Ever wondered what the PCG Special Task Squadron’s Hell Week is like? Find out from the inspiring female officers who conquered it!
By: Christabelle Lim
To keep our territorial waters safe and secure, Police Coast Guard (PCG) officers have to be skilled in seamanship and maritime tactical skills as they perform tasks such as patrolling, interception of smugglers and illegal immigrants, as well as search and rescue operations in the high seas.
PCG’s Special Task Squadron
When the situation becomes more complex or high-risk, the PCG will call on its Special Task Squadron (STS). The STS is an elite unit trained to respond to high-risk seaborne threats.
To join the STS, aspiring officers must go through Hell Week to determine if they possess the right qualities to be an STS operator through a series of evolutions, both mental and physical, by their trainers and peers.
Welcome to Hell Week
Individual evolutions include platform jumps from up to 10m and water confidence tests where officers must float, scull or tread water with two or more limbs bound and retrieve an object underwater. They must also complete timed obstacle courses and a 10km route march with a minimum 15kg load.
Team-based evolutions include log races, stretcher races weighing up to 80kg over 5km, route marches with varying loads for 10km or more, and team rowing challenges.
More than half of the officers attempting Hell Week drop out as the evolutions are designed to push them to their mental and physical limits. For those who conquer Hell Week, there’s still the STS Main Course. Officers must successfully undergo training on tactical boat handling, close quarters battle and tactical firearms as well as methods of entry assessments before they’re finally able to call themselves an STS operator.
Special Forces, Special Women
Senior Staff Sergeant (SSSgt) Fiona, SSSgt Hawa and Station Inspector (SI) June (not their real names) are the three female officers in the STS, with a combined policing experience of 46 years! For operational reasons, their identities are not disclosed, but they were glad to share their experiences with us.
Back in 2015, SSSgt Fiona was determined to become the first female officer to serve in the STS. It was good that she didn’t know too much about the rigorous selection criteria or the lack of sleep she was going to endure during Hell Week!
“I was so tired during the selections; I thought I saw angels and devils on my shoulder telling me to give up.” – SSSgt Fiona recounting her Hell Week experience
The real test was how officers worked as a team during STS operations as communication and trust in one another is crucial for operational success. Through sheer determination and grit, SSSgt Fiona earned the trust of her fellow officers during Hell Week and paved the way for other female officers to join the STS.
Inspired by SSSgt Fiona, SSSgt Hawa was intrigued by the prospect of joining a specialist unit and pushing her physical and mental limits. While she has always had an active lifestyle, the intensity of STS training took a lot out of her, but also brought out her best. It was this positive attitude and tenacity that helped SSSgt Hawa gain entry into the STS.
“The trainings are tough, but with the correct attitude, all challenges are manageable. As we like to say, ‘Train hard, fight easy.’” – SSSgt Hawa
Inspired to Serve
SI June has always loved adventure and relishes physical and mental challenges. In 2017 when SI June saw the broadcast recruitment message by STS, she thought to herself, “It has to be now.” While she enjoyed her previous policing role protecting VIPs and conducting protective security, she knew that being in another operating terrain would push her out of her comfort zone. She also knew that, however tough it would be, her mental strength would shine through.
“This is fun, and I’m alive!” – What constantly went through SI’s June’s mind in the midst of Hell Week
All in the Same Boat
Beyond Hell Week, officers in the STS train regularly to improve their skill sets, both on an individual level and as a team. SSSgt Hawa counts herself lucky to have brave men and women as her teammates, all working towards the same goal.
“This is important because in our line of work, we have to trust one another with our lives,” she shared. “We work hard together and my teammates don’t ‘give chance’ during training because when we’re on an actual operation, the adversary will not see me as a woman, but a formidable opponent.”
Keen to know more about PCG and STS?
Catch this video of our STS officers in training!
Check out the PCG’s newly commissioned fleet in our then-and-now article!
Watch this video of our Media officer joining PCG officers on a 12-hour shift out at sea!