RSAF pilot hailed for relief efforts after Palu quake
When Lieutenant-Colonel Oh Chun Keong first arrived in Palu, Indonesia, last October, four days after an earthquake and tsunami hit the coastal town, there was confusion on the ground.
As the national contingent commander, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) pilot was in charge of the Singapore mission to deliver supplies and evacuate victims in the Central Sulawesi provincial capital and had to understand what the locals needed.
A personal connection helped Lt-Col Oh, who is a graduate of the Indonesian Command and Staff College.
In the appointment he held after graduating, he worked with an Indonesian official who turned out to be the chief coordinating officer for foreign militaries in the disaster relief efforts.
As part of those efforts, three RSAF C-130 transport aircraft evacuated more than 800 people from Palu - from infants to the elderly - and delivered more than 340 tonnes of supplies.
Lt-Col Oh, 41, was among 95 servicemen to receive Overseas Service Medals from Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at a ceremony at the Ministry of Defence at Bukit Gombak yesterday.
The Apache helicopter pilot said: "The Indonesians were really grateful, and it gave me great comfort to know that we were directly helping people who were in distress.
"Even the chief of air force met and thanked us profusely. As a close neighbour and friend, it's important that we are always able to assist them in times of need," Lt-Col Oh told reporters before the ceremony.
The 7.5-magnitude earthquake had triggered a tsunami that eventually left more than 4,300 people dead and some 170,000 displaced.
In his speech, Dr Ng said that the medal recipients had flown Singapore's flag high with their professionalism and conduct, fulfilling missions under trying circumstances.
"As a result, you garnered praise from other militaries... You also got gratitude from the people you helped directly and from the local governments there," he said.
Of the medals given out, 68 were for those who served in Iraq to help train more than 4,500 Iraqi troops in countering improvised explosive devices, using tactical weapons and combat tactics over nine months from September last year to June this year.