Family follows RSAF flying instructor to Australia to fulfil his ambition
PERTH, WESTERN AUSTRALIA – For Captain Alvin Leow, fulfilling his ambition as a qualified flying instructor was not just a personal decision, but one which also involved his family of four.
The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) officer had to persuade his wife to take a two-year break from her bank job to relocate to Perth, where the air force conducts training at Base Pearce in the suburb of Bullsbrook.
The family also had to ease the anxiety of their children, two-year-old Reanne and five-year-old Reyes, who had to move from a kindergarten in Singapore to one near their home in Burns Beach where they have been living for over a year.
The Royal Australian Air Force’s Base Pearce is where the nine-month Basic Wings Course for RSAF pilots and weapon systems officer trainees is conducted, along with flying instructor courses.
The air force celebrated 25 years of the Pearce Detachment’s training there on Monday (Nov 12).
A commemorative plaque was unveiled by Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How at the ceremony which was attended by RSAF personnel, their families, as well as senior Australian defence officials.
There was also a fly-past involving four PC-21 trainer aircraft, one of which was flown by Capt Leow, who previously operated the F-15SG fighter jets.
The 35-year-old teaches the Basic Wings Course, which covers areas such as handling of aircraft, take-off and landing, navigation, night flying and basic aerobatics.
As aspiring pilots become military officers before earning their wings and becoming pilots, he trains them in both their flying and leadership skills.
He said: “Being an instructor is a different ballgame compared to just flying alone. More than just flying – we play the role of a mentor and a coach to build the next generation of pilots, which is very meaningful, and hence we decided to come here.
“I had to convince my wife initially, the thing that was difficult for her was to give up her career, but the time spent with the family and the bonding that we get is something that we can’t exchange for anything else,” he said.
Capt Leow’s posting will end in August next year.
Moving to Australia was the first time that Ms Poh, 34, and her children have lived away from home for an extended period.
Ms Poh said: “The kids had a little bit of relocation anxiety, but we call home almost every night and that helped make them more comfortable here.”
Being part of a close-knit community of more than 200 RSAF servicemen, their families, and the logistics support team there helped the family to settle in.
Ms Poh added: “When the kids go to school, most of the time we meet the other wives for lunch, and after yoga we go to each others’ house to cook food that remind us of home, such as mee siam, bak kut teh and curry fish head.”
Things that the family will miss when they return to Singapore are the places of nature and the “beautiful blue skies” in Perth, said Ms Poh.
Added Capt Leow: “In the winter months we’ll stay indoors and go to indoor playgrounds, but when the weather is good, we’ll move outdoors to visit parks, go on road trips, or go camping.”
Despite having to give up her job temporarily, Ms Poh appreciates the less hectic lifestyle in Australia.
She said: “To a certain extent, I think it’s a privilege and something fortunate that I can forgo working for a while and watch my kids grow, hitting certain milestones.
“Such chances I would not have if I’m a working mum, so that’s quite satisfying.”
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