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Herstory: Policing Our Coasts with Pride
A member of the pioneering batch of female officers in SPF’s elite Special Task Squadron, SGT Donna Koh is as tough as they come.

Herstory is a series that highlights the Home Team’s outstanding female officers and their experiences.

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” 

This quote strongly reminded me of Sergeant (SGT) Donna Koh, an officer I had the pleasure of speaking to. A member of the elite Special Task Squadron (STS) of the Police Coast Guard (PCG), her job includes intercepting high-speed threats and intruders that come into Singapore’s waters.

My first impression of SGT Donna was that she looked intimidating, but after chatting with her, I realised that she was down to earth, with no airs about her at all. During her eight years with the Home Team, she has continued to push her limits, with bravery and determination.

Home Team News SPF SGT Donna Koh 01
SGT Donna is one of the five female officers in STS, an elite unit that patrols and protects Singapore’s territorial waters. PHOTO: Peggy Tan

A Calling to Serve
SGT Donna had an uncertain start to her professional journey. She revealed that when she told her family that she was joining the Singapore Police Force (SPF), they were worried that it would be both demanding and dangerous.

Still, she persevered because she believed it was her calling to serve. “I really wanted to be part of the Home Team, and to be in a place where we can all come together to protect Singapore,” said SGT Donna. 
 Home Team News SPF SGT Donna Koh 02
Maritime capabilities: Proud to be an STS officer. PHOTO: Peggy Tan

Having completed five years as a Ground Response Force officer, in 2015, SGT Donna learnt that STS was accepting female officers. Wanting a change in her operational environment, she applied to the unit. 

An avid sportswoman who loves running and dragon-boating, she was confident she could handle the rigorous physical requirements, which are the same for both male and female officers. “I went for the selection process not knowing what to expect,” she revealed. 

Despite the challenges, SGT Donna passed the selection and was immensely proud to become a member of the pioneering batch of female STS officers. 

Trained to Conquer the Waves 
STS officers have to complete an intensive, six-month course that prepares them for the unpredictable and tough conditions of maritime policing. Watching SGT Donna put on her uniform and tactical gear in a swift and professional manner, it was evident to me the countless hours of practice she’d put in. 

“During our training, we had to carry loads in excess of our own body weight, including our bullet-proof vest and weapon,” she explained. “The training we undergo is very realistic and we have to get accustomed to this load.”

SGT Donna's equipment was easily twice her body weight. I was dumbfounded, but she only laughed it off. She further explained that when her team had to board errant vessels, she often took the lead, which was why physical strength was crucial.

Home Team News SPF SGT Donna Koh 03
Trained and ready: SGT Donna had to carry gear in excess of her own body weight during her STS training. PHOTO: Peggy Tan

During one night-time “methods of entry” training session, SGT Donna and her partner were tasked to break down multiple doors. It was a warm night and after breaching the sixth door, SGT Donna was hit by a wave of exhaustion. But her partner immediately spurred her on. “I just couldn’t just give up,” recalled SGT Donna. 

Determined, she completed the entire training session. 

Now, SGT Donna handles it all with the ease of a veteran. As one of five female STS officers, she’s committed to doing her best. “We work very closely as a team here,” she said. “It can be demanding, but also incredibly rewarding.”

Want to learn more about the inspiring women officers in the Home Team? Check out:
- Herstory: What It Means to Save a Life (SCDF)

  1. by Peggy Tan
  2. 23 January 2019
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