Meet our NSFs - Vigil and Voyage with the SCDF

December 30, 2023

SGT2 Mohamad Haikal Bin Mohamad Hussin is an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with Clementi Fire Station. Assisting the paramedic during emergency medical calls, he is responsible for providing pre-hospital care and medical attention to patients in their hour of need.

SGT2 Ding Bowen is a Navigation Specialist with West Coast Marine Fire Station. After going through a comprehensive training course in maritime skills, he is confident in responding effectively to firefighting and rescue operations at sea.  

Rescue995 had a candid chat with both full-time National Servicemen (NSFs), understanding their journeys of transformation, and how they have excelled in their respective vocations.


SGT2 Mohamad Haikal, an EMT with Clementi Fire Station.

SGT2 Mohamad Haikal, an EMT with Clementi Fire Station. PHOTO: SCDF


Rescue995: How would you describe your typical shift at Clementi Fire Station?

SGT2 Mohamad Haikal: Depending on my shift, I will report to work at either 7:15 a.m. in the morning or 7:15 p.m. in the evening. After a quick debrief and handover with the outgoing colleagues, we will conduct a thorough check on the ambulance we have been assigned to, including all medical equipment and supplies carried on board the ambulance. Sometimes, we do get dispatched for calls when our checks are still in progress. Therefore, we must always be mentally prepared that we can be called upon to respond to an emergency at any time and hence, ensuring our readiness at all times is a key requirement for emergency services like the SCDF.


Rescue995: How is an NSF's shift different from regular officers?

SGT2 Mohamad Haikal: We follow the same shift hours as our regular colleagues, with a 12-hour rotation from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., or the reverse. After completing two shift duties, we will rest for two days before being assigned to two night shift duties, which will also be followed by two rest days.


Rescue995: What is the most demanding aspect of responding to medical incidents?

SGT2 Mohamad Haikal: The medical incidents that we respond to can be unpredictable and dynamic in nature. Sometimes, calls for seemingly routine medical conditions can escalate into something serious very quickly. Therefore, we must be thorough in our assessment of patients and always be prepared for any scenario.


SGT2 Mohamad Haikal responding to an incident with his colleagues.SGT2 Mohamad Haikal responding to an incident with his colleagues. PHOTO: SCDF


Rescue995: What are some of the most challenging situations that you have faced so far? What lessons have you learnt from those experiences?

SGT2 Mohamad Haikal: My tour of duty as an EMT has taught me the importance of mental fortitude. Once, we attended to an elderly person who had not been responding to calls for a few days. When we saw the elderly resident immobilised at home and clearly not looked after well, it was truly a heartbreaking sight. Although we were taken aback by the elderly patient’s condition, we had to curb these feelings and focus on doing our best for the patient. While this experience has taught me to remain mentally resilient and stay focused on the task, it has also imbued in me the sense of duty to help others unconditionally.


Rescue995: How has your tour of duty as an EMT contributed to your personal growth?

SGT2 Mohamad Haikal: Seeing how unpredictable and fragile life can be, I have learnt not to take anyone or anything for granted. No matter how difficult my day was, I remain positive and thankful for the opportunities in life. Overall, National Service has changed my worldview for the better. It has made me more optimistic of a better future for everyone if we work hard.


Rescue995: What is one thing that you wish the public could understand about SCDF’s work? How can the community offer better support?

SGT2 Mohamad Haikal: Please know that we are deeply committed to saving lives and always ready to respond to emergencies around the clock. While we strive to do our best, we are also saddened when some outcomes are beyond our control. Despite this sobering reality, we hope that the public will continue to support us in our mission to protect and save lives and property.


 SGT2 Ding Bowen, a Navigation Specialist with West Coast Marine Fire Station.SGT2 Ding Bowen, a Navigation Specialist with West Coast Marine Fire Station. PHOTO: SCDF


Rescue995: Could you share more about your role as a Navigation Specialist?

SGT2 Ding Bowen: Roles in a Marine Fire Station are multi-faceted. Therefore, we must be competent in a variety of skills. On top of firefighting and rescue, we must also be familiar with the maritime equipment and environment. As a Navigation Specialist, I support the Officer-on-watch (OOW) by navigating our marine vessels through sea traffic, using the Electronic Chart Display Information System. With training and guidance, I can confidently calculate distances to incident sites and guide the OOW around obstacles at sea. We are also well-versed in man-over-board procedures and the use of specific communications channels to communicate with the Police Coast Guard and the Operations Centre during combined operations.


Rescue995: That sounds like quite a lot to absorb! How long did you take to learn all this?

SGT2 Ding Bowen: I see my learning as an ongoing process, in which I try to learn something new from my section commanders and seniors every day. They have been instrumental in imparting knowledge and skills to us, preparing us for the responsibilities ahead. Learning the ropes can be daunting for newcomers, given the number of new things to learn. With consistent hands-on and practical training under the watch of our commanders and seniors, I became proficient in carrying out my roles as a Navigation Specialist within 10 months.


SGT2 Bowen (left) navigating a SCDF marine vessel during a routine exerciseSGT2 Bowen (left) navigating a SCDF marine vessel during a routine exercise. PHOTO: SCDF


Rescue995: The nature of marine operations can be quite different from incidents on land. Could you share some of the unique challenges that you face?

SGT2 Ding Bowen: The challenges at sea are indeed very different from land operations. At times, we may have to conduct rescue on different vessels, secure our vessels to a vessel that is on fire, and adjust our firefighting tactics based on the type and size of the vessel. Height rescues and boundary cooling may also be necessary during major incidents involving large ships.


SGT2 Bowen demonstrating the berthing of the Rapid Response Fire Vessel during a routine exerciseSGT2 Bowen demonstrating the berthing of the Rapid Response Fire Vessel during a routine exercise. PHOTO: SCDF


Rescue995: What is the most memorable incident you have responded to, and why?

SGT2 Ding Bowen: For me, that would be a fire involving a berthed vessel in July 2023. As the incident occurred at about 9:30 p.m., the low lighting and visibility conditions made things more challenging for us. When transporting resources between vessels, it was not easy to berth our vessels next to each other. As the Navigation Specialist, I worked very closely with the OOW and Steersman on the Heavy Rescue Vessel. We communicated frequently, reporting the speed of our vessel and the distances to other vessels or landmarks.

Smoke-logged conditions on the affected vessel also made it challenging for our firefighting crews. Nevertheless, our Section Commanders and firefighters battled relentlessly overnight and never gave up. Thanks to the teamwork from both West Coast Marine Fire Station and Brani Marine Fire Station, the fire was extinguished the next morning, with no casualties. This incident allowed me to witness first-hand, the complexity and precision in which our officers carried out their different tasks to extinguish the fire.


Rescue995: What specialised training have you gone through, and how does it differ from other SCDF frontliners?

SGT2 Ding Bowen: We go through a 5-week Marine Firefighting Specialist Course, which imparts skills in water rescue, height rescue, and marine firefighting. We also learnt more on navigation and vessel firefighting at the Singapore Maritime Academy. After posting to the marine fire station, we continued to hone our practical skills every duty.


Rescue995: What are you looking forward to after your NS?

SGT2 Ding Bowen: Having enjoyed the teamwork and problem-solving as a Navigation Specialist, I would like to pursue a career with SCDF after completing my studies. The knowledge and skills that we have acquired are transferable and will come in useful no matter where we go.


Rescue995: How has NS transformed your life?

SGT2 Ding Bowen: NS has taught me to remain calm, composed, and think critically under pressure. Instead of being reactive and emotional when the unexpected occurs, I have learnt to adopt a more measured, systematic, and thoughtful approach to solving problems.


Rescue995: Do you have any advice for those who wish to be SCDF Marine Specialists?

SGT2 Ding Bowen: Passion, physical fitness, and mental strength are essential. It may be demanding at times, but with some support from your peers, you can definitely do it!