Captain (CPT) Ooi Li Wen’s passion for the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) was stoked by her intrigue in the RSAF operations, as well as the long-lasting camaraderie found within. Taking part in security operations to keep Singapore safe instils a sense of pride in her. As a UAV pilot, she keeps a vigilant eye over the safety of Singaporeans every day.
Tell us more about your role, day-to-day responsibilities and challenges.
I am a Staff Officer in the Air Plans Department. Prior to my current role, I was a UAV pilot in 128 Squadron (SQN), where I contributed to the defence of Singapore’s skies. The UAV’s long endurance and ability to provide “eyes in the sky” make it a valuable asset to the SAF. On a day-to-day basis, we go through a gruelling schedule of live and simulator sorties to hone our operational skills on the UAV systems. Things are very dynamic in the squadron. Our operations tempo varies throughout the year, alternating between periods of high and low intensity. As a squadron, we also regularly participate in overseas exercises where we can operate in a much larger airspace and conduct more realistic training.
How is a military profession a rewarding one?
The RSAF has provided me with many opportunities to grow both professionally and as a person. Over the years, I have had the chance to attend courses, dialogues, overseas detachments to help shape the future of our next generation of UAV pilots. Collectively, these experiences have helped me enhance my understanding of military affairs, honed my flying competency and deepened my appreciation of my role in the RSAF. No doubt, there will be sacrifices you have to make along the way, but you will grow from your experiences and find fulfilment. When the going gets tough, I take heart in knowing that our work decisively shapes the SAF’s operations and helps keep Singapore safe.
What is the most memorable moment in your career?
My most memorable experience thus far has been Exercise Wallaby 18 (XWB 18). It was my first overseas detachment. As a junior pilot fresh out of UAV training school, it was both exciting and eye-opening to witness first-hand what it was like to perform cooperative lasing with the Apache Attack Helicopter pilots, and to exercise greater flexibility in mission planning and execution as we were operating in a vastly larger airspace (four times the size of Singapore!). XWB 18 was also especially memorable because of the increased opportunity to work more closely with other squadron personnel. We had a great time getting to know one another better through our work and during our R&R!
What have you learnt from your SAF career?
The importance of being disciplined, resourceful and adaptable.
Nowhere is discipline more heavily emphasised than in the military – from the need to be punctual to being able to act on orders. In the SAF, the price of poor discipline is severe.
On-the-job training is something that is very prevalent in the SAF. You don’t always have the luxury of time or precedence to follow when tasked to complete a job, but you still need to do it well. Over time, I have slowly, but surely, learnt to be more resourceful and to apply this thinking to other aspects of my life as well! In the military, change is a constant. Things are so dynamic that the only way to keep up is to embrace
What’s your advice to aspiring scholars who wish to embark on a military career?
The SAF offers a meaningful and dynamic career. The people are professional and committed. You will encounter challenges, but also excitement and great opportunities for learning. Along the way, there will be sacrifices to be made. But you will grow from your experiences and find fulfilment. If you’re up for the challenge, join us!
CPT OOI LI WEN
SAF Merit Scholarship, 2013
Staff Officer, Air Plans Department