Singapore

Elite Counter Assault Unit gets its first female officer

The 28-year-old graduates from gruelling Counter Assault Unit course, which trains police officers to protect VIPs

A car screeched to a halt right in the middle of a "terrorist attack", and four heavily armoured police officers hopped out of the vehicle and directly into the line of fire.

The four officers deftly stormed through doors to clear a safe path for their VIP charge, firing rounds to take down the "attackers", while protecting their charge with their bodies.

Among these four Counter Assault Unit (CAU) operators in this exercise scenario last Friday was Sergeant Anna (not her real name), the first woman to graduate from the Police Security Command's (SecCom) CAU course.

The identities of CAU operators cannot be made public due to operational sensitivities. They are primarily personal security officers with SecCom, an elite unit assigned to protect the president, ministers and other very important dignitaries.

The three-month course is physically demanding, and the passing rate of this latest batch - the eighth - was slightly over 60 per cent, with five of eight trainees graduating, including Sgt Anna.

The specialised CAU was commissioned in May 2006, following high-profile terrorist events such as the Sept 11 terror attacks on the United States in 2001 and the Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005 which targeted tourist spots.

Officers like Sgt Anna perform their roles as CAU operators during major events such as the 2018 Trump-Kim summit in Singapore, at National Day Parades and, most recently, during the opening of Parliament last week.

In major incidents, CAU operators are the first line of defence in protecting their charges, and their training has to be challenging to prepare them for this, CAU's commanding officer, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Bros Leong, told the media during the training demonstration last Friday.

Operators are selected based on their physical abilities and mental readiness, and they go through a rigorous training programme that prepares them for close-quarter battles and attack scenarios, among others.

"They are trained and prepared to take a bullet for the VIPs," said ASP Leong, adding that instructors even shoot simulation rounds at their trainees to train them to shield their VIP charges instead of dodging the rounds.

Sgt Anna said it felt surreal to have completed the gruelling course, which ended on Aug 20. The 28-year-old, who joined SecCom two years ago, is an avid gamer who has played a lot of first-person shooting games.

She was extra motivated to complete the course, knowing she would be the first female to do so, and said her course mates gave her a lot of encouragement.

Sgt Anna said: "I hope to motivate other aspiring female officers... they, too, are able to join the unit, as long as they believe in themselves."

Employment