Winston Choo Wee Leong
|Born||18 July 1941|
|Service/||Singapore Armed Forces|
|Years of service||1959–1992|
|Spouse(s)||Katherine Seow (m. 3 December 1966)|
|Other work||see #Diplomatic career and #Other work|
|Winston Choo Wee Leong|
Winston Choo Wee Leong (born 18 July 1941) is a Singaporean diplomat, civil servant and former general. He was the first Chief of Defence Force of the Singapore Armed Forces from 1974–1992 and held the rank of Lieutenant-General.
Early life and education
Choo was given the name "Winston" by his grandfather, who named him after Winston Churchill. He grew up in Makepeace Road in the Newton area and received his education in Monk's Hill School (1947–1952) and Anglo-Chinese School (1953–1957). While he was in Anglo-Chinese School, he captained the school's football team, played hockey, and won the Queen's Badge (now the Founder's Badge) for his activities in The Boys' Brigade.
Choo enlisted in the Singapore Military Forces (renamed "Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)" in 1961) in December 1959 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in December 1961 after completing his officer cadet training in Port Dickson, Malaysia. Following that, he served as a platoon commander in the 1st Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment (1 SIR) and was involved in two major operations. The first was when he was deployed to Sebatik Island, Borneo between 1963 and 1964 during the Konfrontasi. The second was when he led his men in patrolling the streets during the 1964 race riots in Singapore.
After Singapore became independent on 9 August 1965, Choo, then the battalion signals officer, was appointed as a military aide-de-camp to Yusof bin Ishak, Singapore's first President. He was recalled to the SAF in 1966 and served as the first Commanding Officer (CO) of the 1st Signal Battalion from 1967–1968. Between 1968 and 1969, Choo attended the Long Telecommunications Course at the School of Signals in the United Kingdom, returning to Singapore to serve as the Second-in-Command (2IC) of the 1st Signal Battalion. In 1970, he was appointed as the Chief of Communications and Electronics (now the Chief of Signals).
In 1971, Choo served briefly as the CO of the 4th Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment (4 SIR) before attending the Command and Staff College at Fort Canning. In the following year, he attended the US Army Command and General Staff course at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, United States, and graduated with distinctions in all his subjects.
Upon his return to Singapore in September 1972, Choo assumed command of 1 SIR. In the same year, he was named an honorary aide-de-camp to Benjamin Sheares, Singapore's second President, and took up command of the 2nd Singapore Infantry Brigade (2 SIB). He was also promoted to the rank of Colonel. He was later posted to the Defence Ministry (MINDEF)'s headquarters, where he was appointed the Head of Training and Head of Organisation and Plans in 1973. In 1974, he succeeded Kirpa Ram Vij as the Director of General Staff (renamed to "Chief of General Staff" in 1976). Choo was promoted to Brigadier (now replaced by Brigadier-General) in 1976 and to Major-General two years later.
Between 1978 and 1981, Choo attended a preparatory course in military history at the Department of History of the National University of Singapore. In 1981, he went to the United States to study for a master's degree in military history at Duke University and returned to Singapore in 1982 to resume his post as the Chief of General Staff.
Choo was promoted to Lieutenant-General in 1988 and became the first Chief of Defence Force (CDF) in May 1990 after "Chief of General Staff" was renamed. He retired from the SAF on 30 June 1992, after which he went to Harvard Business School and attended the six-week Advanced Management Program.
After retiring from military service, Choo pursued a career in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was Singapore's High Commissioner to Australia and Fiji from 1994–1997 and to South Africa from 2001–2005. He was also a non-resident Ambassador to Papua New Guinea from 2000–2006 and to Israel since 2005.
Apart from his military and diplomatic careers, Choo took on non-executive roles in various governmental and non-governmental organisations, including: Deputy chairman, Central Provident Fund (1992–1994); Chairman, Chartered Industries (1992–1994); board member, Singapore Technologies (1984–1992); board member, Keppel-Tat Lee Bank (1992–2001); Board chairman, Metro Holdings (2007–present); Chairman, Singapore Red Cross Society (1996–2008); Member, Singapore Sports Council (late 1970s); Member, National Youth Achievement Award Council; Honorary President, Boys' Brigade (2011–present).
Choo has contributed to several publications, including his recollections of Goh Keng Swee and of his time in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He also supported the Dads for Life movement in Singapore by contributing to the book Letters from Grandpa and Grandma (pub. 2008).
Throughout his career, Choo won many accolades, some of the medals were displayed at a National Library Board exhibition in 2006. What follows is a partial list of his medals:
- Darjah Utama Bakti Cemerlang (Distinguished Service Order) - DUBC, in 2015
- Bintang Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Star) - BBM in 2009, for his work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
- Pingat Bakti Masyarakat (Public Service Medal) - PBM in 2005, for his work with the Singapore Red Cross Society in tsunami relief operations.
- Pingat Pentadbiran Awam, Emas (Public Administration Medal, Gold) - PPA(E) in 1978.
- Meritorious Service Medal (Military) - PJG in 1990, for exceptional distinguished service in military command or staff work.
- Pingat Bakti Setia (Long Service Medal)
- Singapore Armed Forces Long Service and Good Conduct (10 Years) Medal with 15 year clasp
- Darjah Panglima Gagah Angkatan Tentera (Honorary Malaysian Armed Forces Order for Valour (First Degree)), in 1987.
- "25 ADCs for President Sheares". The Straits Times. 6 April 1971. p. 8. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
- "Choo is now youngest colonel". The Straits Times. 3 October 1972. p. 8. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
- "Col. Choo gets top job". The Straits Times. 31 May 1974. p. 10. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
- "Colonel Winston Choo promoted brigadier". The Straits Times. 1 August 1976. p. 5. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
- "Winston Choo made major-general". The Straits Times. 6 July 1978. p. 1. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
- "SAF top brass study in US". The Straits Times. 27 August 1981. p. 1. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
- "Top officers given exposure". The Straits Times. 17 September 1982. p. 1. Archived from the original on 19 December 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
- "Winston Choo is Singapore's first three-star general". The Straits Times. 1 July 1988. p. 1. Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 28 August 2013.
- "Choo at the Pentagon". The Straits Times. 5 October 1978. p. 7. Retrieved 28 August 2013.[permanent dead link]
- Winston Choo article on Infopedia, National Library Board Singapore
- MINDEF Singapore : The SAF's Pioneer Infantry Battalion Turns 50
|New title|| 1st Chief of Defence Force
Major-General Ng Jui Ping