Sunday 24 June 2012

Army Sergeant Major inducted into US military academy's hall of fame

Singaporean is 16th person to be so honoured by Texas military academy
By Jermyn Chow, The Straits Times, 23 Jun 2012

OVER the last three decades, career soldier Tang Peck Oon did not just pit his wits against the enemy's rifle or machete.

The commando has also been at the forefront of the fight to improve the image of non-commissioned officers like himself in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Better known here as Warrant Officers and Specialists (Wospec), they used to be seen as merely parade masters who instilled discipline in soldiers. Simply put, they played second fiddle to commissioned officers who hold ranks of second-lieutenant and above.

'Back then, we were seen as the support people... what the officers say, we just follow and do. But things have changed,' said the 52-year-old in an interview earlier this week.

Senior Warrant Officer (SWO) Tang, who attained the highest rank in the Wospec Corps in 2008, has been instrumental in grooming successive cohorts of Wospecs, and adding prestige to the corps. He was promoted to Sergeant Major of the Army in 2011 - the pinnacle position for any warrant officer and specialist in the army.

For his contributions, he was inducted yesterday into the hall of fame of one of the most prestigious military academies for sergeant majors in the United States - the first Singaporean to make it.

He is the 16th person to make it into the United States Army Sergeant Majors Academy's International Student Hall of Fame since it was launched in 2009.

The ceremony was held at the academy in Fort Bliss, Texas. Also inducted yesterday was New Zealand's Sergeant Major of the Army, Warrant Officer Class One Danniel Lawrence Droughton. Only the academy's alumni are considered for the honour. SWO Tang was a student at the academy in 1994.

Former inductees include the Afghan National Army Sergeant Major Roshan Safi; Canadian Land Forces' Sergeant Major, Chief Warrant Officer Giovanni Moretti, and Malaysian Army Regimental Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer One Musa Haron.

SWO Tang was presented with his official photograph and biographical sketch, which is an exact replica of that on display in the academy's Hall of Honour.

The academy said in a citation that he is a 'key figure in steering the development' of the Wospec Corps. 'He continues to place emphasis on strengthening the army ground leadership by shaping a strong officers-warrant officers partnership,' the citation stated.

On getting the accolade, he paid tribute to his fellow soldiers who have helped him in his 35-year career.

'Hopefully, it will motivate aspiring Wospecs and show that we have good-quality people who have risen to top appointments,' he said.

Besides leading 300,000 specialists and soldiers, he was one of the key people who overhauled the training and development of the corps.

His efforts included creating more leadership training roles.

Under his watch, more SWOs became commanding officers in SAF's training schools.

But the fight for greater recognition has not been without the occasional bump for SWO Tang, who has a son aged 21.

Asked about his most difficult moments, he talked about his stint from 1997 to 1998 as Regimental Sergeant Major of the 1st Singapore Infantry Regiment when he was the intermediary between the officers and soldiers.

'The heartache was trying to get everyone together to work with you. It was not always smooth trying to get the buy-in from the officers.'

Army Chief Major-General Ravinder Singh said SWO Tang's award is an honour for the Singapore Army and Wospec Corps.

'He is a leader and a role model for all our soldiers. We are all proud of his achievement,' he said.

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