Captain (CPT) Joyce Xie lives life on her own terms. Initially destined for the lab, she left her studies in molecular and cell biology to become a pilot in the Republic of Singapore Air Force.
That was in 2004, after watching a documentary on relief efforts following the Boxing Day tsunami. I saw how the Singapore Armed Forces contributed in a more meaningful way.
She now pilots the AH-64D Apache Longbow helicopter. On how her family took this about-turn, CPT Xie said: I think my parents always knew I was going to do something different from most people. They've always told me to pursue what I want as long as I am happy.
She was sent to the Peace Vanguard detachment in the United States (US), training with the Arizona Army National Guards for two years. I learnt from veterans with years of combat experience, and it was one of the best training experiences I've ever had.
As much as we hope that we do not have to use (these skills), we have to train the way that we would fight. CPT Xie is now a Staff Officer in the Air Training Department.
While in the US, she got to indulge her passion for fast cars. She drove on track-days and took the wheels of some of the fastest production cars in the world today.
The car which left an impression was the Lamborghini Aventador, which has 700 horses under the hood (still less than an Apache helicopter). It's the speed and precision of these cars that I enjoy - that's also why I love being a pilot!
At 31, Specialist Cadet (SCT) Rajaretnam S/O Perananamgam is easily a decade older than his peers undergoing the Specialist Cadet Course.
He has been a Regular in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) for the past 13 years, serving in the Headquarters Guards (HQ Guards).
If there is a will to learn, nothing can stop you from gaining the knowledge you want, said SCT Rajaretnam who joined the SAF in 2001.
He came to Specialist Cadet School on the second recommendation of his superiors. His first was in 2005 but SCT Rajaretnam felt he was not ready. At the time, I felt that I still had a lot to learn, and I wasn't ready to lead.
My attitude is that I always want the best outcome for anything I do. I don't want to be second best, said SCT Rajaretnam.
This attitude served him well. On 26 Sep, he received the Golden Bayonet award from Chief of Army Major-General (MG) Perry Lim. The award is presented to the top SCT of each Formation.
Speaking at the parade, MG Lim said: Generations before you have done their duty to keep Singapore safe, secure and strong. It is now your turn to step up to take responsibility to defend our home…
He also asked the new Specialists to engage the men they would eventually lead. Learn to maximise their strengths, unlock their potential and motivate them to give their best during National Service.
The message resonated with SCT Peter Ang Nielsen, another Golden Bayonet award recipient. I get along well with everyone. People trust and confide in me and I will bring these (qualities) when I lead my men. The 19-year-old is a Naval Diver.
He remembers a training scenario where he had to lead his 11-man team through ambushes while carrying simulated casualties. That really taught us about teamwork and it was very memorable, said SCT Nielsen, who has been selected for an interview to see if he can make the cut for Officer Cadet School.
For fellow Golden Bayonet awardee SCT Jia Songshan, his motivation to do well was simply that he wanted to give back to the country.
He came to Singapore at age 10 with his family who have since become Singapore citizens. I'm grateful for the opportunities, and I'm very proud to do my National Service as a Singaporean.
The 21-year-old serves in the Republic of Singapore Air Force in a Ground Based Air Defence unit. I have seen all of us really come together and forge strong bonds to emerge as a strong team, he said of his training at SCS.
I think these friendships will last way beyond my NS and into the future.
Fellow SCT Muhammad Marzuqi Bin Nasrullah also treasured the friendships forged. He said the course also developed him into a well-rounded soldier, and taught him more about the larger SAF.
I have a better understanding of how my job fits into the SAF, said the Silver Bayonet award recipient, who is a Military Policeman.
This cohort saw 1,003 SCTs from the Army, Navy and Air Force graduating. Celebrating with them were their family and friends, as well as senior SAF officers.
There is a meeting of minds between Singapore and the Philippines on the need for a 24/7 regional coordination centre which fills the gap immediately after a disaster strikes, and the affected country's command and control systems are denigrated, if not wiped out.
Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen said this at a media interview during his introductory visit to the Philippines from 24 to 26 Sep. He was referring to the recently-inaugurated Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Centre (RHCC) in Changi, which was set up to provide a more effective response to disasters in the region, by facilitating military-to-military cooperation.
Dr Ng explained that when a disaster strikes, there will never be enough hands on deck. There will always be short of resources, whether it's manpower or medical care or supplies that are needed. And the RHCC fills this gap in building up partnerships and relationships.He added that the RHCC was not meant to displace any organisations, but would work in partnership with existing and even new organisations that want to come on board.
During his visit, Dr Ng met Philippine Secretary of National Defense Voltaire T. Gazmin who expressed support for the Changi RHCC. They discussed issues that were common challenges, such as regional security, where both ministers agreed that the resolution of issues in the South China Sea was required...through diplomatic initiatives, not military ones. They affirmed that, from the security point of view, it will be very good for increased military-to-military exchanges as that would enhance understanding among different militaries, and improve relations.
Dr Ng and Mr Gazmin also reaffirmed the warm bilateral defence relations between the two countries and agreed to an annual bilateral defence policy dialogue chaired at a senior official level. I think this is a significant commitment and one that will help us...move our bilateral relationship a step further, Dr Ng said.
On 25 Sep, Dr Ng visited the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Operations Centre in Manila, which deals with natural disasters in the Philippines.
Dr Ng's visit to the Philippines underscores the warm relations between Singapore and the Philippines. Both countries' armed forces interact regularly through visit exchanges, cross-attendance of courses, and other professional interactions.
His resilience has inspired Singaporeans. Navy serviceman Military Expert (ME) 2-1 Jason Chee shares his journey in overcoming adversities.
He now has only his right arm with two fingers. But never once did ME 2-1 Chee wallow in self-pity or let his disabilities stop him from living a purposeful life since that fateful accident in December 2012.
Just 18 months after the incident, he had already returned to work in the Navy. Along the way, the wheelchair-bound former primary school paddler picked up table tennis again. And even went on to do Singapore proud by winning a bronze in the 7th ASEAN Para-Games earlier this year. He had to train his remaining non-master hand, with the aid of prosthetic fingers, to play the sport.
I want to show people that if I can do it, they can also overcome their problems, said the 31-year-old, who was recognised by the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Singapore this year as one of Ten Outstanding Young Persons for his remarkable recovery and inspiring positive change in others.
From Day One, ME 2-1 Chee was determined to be independent. Initially, he had to rely on nurses to take care of him, but today ME2-1 Chee can shower by himself and even cook. Every weekday morning, he would travel alone from his home at Shunfu Estate to Tanah Merah MRT station, where a wheelchair-accessible taxi takes him to Changi Naval Base for work.
He even set a goal to walk again. Last November, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) worked with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre to customise a pair of prosthetic legs for him.
For three times a week at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, he would walk with his artificial limbs for up to 100m per session. The going has been tough as he has to rely on his hip to move the carbon fibre limbs, each weighing 10kg.
It feels five times harder than using your own legs, he said. I can already walk; the challenge is walking for a long distance. But my Squadron CO (Commanding Officer) once told me to remember 欲速则不达 (Chinese for haste makes waste). I will take things slowly, step by step.
The same goes for his work in the Navy. Being away for so long meant that he had to learn everything from scratch, even simple tasks like using a mouse and keyboard. But he is determined to do well.
In the beginning, I could not get used to it… But my passion is in the Navy, it's what I (have always) wanted to do, said ME2-1 Chee, who now helps to plan training programmes as Operations Supervisor in 191 Squadron (SQN).
It helps that his superiors and colleagues have been supportive, and eased him into the work routine. They have supported me throughout and I can trust them to help me, he said.
Even the most determined person would have moments of self-doubt. ME2-1 Chee keeps negative thoughts away by keeping himself busy. His weekly schedule is packed with voluntary work, table tennis training, and classes at UniSIM where he is pursuing a degree in Mathematics.
I have no time to worry when I am busy, I'd rather be productive than doing nothing, he said. Even when I was warded in the hospital for rehab, I was going around the ward, talking to stroke patients and amputees, sharing my story and motivating them not to give up on living.
Like his idol Nick Vujicic, a motivational speaker who was born without limbs, ME2-1 Chee wants to inspire people, especially the disabled, to live positively. He also volunteers at Renci Nursing Home to train dementia and Alzheimer patients to play table tennis. Playing the game helps to improve their cognition. He also believes that table tennis can give them a new lease of life, just as how it has given him one.
He said: They are dejected and feel hopeless but when they play table tennis, I can see hope in their eyes.
If losing his limbs was a window closed, it also opened a door for him - to represent Singapore in table tennis. ME2-1 Chee has set his sights on qualifying for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Over the next two years, he will be competing in a series of overseas tournaments to chalk up points and rise up the world ranking. He got off to a good start in August by achieving third place in the team event at the International Para Table Tennis Championship in Thailand.
I am very serious in my sports path. If I miss out on Rio in 2016, I will aim for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics. I want to do Singapore proud. Never give up, never say die. That's ME2-1 Chee for you.
Do you suffer from motion sickness?
Nope, I replied confidently.
Ever had heart palpitations?
Only when I see Benedict Cumberbatch or Tom Hiddleston.
That was about a week ago at my Fitness For Instruction medical review to try out the pilot training facilities at the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Aeromedical Centre.
Its star attraction, the HTC, generates gravitational forces (G-forces) that RSAF fighter pilots and weapons systems officers endure when executing air combat manoeuvres at extreme speeds and altitudes.
Being the thrill-seeker type, I had volunteered for the task when a colleague suggested it.
Now, staring down at the intimidating machine, which can spin the gondola - a cockpit replica in which the victim, or trainee, sits - up to 9Gs in less than two seconds, I regretted being kay kiang (Hokkien for smart alecky).
Erm, is it too late to back out now?
Merry-go-round of fear
Securely strapped into the seat of the cockpit, I was unable to escape. The hatch was closed, and I could hear a low hum as the HTC started up.
Most advanced fighter jets can pull a maximum of 9Gs. In comparison, a person experiences 1G on the ground, and a rollercoaster typically generates 2 to 3Gs.
All RSAF fighter pilots have to return to the Aeromedical Centre annually for refresher training on the HTC.
I was cleared to go up to 6Gs, but one of the officers told me it was likely I would only be able to tolerate up to 4Gs.
My stomach was churning. There was a very real chance that I would pass out. And not just because I was feeling anxious.
G-LOC, or gravitational force-induced loss of consciousness, is what happens when insufficient oxygen reaches the brain because high G-forces cause blood to rush to the legs.
To counter this, pilots use the Anti-G Straining Manoeuvre, taking short breaths and tensing their muscles to force the blood back from the lower limbs into the brain, explained Major (MAJ) (Dr) Jason Low, Head Crew Safety and Flight Environment Branch.
Unfortunately, this usually takes a few sessions to learn, and couldn't be imparted in five minutes.
The pilots can also don anti-G suits, which have air bladders that inflate when necessary to squeeze the lower limbs. This added pressure helps to counteract the effects of G.
Sadly, these suits must fit the wearers snugly, and there were none that I could borrow.
Fail my life. Did I say I volunteered to do this?
Invisible roller coaster
You may want to close your eyes for this part, advised the HTC operator over the comms as the machine began spinning from 1G to 1.4G.
An increase of 0.4Gs didn't sound like much, but once the gondola started to tilt, the overwhelming vertigo effect it produced was far from insignificant.
Within a few seconds, my stomach was doing somersaults. I felt as though I was plummeting out of control and tumbling forward endlessly into a 360-degree loop.
The sensation was doubly surreal because there was no wind in the cockpit despite the feeling of speed.
This is due to the Coriolis effect: Feelings of disorientation occur because balance-sensing fluids in the canals of the inner ear are particularly sensitive to any change in momentum and gravitational pull. However, the body will eventually acclimatise itself.
When my sense of balance finally normalised, the operator cranked the HTC up from 1.4Gs at 0.3Gs per second (for pilots, this can be as rapid as 1G per second).
In a few blinks of an eye, my entire body felt over 100kg heavier. There was a crushing weight against my chest, making it hard to catch my breath. I could feel the gravitational drag when I moved my arm, and didn't even bother trying to lift my head from the head-rest.
As it climbed from 4 to 5Gs, the pressure pushed down against me even more, causing the loose flesh of my face to sag.
Luckily, I had no time to be pre-occupied with my unflattering jowls.
I was going blind.
It was like I was wearing blinkers - I couldn't see anything to the side. Just as I was trying to cope, everything went black.
A blackout means a complete loss of sight but no loss of consciousness - the pilot can still hear, feel and think. Often, it is one of the last warning signs of impending G-LOC.
From a faraway corner, I heard the tinny voice of the operator saying that the machine was at 5Gs and they would hold it for 30 seconds. I choked out a wheezy okay.
At this point, I could literally see stars. It was like I was staring into space, with little white and green sparks shooting past in the darkness.
As I heard the operator counting down the seconds, the pressure was so immense that all I could do was sink into the seat and try to keep breathing.
Suddenly a voice said: ...and 30! Well done!
So how well did I do?
It was pretty awesome. For a novice who had just come into the centrifuge without any formal knowledge or training, or even any anti-G suit support, you managed to tolerate 5Gs and hold it for 30 seconds, said MAJ (Dr) Low during the review.
You overcame the tumbling effect which most pilots hate. And you were able to recognise the very important symptoms of G, so that’s pretty much mission accomplished.
He added: Everyone has a different tolerance to G - some have to train very hard to maintain their static muscle strength to pull through, while others do it very effortlessly; we call them G-monsters.
When the HTC was spinning at idle, the operator had asked if I wanted to go for another round up to 6Gs. I considered it for a minute, but decided I'd quit while I was ahead.
As we watched the video of my time in the centrifuge, MAJ (Dr) Low quipped: On the plus side, now you know how you'll look in 30 years.
When I went home and looked in the mirror that night, I noticed a fresh wrinkle under my eye.
30 years in five minutes - guess it was a good thing I decided not to do 6Gs after all.
It was a sight to behold: Audiences were greeted with machines which generated clouds in a bottle, electricity from urine, and even one that allowed them to switch on a floating light bulb without having to touch it.
These were some of the fascinating physical science phenomena demonstrated by entries in this year's Amazing Science-X Challenge (ASCX), which saw a record participation of 480 primary and tertiary students.
In his keynote address, guest of honour 2nd Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing noted the importance of scientists to the development of Singapore. Citing examples such as using the latest technology to recycle and collect water in order to make Singapore self-sufficient with water, he said: They never let current limitations stop them from realising their dream.
When they had a dream, and they realised that the dream could not be fulfilled because there were no standards to achieve the dream, they created the standards, and that is how we have survived and thrived as a country.
Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive of Science Centre Singapore, shared the same sentiments, and emphasised the importance of creativity in his welcome address. We are making textbooks come alive. This process is creative, and creativity is one of the key things we aspire to achieve.
And we all know that...without creativity, we cannot survive as a nation.
Jointly organised by DSO National Laboratories (DSO), the National University of Singapore, and Science Centre Singapore, the ASXC is part of the DSO Amazing Series of Competitions.
In this competition, teams are tasked to design and build a stand-alone exhibit that best explains a physical science phenomenon in an engaging and interactive way. Teams are grouped into four categories - category A for Primary One to Six; B for Secondary One to Four; C for Junior Colleges; and D is an open category.
One of the gold award winners for Category C was team ASPIRE from Serangoon Junior College, consisting of 17-year-olds Santhiya, Htet San, and Bram. Their project, The Secret Painting, utilised rotating polarising filters to reveal an impression of the Mona Lisa.
Despite the many challenges that the team had faced, team member Santhiya noted it had been a rewarding experience working on the project: We had to stay back for a few hours every week, even during our school holidays.
But we learnt that hard work pays off, and seeing the end product come together made it all worth it.
The speed and capabilities of Guardsmen have been invaluable in peace support as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations undertaken by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen visited servicemen from the Guards formation on 19 Sep at the Lim Chu Kang Live-Firing Area.
Better known for their heli-rapelling abilities, the Guardsmen are elite infantry soldiers who specialise in rapid deployment. Over the years, SAF personnel including servicemen from the Guards formation have taken part in over twenty peacetime missions.
These include the United Nations peace keeping operations in Timor Leste from 1999 to 2003, and, more recently, the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2013.
During his visit, Dr Ng was updated on the Guards Formation's latest peacetime capabilities.
He tried his hand at firing an electric stun gun, as well as foam projectile rounds from a multiple grenade launcher. These are weapons used to immobilise a hostile person and to disperse a crowd respectively.
Dr Ng also witnessed their drill and tactics. The Guardsmen demonstrated how they counterattack, regroup, and pull out of a hotspot when their convoy is ambushed.
He also viewed a static display of equipment such as the Mobile Field Kitchen and Water Purification Unit. These equipment enable the troops to sustain themselves in extended peace support operations.
After the visit, Dr Ng wrote on his Facebook page: The Guards know that they have to be independent and self-sustaining in these areas, where conditions can be harsh... Good to know they are on top of things.
Chief Guards Officer Brigadier-General Melvyn Ong noted that the Guards formation had helped to strengthen the SAF's peacetime capabilities by building on its servicemen's experience in operations.
Our people have done well and learnt a great deal from these operations. This has...enabled Singapore to contribute as a responsible member of the international community.
As divers, we work in small teams, so (one of) the values that we inculcate in our divers is that we must take care of one another. (Participating in the) Community Chest is a way in which our guys can manifest the values of looking after one another and the community.
The fact that our little contributions have been recognised on a national level is an honour for us.
Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Sng Meng Wah, Commanding Officer of the Dive School, was speaking on behalf of the Naval Diving Unit (NDU) in receiving the gold award for SHARE, a monthly donation programme under the Community Chest (ComChest) which provides a dedicated source of funds for its beneficiaries.
This year, 2nd Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing presented the annual SHARE awards to 131 Ministry of Defence and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) units and departments at the Concorde Hotel on 17 Sep.
The awards are presented based on the participation rate of the employees and staff strength of an organisation. To be eligible for the Gold SHARE Awards, military units must make a minimum annual contribution of $1,000, and attain a participation rate of between 40 to 94 percent depending on their staff strength.
Above the Gold SHARE Award, there is the Platinum SHARE Award, requiring a minimum annual contribution of $1,000, and a participation rate of between 70 to 100 percent.
Along with NDU, 201 Squadron (SQN) from the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) Participation Command clinched the Gold SHARE Award.
Commanding Officer of 201 SQN, LTC Tony Ong said that the squadron had a strong culture of contributing to the ComChest which was driven by the passion for giving back to society.
We will continue to foster the charitable spirit of sharing among personnel to increase our participation rate to above 95 percent in the coming years. I am touched by the squadron members who have contributed towards attaining this award for the seventh year running.
We hope to sustain this streak and achieve the 10-year Outstanding SHARE Award.
Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) could be adding another option to their plate of fitness programmes aimed at helping them get fitter.
The latest initiative by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is called Self-Administered IPPT Preparatory Training (IPT), and starts on 18 Sep.
The four-month trial will see NSmen from a selected unit using fitness-tracker technology to clock IPT sessions at their own time. They can use either the Health Promotion Board's interactive Diet and Activity Tracker (iDAT) app or wearable Fitbit fitness bands.
The larger intent behind these changes to the physical fitness system is to encourage NSmen to take greater responsibility for their fitness, said Head of the National Service Affairs Department Colonel (COL) Chua Boon Keat.
Those using the fitness bands will have to clock 75 active minutes weekly to clock one IPT session, while those using the iDAT app will have to achieve 75 minutes of running at an average pace of seven minutes per kilometre. For more details, see the first infographic below.
Under the trial, NSmen will continue to do their first and last IPT sessions at one of the Fitness Conditioning Centres (FCCs) where they will take the IPPT (Individual Physical Proficiency Test).
That's our control measure. When the NSmen take the IPPT at the tenth session, we will know if their fitness has really improved, said COL Chua Boon Keat.
The SAF also started a four-month trial of another fitness initiative, IPT-in-the-Park, on 18 Sep. Besides the four FCCs, NSmen can sign up to do their IPT in five designated locations - The Promontory@Marina Bay, MOE Co-Curricular Activities Branch, Jurong Central Park, Bishan Park and Punggol Park.
2nd Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing visited the first session of IPT-in-the-Park held at Bishan Park this evening. IPT-in-the-Park will bring greater convenience to NSmen; they now have nine locations across the island to do their IPT. The session was attended by 20 NSmen.
Explaining the slew of measures, Mr Chan said: We want NSmen to take greater ownership (of their fitness) because we believe this is the best way to motivate them.
We want to do what we can to help them to keep fit while they work and, at the same time, serve their national duties.
One of the NSmen who attended the IPT-in-the-Park session, 2nd Sergeant (2SG) (NS) Joel Chua, said: The intensity is as effective as what we experience in the FCC.
It's more convenient and accessible; I will be able to come more often and do more sessions in a week, added the 24-year-old IT consultant who served in the Signals Formation.
The SAF had announced changes to the IPPT format this July, simplifying the test to a three-station format of push-ups, sit-ups and a 2.4km run.
Following the new IPPT format, the SAF rolled out a new IPT system on 1 Sep. NSmen can choose to take part in five programmes targeted at boosting different aspects of fitness. Other changes to IPT included shorter session times (75mins, down from two hours) and smaller class-sizes of 30 (previously 50).
In 2010, the SAF revised the combat fitness training system with the introduction of Vocation Related Exercises, Vocation Obstacle Course and a redesigned Standard Obstacle Course.
This year, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Central Band received the rock star treatment when it was invited to perform for the very first time at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Edinburgh Castle. The ancient stronghold of Scottish military might, and home to one of the world's biggest stages for military bands - the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo (REMT).
Each year, the finest military bands from across the globe are invited to perform at the castle esplanade, an outdoor stage set against the backdrop of this magnificent fortress atop Scotland's Castle Rock.
And making its way this year into this prestigious guest list is the SAF Central Band.
By invite only
The SAF Central Band has been a familiar face in the tattoo circuit for more than a decade, garnering fans in countries like Russia, Korea and Sweden. But its arrival at Edinburgh, the birthplace of military tattoos, happened almost serendipitously.
It was the year 2012. The SAF Central Band was playing at the International Military Music Festival in Moscow, unaware that they had caught the eye of then-REMT producer, Major-General Euan Loudon.
The show (they had put together) was very precise and had a variety of representations (of Singapore culture), explained Brigadier David Allfrey MBE, producer of the 2014 REMT, on why he was drawn to the Band's performance in Moscow.
The Tattoo decided to extend their invitation to the Band because they are one of the great military bands in the world, and they bring an extraordinary quality, not just of precision, but also the flavour and mix of everybody who lives in Singapore.
With that affirmation, the 51 musicians, together with six SAF Music and Drama Company (MDC) dancers and 14 Military Policemen from the SAF Silent Precision Drill Squad (SPDS), were ready to put up the performance of their lives.
Making a grand entrance
The multicultural dimension of the SAF Central Band's shows has endeared audiences worldwide, and the Band has remained steadfast to its trademark. However, to mark its debut at the Tattoo, it decided to shake things up with elements that had never been done before in the Band's history.
One of these was to feature an original composition. Written by Military Expert (ME) 1-1 Dax Wilson Liang Qingxiang, who also arranged the music for the Band's set, Forest Dreams was specially composed for the Chinese folksong segment of the show.
I wanted a folk song that's distinctly Chinese, particularly to the non-Singaporean and non-Chinese ear, explained instructor and horn player ME1-1 Liang of his decision to compose his own piece. He was hoping to find a strong counterpart to the popular Malay and Indian folksongs, which tended to have tunes that were easily identifiable to their respective cultures.
Played on the Chinese flute and drums and accompanied by the flowing costumes of the twirling MDC dancers, the song created a festive atmosphere. To complement the fluidity of the piece, the SPDS devised a new move as well, standing in a line to toss and catch their rifles before kneeling one after the other, creating a wave pattern.
Another first that the Band could boast of was being the first Singaporean band to use the tin whistle in a performance.
A small woodwind instrument resembling the humble recorder, the tin whistle has an echoey ring that is characteristic of traditional Celtic music. And it was the perfect accompaniment to the Band's tribute to their host, an acapella rendition of the popular Scottish folksong,Wild Mountain Thyme.
The local songs we've performed so far have all been in foreign languages. Since this is an English song, we added the tin whistle to give it a Scottish flavour, explained ME2-1 Ang Yi Xiang, Associate Principal Player (Saxophone) and the show's choreographer.
Hopefully, the audience will feel our sincerity and passion, he added.
…til the band sings
The proof was in the piping. ME2-1 Ang's tin whistle solo pierced through the esplanade, and the audience fell silent. The Band started to sing, quietly and carefully at first, a single voice hanging in the air.
But by the time it reached the chorus, the voice was no longer alone: the audience was singing along, many swaying gently to the rhythm. As the Band marched out, the crowd erupted in applause and cheers, warming up the cold Scottish night.
Ms Margaret Baxter, who had travelled from England to see the Tattoo, was captivated. Wild Mountain Thyme was excellent, I joined in as well! she said excitedly.
The show was very lively and colourful, and I loved the dancers too. I haven't stopped smiling.
And that was a send-off fit for a rock star.
Should a major disaster happen in the region, the affected country will be able to tap on a regional centre based in Singapore to coordinate better the humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) efforts of foreign militaries.
Located at the Changi Command and Control (C2) Centre, the Changi Regional HADR Coordination Centre (RHCC) will be fully operational in 2015 and staffed by up to 50 personnel.
Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing marked the set-up of the RHCC by unveiling the RHCC logo on 12 Sep.
In an impending disaster, the RHCC will piece together a comprehensive situational picture of a potential disaster zone by fusing information from regional disaster early-warning centres, partner agencies, and open sources.
It will include, among other details, the likely path of destruction, possible staging areas, roads leading to the disaster zone, and existing emergency services.
The situational picture will be broadcasted to partner militaries through its OPERA Command and Control Information System (CCIS) web portal. It will be updated constantly when the disaster occurs, in particular, with data on the available aid.
By understanding the needs on the ground, militaries can better prepare their response, and minimise duplication and gaps in the provision of assistance.
If the affected country agrees, planning for a possible multinational HADR will commence at the RHCC. It will tap on a network of international liaison officers, and links with operations centres of partner militaries for tighter coordination.
If necessary, the RHCC can also deploy a mobile coordination unit to support the affected country's military in coordination efforts on the ground.
Mr Chan, who was officiating at the closing of the Regional Conference for Building Civil-Military Capacity for Disaster Relief Operations at Changi C2 Centre, explained the reasons for setting up the RHCC in his closing address.
He noted that militaries were often the first responders in a disaster because of their 24/7 readiness, but there was a need for better coordination, hence Singapore offered to host a coordination centre.
He said: The RHCC seeks to facilitate military-to-military coordination in disaster response, by supporting an Affected State's military in coordinating the foreign military assistance provided, and liaising with disaster response stakeholders.
Speaking to the media, the Singapore Armed Forces' Director of Joint Operations, Brigadier-General (BG) Desmond Tan, added that the RHCC would help to enhance military coordination that was currently done on an ad hoc basis whenever a disaster happened.
He said: What we are trying to do is to set up a permanent structure that will allow the militaries to have a single point of contact, a focal point, so that we can have more preparations before the disaster… When disaster happens, we hope that this will be the centre that can allow militaries to coordinate their efforts so that they can reach the disaster area faster and more effectively.
BG Tan said Singapore was an ideal country to host the RHCC because it was disaster free, and had the necessary infrastructure. For instance, the RHCC is tapping on the Republic of Singapore Navy's Information Fusion Centre (IFC) that is used for regional maritime security information sharing.
Mr Chan noted in his address that the RHCC, which focused on the militaries, would seamlessly complement existing coordination centres working with civilian agencies, such as the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the Jakarta-based ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA).
Agreeing with this point was Major-General Jet B. Velarmino, who directed the Typhoon Haiyan HADR operations in the Philippines last year.
Sharing his personal views, the Commander of 8th Division, Philippine Army, said: Instead of AHA talking to the different nations' militaries, it can be just talking to one coordinating centre, which is the RHCC, where the military capabilities are integrated.
He added: For coordination and networking, it will be easier.
To raise awareness of what National Service (NS) does for Singapore and Singaporean sons, and change the mindset of parents who may be resistant to their sons serving NS.
These are among the engagement ideas which ACCORD's Family and Community (FC) Council will be looking at to strengthen family and community support for NS, at their inaugural meeting on 12 Sep, held at SAFRA Toa Payoh.
ACCORD refers to the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence and the meeting was co-chaired by Minister of State for Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman and Ms Claire Chiang, Senior Vice-President of Banyan Tree Holdings.
Speaking as a mother whose son is enlisting for NS next year, Ms Joni Ong, a member of the FC Council, revealed that she was taken aback when she found out that some parents were reluctant to let their sons serve NS.
I'm quite shocked that this sentiment exists, and these same parents are the ones whose kids (will be) resistant to NS because (of) their parents, explained the President of I Love Children Organisation.
I want to go out there to educate on what NS does for our country and for our sons. And to raise public awareness that what parents say to their children will have an impact on their children's views towards NS as well.
Ms Ong belongs to one of the four working groups - strengthening and recognising family and community support for NS - which the FC Council has already formed. The other three groups will be focusing on driving and recognising community support for NS, enhancing outreach to women through women's organisations, and reaching out to New Citizens and Permanent Residents to support defence and NS.
Following the FC Council meeting in the morning, the Educational Institutions (EI) Council held their first meeting at the same place in the afternoon.
Co-chaired by Dr Maliki and Senior Minister of State for Education Indranee Rajah, the EI Council has formed five working groups to address issues such as enhancing mental and physical preparedness of pre-enlistees for NS, increasing outreach to government, private and international schools, and encouraging participation in the SAF Volunteers Corps.
EI Council member Professor Cheong Hee Kiat noted the importance of easing Full-time National Servicemen's transition back to school after their two years of NS.
He said: We will want to help them ease back in, perhaps providing some courses for them during NS, or maybe helping them adjust through the first semester in school.
The President of UniSim added that even as they go on to universities, engaging these NSmen on defence matters should not cease, as this would help them understand their roles as NSmen from a deeper perspective.
Similarly, the idea of continued education on the importance of NS was brought up when the EI Council discussed increasing outreach to primary and secondary schools.
Mrs Lucy Toh, Principal of St Andrews' Secondary School, explained that National Education was something teachers and schools took seriously, and there were always opportunities to refresh students' knowledge of NS and defence matters.
We should not assume that students will automatically understand the necessity of having to serve the country. Each generation should hear the stories of their own fathers and (male) teachers - what they went through when served their NS - and why defence continues to be important, said Mrs Toh.