FEATURES

07 November 2018

Star of the Force

SPF Logo

By: Hadi Hafidz (Photos: Mr Dominique Andre)
Star of the Force

Situated amidst a Housing Development Board (HDB) estate in the eastern part of Singapore, lies an abandoned building that has been cordoned off, and inaccessible to the public. The eerie silence of the vicinity was broken when a team of officers in tactical gears and heavy weapons rappelled down into one of the units in the desolate building as part of a simulated hostage rescue exercise.

 

This is a scene that you would often see in movies where heavily armed specialised tactical troops stormed buildings to take down the bad guys!

 

And yes, this team is none other than the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) Special Tactics and Rescue (STAR) unit. Their job to provide the SPF with the highest level of tactical armed response!

 

The STAR unit comes under the SPF’s Special Operations Command (SOC). Decked out in a mysterious ‘masked men in black’ ensemble, these STAR officers or professionally known as STAR operators are deployed for highly-specialised operations. They are highly-trained in handling armed criminal situations such as hostage rescue, and well as high-risk protective security operations.

 

Due to the nature of their job, STAR operators need to be exceptionally strong, both physically and mentally, to see their missions through to the end. They must also be highly adaptive and flexible to respond to the ever-changing environment that every mission entails. Most importantly, STAR operators have to be team players, discharging their duties professionally and seamlessly taking on another role when the need arises. Every operator is a crucial part of the unit, each with a role to play. They rely on each other, trust each other with their lives, and are always on standby, 24/7.

 

There is no doubt about it. To become a STAR operator, one needs to overcome numerous daunting

challenges, both mental and physical. In this issue of Police Life, we get an exclusive interview with one of the STAR operators who shared with us the challenges and motivations to be in STAR. Known only as Station Inspector (SI) ‘J’, this STAR operator, who was formerly an SOC Trooper before joining the STAR unit, has since served in the unit for a decade.

 

Aspirations

As a person who is always game for extreme challenges, SI ‘J’ has always known that being a STAR

operator is the answer to his calling. When he first saw the operators training in their full gear within the SOC compound, he was immensely impressed by their fitness and agility. Particularly, how they were able to execute tactical movements swiftly and skilfully while carrying almost 20 kilograms of equipment on them. As he aspired to be like them, he would often join the STAR operators for runs around the SOC training compound in his early days as an SOC Trooper.

 

“They were always wearing their distinct black STAR unit singlets during their running sessions. The black STARs were constantly taking the lead, and I was never able to keep up with them even though I constantly clocked my 2.4 kilometres (km) run at about nine minutes, which is quite a feat for most people. I wanted to be just as fit and tough like them and that is what motivated me to join the STAR selection process,” SI ‘J’ recalled.

 

 

What Does it Take

 

This is not your usual selection process whereby you can just enrol for it and go for the selection.

Candidates will have to undergo a one-day physical fitness test to assess their fitness levels. Only

qualified candidates will be able to go through the eight-month long STAR Main Course, which consists of the basic and intermediate phases of STAR’s core skills training. At any point during the course, those who fail to meet the level of proficiency required, will be asked to leave. This is to ensure that only those who has what it takes will be able to make it as a STAR operator.

 

When he entered the STAR Main Course, SI ‘J’ recalled that it was a gruelling experience and that no

training could have prepared him for the stamina, strength and speed required for these sessions. SI ‘J’ further shared that the ‘Hell-Week’ was the toughest of them all! Despite the tough training he has gone through as an SOC trooper and his relatively high level of fitness, he recalled that there were many moments where the extreme pain and exhaustion made him doubt his physical and mental capacity, even to the brink of giving up. But his determination to achieve his aspiration spurred him on. Ultimately, the pain and sweat paid off when he was officially presented with the STAR insignia badge at his passing out parade.

 

Life Behind the Mask

 

Getting into STAR is just the beginning. To be able to trust each other with their lives, it is critical for the team to function effectively as one. In order to achieve such effectiveness, one critical success factor would be the fitness level of all the operators. To ensure that his fitness level is on par with his teammates, SI ‘J’ maintains a rigorous workout routine. On a daily basis, SI ‘J’ will start his day with a morning run and hit the gym or perform static exercises for another 30 minutes during the day to complete his daily workout regime. On top of that, he also does rock climbing about three times a week to train his agility.

 

When they are not out for operational duties, life in STAR is all about training, day after day, to prepare for every conceivable contingency. SI ‘J’ explained that whenever they are activated for a mission, the situation will be intense as everyone will be rushing to gear up, knowing that lives are at stake. As they headed towards the mission’s location, a single thought often dominated his mind.

 

“What would I do if the victims are my loved ones who needed to be saved? By constantly asking myself this question, I am able to treat every situation with the same urgency,” explained SI ‘J’.

 

Whenever a mission is accomplished, SI ‘J’ feels relieved knowing that everyone is safe and that they have made a significant impact on lives that were entrusted to them.

 

 

The Pillar of Support

 

Although it may seem that a career with the STAR unit is an unstoppable priority in his life, SI ‘J’ did in fact consult his family before signing his commitment to the unit.

 

“My wife was initially worried not only about the risks involved during training, but also the missions that I would be sent for. But she knew that it was my aspiration and gave me her blessing. I am really grateful to my wife as she is the pillar of support for my family when I am away for training or operations,” shared SI ‘J’.

 

Apart from his wife, SI ‘J’ shared that his children have also been very understanding towards his job commitments, which, at times require him to be away for nights. Even though his younger daughter’s birthday falls on National Day, she never complains whenever SI ‘J’ is deployed for work on that day. In fact, she is happy as long as SI ‘J’ is able to celebrate her birthday on another day when he is off duty.

 

While having family support is important to SI ‘J’, he also strongly believes that workplace camaraderie matters. In parting, SI ‘J’ shared words of advice to fellow police officers and members of the public who wish to join the STAR unit.

 

“STAR is a close-knit unit and we only want those who will have our backs. The officer must also be someone who never gives up and has the discipline to upkeep his fitness at all times,” said SI ‘J’.

 

Life in the STAR unit is about being mission ready at all times. Officers are on standby, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so that they are always prepared to provide the highest level of tactical armed response when called upon.

 

 

*This article is part of a three-piece profile feature of our STAR officers in celebration of the 25th anniversary of STAR unit.

 

For SPF officers who are interested to be part of the STAR family, the STAR unit will be recruiting officers for the 20th batch of the STAR unit, from November 2018 to January 2019.

 

For members of the public who are interested to be directly enrolled into the STAR unit, do visit our Singapore Police Force’s Facebook page to sign up for the STAR selection course.

 

 


Last Updated on 07 November 2018