2 female officers undergo Hell Week, join S'pore Naval Diving Unit as combat divers

Both of them are the first women to complete Hell Week and the gruelling Combat Diver Course.

Belmont Lay | March 22, 2024, 07:03 PM



Two female Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officers have joined the ranks of the elite Naval Diving Unit after successfully completing the gruelling Combat Diver Course (CDC).

Jhosy Ng, 32, and Angelia Tan, 28, who both hold the rank of captain, were among 70 trainees of the 60th batch of combat divers to graduate on March 21, 2024.

Their accomplishments make them the Republic of Singapore Navy's third and fourth female divers.

The previous two female officers, Major Esther Tan and Captain Grace Chan, have both retired from service.

News of the duo's successful induction into one of the Singapore military's toughest vocations was reported by Pioneer.

Underwent same training as male counterparts

Both Ng and Tan underwent the same training regime as the men during the 20-week course, including undergoing the infamous rite of passage, Hell Week, otherwise known as Team Building Week.

The five-day training exercise features numerous rounds of physical and mental challenges, including sea swims, drown-proofing, training with a dinghy, also known as boat physical training (boat PT), as well as cold treatment, where trainees are immersed in icy water.

via Pioneer/ MINDEF

As part of the requirement, those undergoing training also had to attain the diver's gold standard of more than 90 points for their Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT).

via Pioneer/ MINDEF

via Pioneer/ MINDEF

First women to complete Hell Week

Both Ng and Tan are the first women to complete the CDC and the challenging Hell Week training.

The female divers before them instead went through other physical and medical tests and diving courses to make the selection.

The duo making the cut by going through the same training as men signals that more women will have the opportunity to become combat naval divers in the future.

Smaller physical stature

Training with men had its challenges.

Ng and Tan stand at 154cm and 156cm respectively, and each weighed below 50kg by the end of their course.

via Pioneer/ MINDEF

But both women understood their limitations when competing head-on in physical challenges.

During boat PT, the trainees are split into teams to carry an 80kg boat in groups of eight to nine while completing various challenges.

The group that won each challenge would get to rest while the others kept going.

"We just accepted that we were going to do more. So, while everyone chiong-ed to be number one, we just prepared for the second set," Tan said.

"We played to our strengths," added Ng.

"Our brute strength wasn't so good, but our endurance was okay, a bit better."

Made course leaders

Together with a male regular serviceman, the women were selected as course leaders during CDC because of their seniority in service.

This meant they had to lead full-time national servicemen (NSFs) and other regulars on top of their own training.

Made it as top trainee

And it was not for nought.

Ng became the first female to wield the trident during their graduation ceremony.

Captain Jhosy Ng via Pioneer/ MINDEF

via Pioneer/ MINDEF

The top graduate is selected based on their overall performance in physical evolutions and theory tests, on top of peer and instructor appraisals.

It was not all smooth sailing.

Ng admitted that some parts, especially the load-bearing challenges, were a struggle.

She said: "Even just the twin cylinders that we use for scuba diving — they're 30kg, which is about 60 per cent of my weight!"

Ng was a speech therapist for three years before making a mid-career switch to enlist as a naval officer in 2020.

She served as the assistant navigation officer on board frigate RSS Tenacious and a staff officer in Fleet Headquarters' Training Branch before her stint in NDU.

Tan is a water sports enthusiast.

Captain Angelia Tan via Pioneer/ MINDEF

It was revealed that she almost did not make the cut to join the current batch of trainees, as she failed her first diver fitness test, a pre-requisite for the course.

The diver fitness test involves eight stations, including chin-ups, a 500m swim and a 10m underwater breath-hold swim.

The canoeist made it in the second round.

The women also cut their hair short in a "boy cut" for hygiene purposes throughout the course.

Tan admitted to feeling demoralised at times when she did not improve or failed to meet the standards while on course.

Will be deployed to CDG

Having made it as part of NDU, both officers will be deployed as second-in-charge of different teams in NDU's Clearance Diving Group (CDG).

CDG is tasked with performing underwater security operations and maritime explosive ordnance disposal operations to keep Singapore's waters safe.

All photos via Pioneer/ MINDEF