Meet CPT Pek Hong Kun, SCDF Marine Division’s first female Officer-On-Watch (OOW). On 2 September, she led her team of Marine Specialists in a complex rescue operation involving a man who had fallen within an offshore vessel located about 10km Southwest of Singapore.
CPT Pek was posted to Marine Division in 2018. Like all SCDF career officers at Marine Division, she learned the fundamentals of operating and maintaining firefighting and rescue vessels. In addition, CPT Pek had to gain maritime experience navigating the vessels by accumulating at least nine months of being out at sea. She was later selected to be an OOW.
Rescue 995: Briefly share with us the role of an OOW.
CPT Pek: The OOW is a leadership role similar to the captain of a ship. An OOW not only has to steer and navigate the vessel but is also in charge of the team of Marine Specialists on-board the vessel during a maritime operation.
Rescue 995: What inspired you to be an OOW?
CPT Pek: The fact that I can be just as good and capable as the rest. When I was posted to Marine Division, I learned that the Police Coast Guards, our Home Team family, have female officers as OOW, and they are good at what they do. This motivated me to do the same and to show how far Marine Division has come.
Rescue 995: When you begin this career with the Force, did you ever imagine that you would be a leader?
CPT Pek: SCDF is my first career and before I signed on to be a Senior Officer in the Force, I have never thought that I would be a leader, let alone a leader in a male-dominated profession. But I realized that I enjoy working with others to accomplish things together as I have always been involved in team-oriented sports and activities such as dragon-boating and filming back in my school days.
Rescue 995: Have you ever been afraid on the job? And how did you overcome those fears?
CPT Pek: I would be lying if I say I have never been afraid. It was stressful when I first started operating the vessels. Steering a vessel is very different from driving a car as there is no emergency brake! Whenever you put the throttle to neutral, the vessel will continue to glide before ultimately stopping, and it takes time for the vessel to react even when you pull the astern to cut the momentum. Thus, every step is a calculated move. The worst feeling you can get from steering a vessel is when you know you are going to hit something and there is nothing you can do about it. What helped me overcome those fear is that I know I have very experienced seniors who taught me tips and tricks on how to control and navigate the vessels. Ultimately, the team you are sailing with makes a world of difference as it is always a team effort whenever we embark on a maritime rescue operation.
Rescue 995:Have you encountered resistance to your leadership, and if so, what did you do to mitigate such barrier?
CPT Pek: I think it is important to get to know your men better, understand the working culture and how the rota (shift) runs, so that they feel you are part of the family before you make any changes to their working styles. Sometimes, it may just be a personal preference rather than the effectiveness of the result. But I know I need to be mindful of my words and actions when communicating with my team since I am a female and younger than most of the men in the postings I have thus far. In short, it is all about mutual respect, sound communications and good interpersonal relations.
Rescue 995: What advice would you give for young women aspiring to be members of The Life Saving Force?
CPT Pek: If it is your passion and you have the right aptitude, well go for it! Do not be afraid. Do not give too much thought about how others would think of you because that would limit your aspiration and your full potential.