Oceans and Seas

the work of author Michael Krieger

On Patrol: Pt. 9 – Machine Guns

Posted on Aug 23, 2019

On Patrol: Pt. 9 – Machine Guns


Kenis and Sprig leave to go back to work. Kenis appears to be mature and very responsible. Later, I see her manning one of the machine guns on the bridge wing. Spring’s duty station is at the radar repeater on the bridge, where she continually examines and evaluates the complex hodgepodge of light pips in front of her, representing ships, islands, reefs, and small boats in the nearby waters. On an almost minute-by-minute basis she updates the officer of the watch.

tea time

The three women of the Unity’s crew take a break for a cup of tea.

Sergeant Suganthi still has a few minutes before she has to return to her duty station in the engine room, so I ask her about herself. She is one of perhaps a half-dozen sailors of Indian extraction onboard the Unity.

“The crew likes to call me Su,” She says. Then, with a laugh, “Or they have given me a Chinese name; they call me Ah Su.”

Su appears reserved and demure. “Why did you decide to go into the navy.” I ask her. “You seem so quiet.”


“It’s not the first time someone is telling me that,” she replies. “People are usually taken aback, even my relatives and my primary school friends, when I tell them that I have joined the navy. And I am very happy about it. I needed a job to support myself and my family. So that’s why I did it. I was like trying for the air force, actually. But somehow I got rejected. So my second choice was the navy.”

“Are you married?”

“No, no, no,” she answers quickly.

“And did you grow up and spend your childhood in Singapore?”

“Yeah, my whole life. I grew up and was brought up here all along, yeah.”

“What is the tradition with Indian families, say with girls, in terms of profession? Are there limits on what you can choose, or is that very old-fashioned?”

“There was. In fact, there still is. But I wouldn’t say in Singapore— in India, maybe. If you take Singapore’s culture… Like, for example, my mum. My mum wanted to join the army when she was my age.”



“And my uncle’s—my mum’s brothers—they restricted her. They said no, no way you are going to go in the army, because they know how life is there. Because my uncle is in the army also. So they said, no, no, no, a girl shouldn’t go in there, like what you will be going through and what you will need to know. Then when I wanted to join, none of my uncle’s objected. In fact, they were like, I’m so proud of you that you are making this decision—the same uncle’s. It was like times have changed, and everything, even the army, has changed. And people are more open-minded. For one thing, last time [in earlier times] when the girl works in this kind of place, when she’s, like, about to get married, or anything like that, it’s very difficult. Usually last time [there used to be] all arranged marriage. It’s not like love, you know, like our culture. People [then] would usually think twice when they ask a girl [for her] hand. They will [think], like, this girl, she wouldn’t be the good kind—that sort of thinking. Now things have changed. But you will be surprised, people still do think twice, yeah.”




More from “On Patrol”

On Patrol: Pt. 8 – The Alarm

On Patrol: Pt. 8 – The Alarm

Engine Room We are barely moving through the water and suddenly an alarm goes off on the bridge. Major Wong speaks with Sergeant Koh, the chief engineer, explains that enough bypass gas and some from hot, oily surfaces have collected to set off an engine room alarm....