Clad in their neatly pressed uniform, these men and women are usually seen with the President of the Republic of Singapore at state ceremonies. You would have also seen them at the Istana during the Istana Open Houses. They are the Honorary Aide-de-Camp (HADC) to the President.
“Aide-de-Camp” is of French origin, which means “camp assistant”. Historically, the Aide-de-Camp (ADC) was a military assistant in the field to a Sovereign, Chief of State or General. In the name of their commander, the ADCs transmitted orders and supervised operations and even exercised delegated authority on some occasions.
Today, the HADC is an officer of the uniformed services who assists the President and accompanies the President at various State functions and ceremonies. They assist the full-time ADCs with the coordination, planning and execution of the President’s events both locally and overseas.
Rescue 995 engaged two career officers and an Operationally Ready National Serviceman (ORNS) from SCDF in an exclusive interview as they share their accounts of having served as HADC in Singapore.
Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Chen Yong Kai served as a HADC to the President for three years from 2017 to 2020. He is currently the Head of Operations Branch, 4th SCDF Division where he oversees all operational matters and is also spearheading the innovation efforts within the division.
Rescue 995: How did you feel when you were selected to be a HADC to the President?
LTC Chen: Frankly, I was surprised to be chosen because I learned that the criteria were very stringent. There were many rounds of interviews. So when I was selected, I felt honoured and extremely proud to be able to represent SCDF to serve as a HADC to the President.
Rescue 995: Which events were you involved in as a HADC?
LTC Chen: There were many events such as the courtesy calls involving the Head of State of other countries and foreign politicians. Large-scale events such as the National Day Investiture (NDI) involved many HADCs to perform various duties. We attended rehearsals and had to ensure that the actual event ran smoothly.
Rescue 995: What was your memorable experience during your time as a HADC?
LTC Chen: I always find the Istana Open House very memorable. It is a rare sight to see so many people enjoying the day at the Istana. Our role is to maintain order for that day as the crowds can get really large. At the same time, we hope to provide visitors with a pleasant visiting experience to the Istana.
There were other enriching experiences too. I recalled having to serve the distinguished guests during NDI 2019, ensuring that they have the best possible experience at the event hosted by the President.
Rescue 995: What did this role of being a HADC taught you?
LTC Chen: The formal events hosted by the President are of the highest level of prestige and honour in Singapore. The level of detail that went into the planning and execution of such events has greatly enhanced my ability to lead my own teams in organising events such as the One Public Service Observance Ceremony 2021 that I am currently working on.
LTC(NS) Wong Wee Liam is Head, Emergency Preparedness Section at the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS).
an ORNS officer, LTC(NS) Wong is currently the Deputy Unit Commander of
32 Rescue Unit. Prior to joining CAAS in 2013, he was a DART-trained
(Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team) SCDF career officer for about a
decade. He is a serving HADC to the President.
LTC(NS) Wong Wee Liam with his spouse at a HADC appointment ceremony in 2017.
Rescue 995: How long have you been serving as a HADC?
LTC(NS) Wong: I was selected to be an HADC in 2010 when I was a career officer in SCDF. I continued serving as a HADC in my capacity as an ORNS officer. This is my 11th year as a HADC.
Rescue 995: Is there a difference in the frequency of HADC duties between a career officer and an ORNS officer?
LTC(NS) Wong: There is no difference. Whether one is a career officer or ORNS officer, he or she is required to be committed to the duties as required by the President’s Office.
Rescue 995: What ceremonial duties were you involved in?
LTC(NS) Wong: There were many ceremonial events which I had the opportunity to be involved in. I remembered being at the event when our former President Dr Tony Tan was sworn in as our seventh President of Singapore, and years later, when Madam Halimah Yacob was sworn in as our current President.
There were also other ceremonies held at the Istana where the Presidential Awards were given to distinguished recipients from various segments of the community such as nurses, teachers and social workers. I was also involved in the Istana Open Houses where the Istana ground is opened to public during public holidays.
Rescue 995: As a long-serving HADC, what was your most memorable occasion?
LTC(NS) Wong: One memorable experience I had was in September 2019 when I was selected to accompany Mr Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee, the spouse of President Madam Halimah Yacob during the State Visit to the Philippines. That was my first overseas trip with the President’s Office.
Rescue 995: How has your role as a HADC helped you in your career or personal life?
LTC(NS) Wong: Being exposed to the various ceremonial events organised by the President’s Office and seeing members of public expressing their joy and excitement whenever they meet our President was truly an eye-opening and enriching experience for me. It is also a privilege to be present at the historical moments of our nation, especially the Swearing-in ceremonies of our Presidents.
More importantly, as a HADC, I have the opportunity to interact and forge valuable friendships with fellow HADCs from other uniformed services namely the Singapore Armed Forces and the Singapore Police Force.
MAJ Nurhamizah Binte Anwar is Senior Staff Officer, Plans and Policy Branch at the Volunteer & Community Partnership Department (VCPD). She is a newly appointed HADC to the President.
Rescue 995: How did you feel when you were selected to be a HADC?
MAJ Nurhamizah: I was thrilled to be shortlisted for the interview and was extremely happy to be eventually selected as a HADC to the President in 2020. I had attended the Istana Open Houses before and I recalled being impressed by the smartly-dressed uniformed men and women who were HADCs on duty. I remembered thinking how stately they looked in their immaculate uniforms while on duty! To me, it really feels special to be the few selected ones who represent SCDF HADCs.
Rescue 995: What was your first duty?
MAJ Nurhamizah: I was officially appointed as a HADC on 1 June 2020. My first HADC duty was at the Cabinet Swearing-in Ceremony on 27 July 2020. This was a unique and memorable experience for me as it was conducted at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and additional safe management measures are required to be put in place such as split venues at the Istana and the Parliament House. I was assigned to manage the distinguished guests at the Parliament House and it was interesting to witness the Swearing-in proceedings conducted virtually while the President was physically presiding over the ceremony at the Istana.
Rescue 995: What do you think are important qualities a HADC should possess?
MAJ Nurhamizah: A HADC has to be able to project warm hospitality so that the President’s guests have the best experience when attending functions held at the Istana. It is also important for a HADC to be able to think quickly on his or her feet when assisting with the execution of events or ceremonies hosted by the President. When things do not occur as planned, a HADC has to quickly apply contingencies and adapt to the situation so that the guests are well taken care of in any circumstances.