and approach problems, putting me in good stead to tackle issues in the army.

Upon graduation, I made the conscious decision to move away from the quantitative subjects in search for more qualitative fields of study to develop skills in reading, writing and delivering presentations. Seeing a strong relevance between international relations and the military, I decided on pursuing a Masters in Political Science at Columbia University.

What did the scholarship cover besides tuition fees?

Besides tuition fees, the scholarship provisioned for allowances to cover accommodation and subsistence costs.

What are the organisation’s expectations of you, and what sorts of opportunities have you taken up so far?
Through the scholarship, the SAF has invested substantially, not just in financial terms, but also in my holistic development. As I am entrusted with more responsibilities under my charge, I am expected to be a good steward, to lead and build effective teams. Additionally, I hope to contribute as best as I can in the Army and SAF’s processes and effectiveness.

What are the biggest challenges for you in your job?
Motivating the soldiers under my charge is my biggest challenge; getting the best out of them and developing their potential. Many times, the only thing that stands in the way of achieving their fullest potential is the belief in themselves. With a conscript army, it is inevitable that I would come across soldiers that are less than willing to serve. It is then my challenge to make their national service time meaningful and fulfilling. More often than not, showing genuine care and concern for every soldier and empathising with their needs help.

The challenge then becomes how to show them that if they were to adopt the right mindset, their service in the Army would be a maturing and humbling period of their lives.

What is it about your job that you love and why?
While it is my job to inspire those under my charge, I have also received much reciprocal encouragement from the soldiers. The amount of dedication, commitment and passion for life that I witness from these people on a daily basis is extremely contagious and keeps me going every day.

One of the greatest satisfactions after a day’s work is to bask in the feelings of accomplishment from the small achievements attained by the team that day. Some obstacles are seemingly insurmountable, but with a common vision, the united team has made the impossible possible. In my experience as an Officer Cadet School instructor, a simple ‘thank you’ note from the cadets, or the sight of soldiers standing proudly on the parade square in front of their loved ones during their commissioning parade… that makes all of the hard work and toil worthwhile. The team spirit, camaraderie and sense of togetherness that comes with persevering through the toughest training and to contribute to something greater than ourselves is uniquely and extremely rewarding.

What will you say are key qualities necessary to excel in your work and why?

In my humble opinion, the three qualities that are necessary to excel in a military career are: adaptability, leadership, and being people-oriented.
It is not a cliche to say that the only ­constant in the military career is change. With the varied appointments in my career, the work that I do, the people that I work with, and the type of skills that I need to meet the demands are always in flux. Hence, the ability to adapt to the changing surroundings and to be ready for the unexpected is the only way to stay on top of things.

The core business of an officer is to provide leadership and to make sound and timely decisions. Officers have to be competent in their professional skills, committed to the cause, and confident in their leadership of their units and teams.

Above all, the Army is about the ­people and for the people. No matter what we do, it will always be about working with people to accomplish missions. To excel in this work requires good interpersonal skills and empathy to understand the needs of people and to genuinely have an interest to help them in securing a better future for themselves, their families, and Singapore.

Cpt Jerik Mok
The SAF Scholarship ­
(formerly known as SAF Overseas ­Scholarship)
Age: 26
Now: Officer Commanding at 6th Singapore Infantry Regiment (6SIR)
Attained: Bachelor of Science in Economics at University College London; Masters of Arts in Political Science from Columbia University, USA
From: Raffles JC