This International Security Officers’ Day 2023, our colleagues shares their motivation and purpose for taking on the crucial role of safeguarding our communities.
Anne Ng, aviation security officer at Singapore’s Changi Airport, shares her story.
In a bustling airport like Changi, there are numerous unsung heroes working tirelessly to ensure our safety and security. As part of International Security Officers’ Day, we cast the spotlight on AvSO Anne Ng, a team leader overseeing the security of immigration operations at Changi Airport, who exemplifies the dedication and professionalism of security officers around the world.
“To keep Changi Airport safe is to keep Singapore safe... We don't want an incident like 9/11 to happen in the future, again. That's why screening is so important."
All In A Day's Work
As a team leader with 14 officers under her charge, Anne oversees immigration operations at Changi Airport Terminal 4’s Arrival Hall. Key priorities include ensuring that immigration operations flow as smoothly as possible and keeping a vigilant eye out for threats.
“For my current job position, I am [stationed] at Terminal 4’s arrival belt. There, my team and I will look out for passengers with suspicious bags. Such individuals will then be referred to the Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) officers who will screen the bag again to check any prohibited items.”
The life of an AvSO is never dull as Anne recalls many incidents where passengers misunderstand the need for further screening.
“Passengers may misunderstand that we want to screen them again because they look suspicious. But we’re just doing our part in never compromising safety and security.
“They may raise their voice at us, or become uncooperative. But we will patiently explain that this is just a normal security routine,” she explained. For passengers who still refuse to comply, Anne and her team will be able to count on the support of her superiors and peers for assistance.
She also talks about some of the unique items that passengers have tried to bring into Singapore, or onto planes.
"We regularly see empty [bullet] cartridges, nunchaku (a type of weapon) and replica guns. We cannot let passengers with such items go through [our checkpoints]. These will require the attention of the Airport Police Department (APD)... The passengers will miss their flight for sure because they will need to comply with APD checks and answer why they brought these items.”
Anne’s initial perception of the job as serious and repetitive quickly evolved into discovering that it is an exciting and rewarding experience. The camaraderie and shared sense of purpose among her team members fuels her motivation and makes each day more memorable.
“I have real team players with me, and we cooperate with each other. They motivate me because we are working together, to help each other perform our job roles more easily. The atmosphere is quite fun and time flies by when I am with them,” she shared.
“I thought this job would be quite serious. And every day repeating the same thing... It is quite memorable when an incident happens. We can share our thoughts and can share insights from interesting things we encounter with each other. This motivates me to come to work every day,” added Anne.
Anne understands the importance and necessity of the job as a first line of defence.
“To keep Changi Airport safe is to keep Singapore safe. During arrival when we are screening bags, we are able to stop passengers from bringing prohibited items in and stop them inside the airport. Who knows what can happen in the country if we miss this out. This is the same for departures too. If we miss clearance and detection of prohibited items, the pilot, the aircrew and the passengers inside will be compromised... We don’t want an incident like 9/11 to happen in the future again, that’s why we need screening,” explained Anne.
Tricks of the Trade
It is her ability to communicate effectively, identify potential difficult passengers that sets Anne apart as a skilled security professional.
“Normally I would take a deep breath, and then tell myself to calm down as I try to communicate and understand what a passenger really wants. I then analyse and see if it fits our criteria and try to find win-win solutions. But I make sure that we never break our Standard Operating Procedure (SOP),” said Anne, as she describes how she deals with moments when tensions run high.
Supported by Technology
Technology has also played a significant role in enhancing security operations and increasing the productivity of staff at Changi Airport.
“For the screening part, we have City Scanners. This X-ray machine is quite high-tech because it can automatically analyse and detect any prohibited items or liquids exceeding 100ml, so we don’t need an operator to check bags physically,” she explained.
Opportunities for Growth
Anne is a stellar example of a lifelong learner. She is presently studying Logistics part-time at Temasek Polytechnic to upskill herself. On top of that, she highlights the importance of continuous learning and annual re-certification exams.
“When I first started i was really blur. And I performed very simple tasks like general screening and front loading. After several months I got to upgrade my skills with training and assessments and level up... If I never have training, and knowledge, I won't learn many of the important SOPs and safety knowledge. Re-assessments each year also allow us to stay updated with our skills and knowledge,” recounted Anne.
Small Gestures, Big Impact
With passenger interactions being a vital part of her role, Anne finds joy in meeting friendly travellers who share their experiences.
“Some of the passengers are quite friendly. They will ask us how we are and how our day went,’ she shared, before adding that all it takes is a little appreciation to make her day.
“Just a simple smile and just a thank you. That’s all. Then we will feel like it’s worth it.”
As we celebrate International Security Officers’ Day, let us recognise and appreciate the tireless efforts of security officers like Anne. Their vigilance, professionalism, and ability to maintain order in a world filled with uncertainties deserve our utmost respect and gratitude.
So, the next time you pass through Changi Airport, don't forget to offer a warm smile and a simple "Thank You" to these unsung heroes who work tirelessly behind the scenes.
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