It Is a huge responsibility when one of your first tasks on the job is to fly to Phuket and Aceh to support the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) missions in the aftermath of the 2004 Asian tsunami crisis.

Then, COL Gaurav Keerthi had just completed his training to fly a Chinook helicopter (CH-47) only days prior, but took on the mission eagerly.

“It was a real eye-opening and an emotionally powerful experience for me,” he says.

The sky’s the limit

The 37-year-old is currently the Head of the Joint Plans & Transformation Department in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

He is also a recipient of The SAF Scholarship offered by MINDEF/SAF, which he accepted in 1998 to study Economics at Stanford University.

Says COL Gaurav: “I was looking for a career that was not deskbound. I wanted something that would allow me to work with people and push myself physically and intellectually.”

Eighteen years on, he still enjoys his job.

“The SAF is a multi-faceted organisation. I could be flying my helicopter one day, briefing the Chief of Defence Force on important projects another day, and having conversations with my staff on future military challenges the next. The diverse portfolio keeps me on my toes and constantly intellectually stimulated,” he says.

His flying training started with a propeller aircraft in Singapore, then a jet in Australia, and finally helicopters back in Singapore.

His first staff tour in the Air Plans Department exposed him to the challenges of managing cuttingedge technology projects.

Thereafter, he was seconded to the Ministry of Trade and Industry for two years, before returning to the RSAF to eventually command a helicopter squadron, a tour which he found extremely fulfilling.

In 2014, he completed a Master in Public Administration at the Harvard Kennedy School. On his return to Singapore, COL Gaurav served as the Deputy Head of Air Operations and Head of Air Plans Department, before taking on his current role.

He says: “Compared to some of my former classmates who are now in desk-bound jobs, I feel my experiences are truly unique and diverse, thanks to the SAF.

“My colleagues are passionate and purpose-driven, and I have been fortunate to be able to work with almost every vocation in the RSAF at some point in my career. Each of them plays an important part in keeping Singapore’s skies safe, and we are proud of the roles we play.”

COL Gaurav encourages likeminded individuals who wish to challenge themselves to consider a meaningful career with the SAF, “Life is not just about arriving quickly at your destination; it’s about being proud of your journey. If you want to make a difference, challenge yourself, and have a diverse and unique life experience — then you should join us!”