Red Lions take on new challenge with jump into Singapore's heartland
Major Neo Choon Chea will be making his debut with the Red Lions skydivers on National Day this year.
He will be part of a six-person team landing near Sengkang General Hospital (SKGH). After being part of the ground coordinating party in two previous National Day Parades (NDPs), the 40-year-old said he was honoured to get his turn as a parachutist this year.
The Red Lions will land in heartland grass fields near SKGH and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH), which means smaller crowds on the ground but also a different set of challenges.
This year's jump is a 5,000 ft (1,524m) plunge from a Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft, about half of the typical free-fall height at earlier NDPs.
Jumping at a lower altitude reduces wind drift, and with high-rise buildings and expressways in the vicinity, the parachutists need to be very precise about where they drop, Maj Neo told the media last Friday.
It also means that the Red Lions will not be getting into their usual ring formation, as they need to deploy their parachutes soon after they jump from the aircraft.
First Warrant Officer Chew Eng Seng, 45, is also participating in the NDP as a Red Lion for the first time this year. He is part of a six-person team that will land near NTFGH.
One of the parachutists landing at Sengkang this year is Second Warrant Officer (2WO) Shirley Ng, 42.
She is the only woman in the Red Lions and made her first parade appearance in 2014.
Comparing the landing experience this year to a previous jump at the Marina Bay floating platform, 2WO Ng said: "In the heartland, even though it's not as rah-rah as usual... this jump is more for the front-line medical staff... It's about putting up a good show to give them moral support."
But this does not mean that it is a quiet affair for the Red Lions, she added. "It has been a surprise that the residents over here, as we land, they are cheering for us, waving to us from their windows and balconies - it's heartwarming (to see)."
Maj Neo said "this jump is for the country and for the front-line fighters".
Referring to a banner put up by residents at the open field near SKGH, he said: "(They) put up a very lovely message for us, and we are really touched and encouraged by all these gestures."