// STORY BY KOH ENG BENG
// PHOTOS BY CHAI SIAN LIANG & COURTESY OF REPUBLIC OF SINGAPORE NAVY
The crew of frigate RSS Tenacious had spent a total of almost four months out at sea in the past one year for overseas exercises. Being away from their family for so long was difficult. But their loved ones are the very reason they do what they do – to train well and protect their home called Singapore.
Their efforts have paid off: RSS Tenacious has been named the Best Fleet Unit in this year’s Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF’s) Best Combat Unit Competition.
The competition, which was introduced in 1969, recognizes units which have excelled in the areas of combat readiness, operational proficiency and administrative excellence. RSS Tenacious last won the Best Fleet Unit award in 2015.
Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Tung Wanling, 35, said: “The award provides the guys a very firm pat on the back for all the hard work that they’ve put in, in order to maintain operational readiness through difficult times and a very demanding tempo.”
Demanding training tempo
To sharpen their warfare capabilities, the crew trained alongside some of the world’s best navies in several high-end training exercises.
In June last year, RSS Tenacious led three RSN ships in a sail to Guam for Exercise Pacific Griffin. The two-month deployment saw the RSN training alongside the United States Navy and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).
Within a month after the end of Exercise Pacific Griffin, the crew took part in Exercise Eagle Indopura with the Indonesian Navy.
And just six weeks later, the crew set sail for the Western Circuit Deployment across the Indian Ocean and back.
Lasting for almost a month, the circuit comprised the Midshipmen Sea Training Deployment (MSTD) and the Singapore-India-Thailand Maritime Exercise (SITMEX) in the Andaman Sea.
Earlier this year, RSS Tenacious sailed across the Indian Ocean again – this time for Exercise MILAN, a multilateral exercise involving more than 40 countries.
What kept these 70-plus strong crew going through high-tempo training was the strong family culture on board ship.
Weapon systems supervisor Military Expert (ME) 2 G K Kaviraj said: “(Training is) not only physically tiring but also mentally tiring. Pulling through all these milestones would not have been possible without each and every crew member helping one other out.”
In fact, ME2 Kaviraj became a Regular because of the supportive environment on the ship. His journey with RSS Tenacious started nine years ago when he was posted to the frigate as a Full-time National Serviceman (NSF).
“I faced multiple challenges as an NSF. But what made me convert to a Regular was the crew of RSS Tenacious and the family-like culture on board – it’s not something you can get outside,” recalled the 28-year-old.
When his Weapon Systems Chief was down with COVID-19, and was not able to sail for Exercise MILAN earlier this year, ME2 Kaviraj was entrusted to take on the role of Acting Chief.
It was a massive step up – from leading five sailors as a supervisor, he now had to take charge of about 40 sailors. “But with the help of the other chiefs on board, we pushed through together to ensure that everything went well,” said ME2 Kaviraj.
Extended NS twice
The strong family culture was also a key reason 3SG (NS) Tan Zhirong extended his Full-time National Service (NS) twice – three months each time – to sail with RSS Tenacious for Exercise Eagle Indopura and the Western Circuit Deployment.
“The ship crew made me feel very comfortable,” said the 21-year-old.
“When we’ve completed our mission successfully, everybody (would) just sit down and have a drink, and talk to one another other, heart to heart. This made me very comfortable as they did not treat me as an outsider but like family.”
3SG Tan, who was given the NSF of the Year award last year, added that a key takeaway from his NS journey was gaining a deeper understanding of national defense.
“I understand a lot more about why we are doing (what we do) from my chiefs and my supervisors. They explained to me (that it’s) about diplomacy and deterrence – (we need) to show that we are able to defend ourselves,” he said.
When asked what’s the most fulfilling among the crew’s achievements this past year, LTC Tung simply said: “Every single time that we come alongside (the naval base) after a deployment is most fulfilling for me.
“It really is about coming home with every single person aboard… These are the moments where you feel that sense of relief and the sweetness of success.
“That exhilaration when the missiles leave the launcher as planned, on the minute, on the second, are great. But the things that are memorable would be when everyone comes home together, and shares a pint together at the end of a very hectic deployment.”