The Eyes of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)

As the Head of SAF’s Force Transformation Office, Lieutenant Colonel John Samuel has to see to one thing—that the future of the SAF is in good hands.

Tell us more about your current role and challenges.
Currently, I manage a team that plans for the future of the SAF—the missions we will need to fulfill, the possible technological opportunities we must seize, and how to make the most of our manpower resources. We help the SAF strategise to navigate challenges and opportunities in each of these areas – a complex security environment, disruptive technology, and a smaller but higher-skilled population.

You were previously the Commanding Officer (CO) of 119 Squadron in the Republic of Singapore Air Force. Share more with us.
Previously as the CO of 119 Squadron, I led a team of Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) pilots, Air Imagery Experts and Engineers who operated the Heron 1 UAV. We are the “Eyes of the SAF”, responsible for deploying UAVs to provide vital information for counterterrorism operations. It’s very humbling and at the same time fulfilling to see how much one needs to learn and grow in every appointment that you go to.


“The SAF is an organisation that believes in developing its people.
I hope to pay it forward to the people I lead.”


What makes the military career fulfilling?
The SAF’s mission – to enhance Singapore’s peace and security – is a vital one. It’s really a privilege to be part of an organization that draws strength of the nation. Moreover, the military career spans all the way from policy-making to policy execution. I find this meaningful because we are trained to always have a sense of ground reality and practicality in our plans. There is no ‘ivory tower’. It also reminds me that leadership is not just about having the most brilliant plan, but also being able to convince and lead people in the pursuit of shared goals.

Your best career highlight would be…
It would be my appointment as Staff Assistant to the Chief of Air Force. Working closely with the Chief of Air Force exposed me to what it takes to defend our peace and security. At the same time, I got to know people from every part of the Air Force. It was really heartwarming to see how ordinary people with extraordinary pride and ownership in their jobs keep our skies safe every day. The same is true across the SAF.

How did your scholarship experience prepare you for this career?
I am very grateful for the opportunity to study abroad and also the structured programme that the SAF had for us. I served attachments with various SAF units, which included leadership programmes that helped me reflect deeper on what it meant to be a member of the military. At a professional level, I received valuable job exposure. At a personal level, I got to know people (many of whom I am still working with today) and that made me feel at home in the SAF.

How does the SAF help develop one’s potential fully?
The SAF rotates its officers through command, staff and instructional appointments. Command appointments enable officers to execute plans and manage nearer term issues, staff appointments give officers the chance to think about the policies and plans that will strengthen the SAF in the long term, while instructional appointments involve coaching and mentoring future leaders of the SAF.

Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) John N. Samuel
2005 The SAF Scholarship Recipient
Head of Force Transformation Office,
Joint Plans and Transformation Department
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