My Job at SATS: I’ve been an Auxiliary Police Officer with SATS Security Services for 37 years

My Job at SATS: I’ve been an Auxiliary Police Officer with SATS Security Services for 37 years

If you have visited one of SATS' premises before, you might have had the opportunity to speak with a very important veteran: Sergeant Sally Tan.

If you’re lucky, you might come across her at the security office at the entrance of the SATS headquarters, Inflight Catering Centre 1 (ICC1) - she’s a friendly face who greets visitors making their way into the building. Most of the time, however, she’s busy working with over 100 SATS Security Services (SSS) auxiliary police officers who are deployed throughout various SATS premises. 

Sgt Sally_SATS Security_APO                                                                                                                                              “I don’t do the job alone!” she laughs, when asked how she manages to make site visits, handle deployments, and still have time to manage the previously lengthy security clearance administrative process for many visitors to SATS' restricted premises. “There’s always another Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) on duty and we help each other out. It’s impossible to carry out a one-man show here”.

Life at SATS Security in 1984

Sally didn’t start out here though, when she first joined in 1984 (“13 September was my first day!” she joyfully recalls.) she was deployed to the airport. She was posted to the departure hall where she and her colleagues conducted anti-sabotage checks on luggage. That meant checking for items that people were not allowed to bring on board and inspecting for weapons and other disallowed items. They were trained to look out for banned items that can often be disguised to look like ordinary objects.

Back in the day, female recruits also wore skirts – the uniform has since been switched to pants to facilitate greater mobility.

“Today, we use technology to conduct the checks, but back in the day we had counters where we had to manually look through items,” she reminisces fondly, “those days you really got to interact with passengers - I met people from all over the world!”

Security is about people

Meeting new people is one of the main reasons Sally loves her job. Today, as she has progressed to take on a supervisory role, she might not get to meet as many international passengers as she once did, but she still relishes the opportunity to interact with her colleagues, staff at SATS, and their guests. “Everyone’s really nice, the staff are always so friendly, even the board directors who always take the time to greet all of us when they come down for meetings. It’s really heartening,” she shares. 

Some of Sally’s fondest memories on the job include meeting interesting people, like Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. “He shook my hand!” she gushes. “It was on a Chinese New Year public holiday when PM Lee came down to visit the SATS inflight catering production facility and distribute red packets and oranges to staff on duty. It’s really rare that you get to meet dignitaries like him, so I was very excited”.

A career in security is never stagnant

A font of youthful energy – despite serving for over 37 years, Sally still hasn’t tired of her duties and is often involved in assignments that takes her across Singapore. “We’ve had assignments at the Istana, like when they open to the public, we’ll be there to offer assistance. I am also involved in the F1 race every year. As it’s an open-air event it’s very hot, but the excitement is worth it!” During this period of time, when events are few, officers are still deployed to external locations such as dormitories, hotels and other quarantine facilities.

Sally hopes her younger colleagues and new recruits would get to experience more external assignments in future. “Whenever it’s possible, I encourage the higher-ups to give more assignments to the younger recruits. I’ve had years to enjoy these postings, but they’ll never learn what to do if they don’t get a chance to participate”. She nods thoughtfully, “if we want to groom people to stay on in this industry, we can’t hold them back, we need to nurture them.”

When asked if she’s faced any issues as a woman in a predominantly male industry, Sally was quick to refute, “No, no – I’ve never faced any issues at all. I guess the most important thing is that you must have confidence in yourself. I really believe that whatever a man can do, a woman can do too”.

Sally shares that her time in the National Police Cadet Corps (NPCC) at school contributed largely to her confidence when she first started at SSS in her mid-twenties. “When you wear the uniform, you feel a sense of pride and know that you are here to help maintain law and order, and provide security and safety,” she shares.

What it takes to be a security officer and why people should join

An ideal recruit, Sally shares, hopefully has the same understanding of what it means to be in uniform. She particularly commends new recruits who come in with a steadfast attitude, an enthusiasm for the job, and enjoy being active and meeting new people. “It is all about the attitude you adopt when you’re working at SSS. What’s the point in working in security if you don’t enjoy interacting with people? You’ll never enjoy what you do".

The benefits are worth it, Sally explains. “There’s constant progression for those who show the right attitude because security cuts across all aspects of businesses. With SSS, you’re never fixed in one spot for long. Officers are always given the opportunity to move around and experience different aspects of the security industry”.

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