Even if we wanted to name and celebrate this female hero, we wouldn’t be able to. Decked in full tactical gear, Sergeant Fiona (not her real name) is nearly indistinguishable from her male counterparts.
The 30-year-old, who is not allowed to reveal her real name, is a trailblazer in her own right, being one of the first three female officers to join the STS in 2015.
As an officer of the highly classified STS unit, Sgt Fiona is required to intercept high-speed threats and intruders, such as smugglers, illegal immigrants and terrorists, in Singapore’s waters.
To make the cut, she had to survive “hell week”, a selection process that pushes applicants’ physical and mental strength to their limits.
This included carrying a backpack weighing 50kg at all times and plunging into seawater from a height of 8m to instil water confidence in applicants.
“There were no discounts or difference between the women and men. We all carried the same amount of weights to run and climb and we were assessed alongside the male officers,” she said.
Sergeant Fiona is one of the first three female officers to join the Police Coast Guard’s elite Special Task Squadron in 2015. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
The selection process is so gruelling that within the first day, at least five officers out of the total of 20 would be kicked out, she added. Being part of the pioneer batch of women to join the STS had its fair share of challenges, including fighting the initial stereotypes, said Sgt Fiona.
She added: “At first, some guys thought that girls could not do pull-ups. But now, they see us as equals, like, ‘She knows what she’s doing; we do not need to step in.'”
When she first joined the Singapore Police Force (SPF) as a Ground Response Force officer eight years ago, some people would refuse to speak to her because of her gender.
“I would let the male officer talk to the person but, in the end, the officer still had to report back to me because I was in charge,” she said.
She did not have a smooth start to becoming a police officer. The Institute of Technical Education graduate in product design was rejected twice, in 2008 and 2009, by SPF.
After her application was finally accepted in 2010, the former freelance track-and-field coach then aspired to make the cut into one of the force’s elite specialised units. But the units were not accepting women officers then.
When she heard in 2014 that STS was opening up its selections to women for the first time, she decided to give it a go. Today, she is one of five female officers in the elite police specialist unit.
She hopes more women officers would at least give it a try.
“You’ll never know your limits until you do. For me, I’ve never done anything tougher than this,” she said.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.