Had inventor Rube Goldberg been around, he would have certainly been proud of the sight at the Singapore Amazing Machine Challenge (SAMC) on 28 Aug. Held at the Singapore Science Centre, the competition pitted more than 200 students in 58 teams against one another. They were given a simple objective: to tell a Singapore story by constructing a machine, but there was a twist - it had to be done in as many steps as possible.
The teams had spent months conceptualising and testing their machines, and were given one day (28 Aug) to construct them from scratch. The judging and awards presentation took place on 29 Aug, with Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing as Guest of Honour.
The SAMC is part of the DSO National Laboratories' Amazing series of competitions, an outreach programme to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics among young Singaporeans across primary to tertiary levels.
This year's edition of the SAMC, which was the sixth time that it has been organised, was divided into three categories. Contestants could either design their machines to unscrew the lid of a jar in category A; unscrew and remove the lid of a jar in category B; or unscrew and remove the lid of a jar, then fill up the entire jar with marbles in category C.
In her welcome address, Mrs Chew Wai Lee, Vice-Principal of Singapore's School of Science and Technology, said: In the design and construction process for their (the participants') amazing machines, they would have tapped on knowledge and concepts from different subject disciplines and explored various creative solutions.
This is applied learning at its best.
Mr Chan agreed, adding: (The rationale behind the competition is) to know how well you (the students) have learnt, and how well you are able to cross-fertilise the ideas.
The winning team of category C was team #opensesame from Nanyang Girls' High School. The members were Andrea Chong, Pan Xin-Min, Li Huiying, and Tan Wan Yun, all aged 16.
They had chosen a unique aspect of Singapore to represent in their machine - Recycling. It was constructed from recycled materials, symbolising Singapore as a clean and green nation.
The girls faced many challenges over the course of the competition, such as when the complexities of their machine led frequently to breakdowns or malfunctions.
We faced difficulties in our design because the (various steps the machine had to perform) wouldn't transition smoothly. The machine was also not entirely reliable and flaws would emerge every now and then, forcing us to troubleshoot, said Andrea.
However, that was what led to their largest takeaway. Huiying added: We've been working on this machine for a few months, and there have been a lot of disappointing moments and failures, but through that we learnt not to give up.
Apart from team #opensesame, other prize winners include team Graciousness A from Zhangde Primary School, who clinched category A; and team ACSI4 from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), winners of category B.
How do you make the message of Total Defence strike a chord with Singaporeans?
Tell the stories of ordinary Singaporeans - the likes of taxi drivers, national servicemen and nurses - who have contributed to nation-building.
This was the idea which Pamela and the Nexus team came up with. Earlier this year, they helped to put up Singapore's biggest Total Defence (TD) campaign to date, marking 30 years of TD. Even though she had to work on most weekends to run the series of events and media outreach, she had no complaints.
It's very fulfilling to see (such a large-scale) project unfold from scratch, said the 29-year-old.
She started her career with the Republic of Singapore Air Force as a human resource executive in 2008, before joining the Defence Ministry's Public Affairs Directorate as a media relations officer three years later. She then made the move to Nexus in 2013.
Even when she is away from work, Pamela puts her creativity to good use. She often organises cookout with her friends, like a recent shell-themed session which saw them cooking dishes such as crab cake and clam aglio olio.
Two friends pursue a shared love for pets after a successful career in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
There is a season and a time for everything - so the saying goes. For Ms Doris Ong, last year was one of new beginnings - starting her pet-grooming business Pet Cove - and also endings: leaving the SAF and her marriage.
She started the business with Ms Alvina Lee with no experience in pet grooming, apart from taking care of family pets. The two women first met in 2010 while working at Headquarters Training and Doctrine (HQ TRADOC) in the SAF.
They hit it off right away. Having common topics - we were both paracounsellors - and discussing our cases helped us to cement the friendship. So when Ms Ong left the SAF in July last year, the two thought of turning their passion for pets into a business.
It was also a time of personal upheaval for Ms Ong who was going through a divorce. I went through a huge change, from being in uniform and married, to being a civilian and single. Ms Ong spent 22 years in the SAF, holding many appointments, and had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
In a way, setting up the business was a cathartic release for Ms Ong. When asked what it was like to start a business from scratch, both women let out a collective groan.
We were working through the night, said Ms Ong.
It was decided that the business would include her 12-year-old daughter Mei Qi, who aspires to be a vet, from the get-go. The eventual plan is for Mei Qi to have her own veterinary clinic at Pet Cove to make the business a truly one-stop shop.
To better things
Said close friend and business partner Ms Lee: During the period of setting up Pet Cove, Doris made it a point to spend time with Mei Qi - she would wake up at 5am to take her daughter to school so that they could talk on the way. Both of us probably slept about three hours daily.
That is why Pet Cove is something special - integrating her (Doris') second career and family, she added. The business marks the time that she has moved on in life, together with Mei Qi.
The grand plan
Very early on, the duo had decided their business would not be a run-of-the-mill pet shop. So they spent three months attending a professional pet-grooming course to learn how to groom pets even for competitions.
They even attended courses for pet-sitting - which is peripheral to their core business of grooming - to learn how to take care of different kinds of pets. That took another three months, and included written examinations.
There was a lot to learn and prepare before they could open the shop, but as Ms Lee explained, they had a clear goal in mind: We wanted to provide professional services.
Getting the word out
Their next focus was on publicity. That meant creating a presence on social media and distributing flyers. When the duo did roadshows, Mei Qi helped out by manning the Pet Cove booth.
They had their fair share of ups and downs and learnt the hard way that starting a business was no easy task. Google was our best friend! laughed the two women. At night, Ms Lee would trawl the Web to see how people promoted their businesses.
Both women were acutely aware of the risks. We'd seen how a single bad comment could lead to near ruin for a pet-grooming business, said Ms Lee. Once a business gets a bad reputation and you don’t know how to contain it, that will impact the shop.
To spread out the risks, they looked into diversifying their business by carrying pet-grooming products. Currently, they are the official distributors for two brands. It was something that Ms Ong learnt in the military.
Business requires us to be nimble in our actions and thoughts. Long-term goals are important but there is a need to tweak and change our strategy from time to time.
So we had to make sure that our contingency plans were fast (and nimble) enough to be deployed. That's another thing I learnt in the SAF - adaptability.
Today, Pet Cove is doing well. The shop has been fully booked daily since December last year and they have hired more staff to deal with the increased demand for their grooming services and to man their retail operations.
Sure seems like another season is upon them - boom season.
In the months leading up to the National Day Parade (NDP), participants braved the scorching sun every weekend rehearsing to make the celebrations a resounding success. For others, support came in the form of sponsorships.
In appreciation of their efforts and sacrifices, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen hosted a dinner for 327 participating organisations and sponsors on 25 Aug.
Said Dr Ng: This year's NDP succeeded because it connected with Singaporeans emotionally. Singaporeans re-lived our past watching the show, felt more alive today, and found renewed hope for tomorrow.
I want to thank each of you for the hard work and sacrifice and sponsorships… (Many have) told me that their personal reward is in knowing that they had a part in touching the hearts of many Singaporeans and giving Singapore a wonderful 49th birthday present.
Chairman of NDP 2014 Executive Committee Colonel (COL) Wong Yu Han could not agree more. Explaining that he felt very privileged to work with the passionate and dedicated participants, COL Wong said: (Even at) the first combined rehearsal, it all came together so well that people were already anticipating that it would be a great parade this year.
And indeed it was. We managed to reach out to and connect with a lot of people, young and old alike.
This year's National Day theme - Our People, Our Home - celebrated the can-do attitude and caring spirit that holds Singaporeans together, as well as the resilience and dedication of its pioneer generation.
The parade also marked several firsts: Thousands witnessed the first female Red Lion, 3rd Warrant Officer (3WO) Shirley Ng, in her debut NDP jump. Eight participants from MINDS (Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore), who were taking part in the parade for the first time, drummed up a resounding performance in the military tattoo and marched in the marching contingent.
Other NDP firsts included the largest non-military marching contingent that comprised over 2,000 participants, and the Junior Red Lions initiative, in which 18 Primary 4 and 5 students were invited to train with the Red Lions for a day, soar with them in iFly Singapore (an indoor skydiving simulator), and greet the crowds together with them at the parade.
With over 40,000 photos and videos of NDP posted on Instagram, it was clear that this year's celebrations had hit all the right notes for Singaporeans.
Happy that Singaporeans had appreciated their efforts, COL Wong noted that it had been a memorable NDP journey: Tonight's event is important to me as well to all of us who have worked on NDP. It's the end (of our NDP journey) where we sit together and enjoy being with each other before...(leaving) with just the memory of a very good parade.
Organise forums for Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) to share their journey with young Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) and their parents.
This is one of the engagement ideas which ACCORD's new Family and Community Council (FC) will be looking at to strengthen family and community support for National Service (NS).
ACCORD refers to the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence, which serves as a channel for the public to share their feedback on defence matters. It has been expanded and restructured into three councils - the other two are the Employer and Business Council (EB) and the Educational Institutions Council (EI).
The restructuring came about after a year-long public consultation effort by the Committee to Strengthen NS which started last May.
This new restructured ACCORD is to really open up more platforms for engagement, and (build greater) awareness that Total Defence is the job and responsibility of everyone, said Ms Claire Chiang, Co-Chair of the FC.
The Senior Vice-President of Banyan Tree Holdings was speaking to the media after the restructured ACCORD held its first meeting at SAFRA Toa Payoh on 25 Aug. She was also one of 52 new ACCORD members appointed in a ceremony following the meeting.
Speaking from the perspective of a wife and mother, Ms Chiang plans to work with various women's groups to help girlfriends and wives better understand what their partners go through in NS.
She also wants to change the mindset of some parents who think of NS as a phase that their sons have to pass over and get over with.
To this end, she believes that NSmen who had gone through NS and went on to excel in life are the best advocates.
We need a strong narrative, we need good champions and I think the NSmen will be our important resource, to come back to tell the stories.
The FC will also focus on engaging new citizens and permanent residents, she added.
Tackling business issues
To help the business community to better support NSmen, the EB will tackle issues faced by small and medium enterprises (SMEs). For example, SMEs, with their smaller workforce, may face a manpower crunch when their NSmen are away for In-Camp Training (ICT).
It will also find ways to help the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) collaborate more closely with the business community, help NSFs to better transit into the workforce, and have companies recognise NSmen's ICT performances.
To gather feedback effectively, the EB is made up of business leaders representing the key trade associations and chambers, as well as SMEs and multinational companies (MNCs).
It's going to be a good representation of the business community, said Mr Tony Chew, Co-chair of EB.
We can contribute inputs and make recommendations that would be useful in improving NS issues, as well as help to garner and encourage greater support from (the) business (community) for NS, added the Executive Chairman of Asia Resource Corporation.
Engaging the youth
Working with educational institutes is another focus of ACCORD as the youth are the NSmen of tomorrow.
Ms Indranee Rajah, Co-Chair of EI and Senior Minister of State for Education, said the EI will enable leaders in the education sector to work more closely with MINDEF (Ministry of Defence) on the engagement of our students, parents and educators.
Ms Elim Chew, an EI member, added that there is a need to communicate the importance of NS to the youth.
This generation of young people need to see a vision; they need to see a purpose, said Ms Chew, the founder of 77th Street. She sits on more than 20 committees in the public service as well as youth and community groups.
Today, we need to work together and show them a bigger vision of why they need to do NS to protect Singapore and also their own future in Singapore, she explained.
ACCORD is chaired by Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing and supported by Deputy Chairman Minister of State for Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman.
Seventeen existing members, along with the 52 new members, were appointed to ACCORD and its councils, while seven current members stepped down.
At the ceremony, Mr Chan thanked all past and present ACCORD members for their contributions.
I really appreciate your effort in coming on board, because joining ACCORD to explore some of these issues to strengthen the support for NS and defence is the best testimony that we can ever have, said Mr Chan.
Learning to do an intravenous insertion (IV) at the Combat Casualty Aid Course is, hands down, one of the most intense experiences of journalist Benita Teo's life…and also the most fun she's ever had.
I sat poised, with a needle in one gloved hand and a throbbing vein held down in the other. Everything was silent, except for the voice in my head screaming, WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?
Learning to do an IV, that's what.
Setting the scene
The training shed resembled the set of a horror flick. Side-stepping the dismembered dummy forearms, I started to question myself. Was this tribute to my combat medic brother necessary, even though his IV scars do look pretty badass? I was effectively signing up to stick a potentially dangerous foreign object into another person.
Too late, I was already in too deep.
Practising on the dummy arm was easy enough; it even bled rose-coloured blood. And then it was show time.
I found you a nice vein, Military Expert (ME) 2-1 Brian Benitez, my instructor, said as he positively beamed. The owner of the vein smiled weakly.
After getting him to lie down on his back and placing the Hartmann solution bag (commonly known as the IV bag) behind his butt, I tied a tourniquet around his left arm in preparation. In an outfield situation, when there is no IV pole to hang the bag from, placing it underneath the casualty creates pressure to force the solution into the tube.
As I got ready to unwrap my venous catheter, it dawned on me that I'd forgotten something important…
This is a bit late, but I ought to ask your name first…
Oh, right. Junhe.
Now that Lieutenant (LTA) (NS) Soh Junhe and I were acquainted, I felt a little better about what I was about to do to him.
A dramatic point
After ME2-1 Benitez helped me to locate a suitable vein (again), I swabbed the area with an alcohol wipe and, finally, we were ready.
As I held the needle to his taut skin, the last thing I remembered was ME2-1 Benitez telling me: Ok, now, I need you to be… He paused, searching for the words.
Ballsy? I offered.
Yes. He looked squarely into my eyes and added: No hesitation, because the needle must go in.
Even though I was terrified, I looked at LTA (NS) Soh, who was staring stoically into the sky, and I thought to myself, If he is being brave for me, then I have to be brave for him too. I took a breath and held it.
And suddenly, the needle was in.
What followed was a blur. I vaguely recalled ME2-1 Benitez guiding my hand to move the needle in deeper. Finally, blood filled the catheter hub, signalling that the catheter was in place. ME2-1 Benitez raised his hands to give me a high-ten, but all I wanted was to pass out into his outstretched arms. I must have been white as a sheet.
Celebrations over, now came the crucial part. Very carefully, I pulled the needle out while holding on to the catheter to keep it in, and attached the Hartmann solution tube. When the fluid began flowing into the catheter, I taped it down, bandaged LTA (NS) Soh's forearm arm to secure it, and we were in business.
A second climax
Now, return the favour. Lie down! ME2-1 Benitez announced with a big grin. Obediently, I took my position.
Lying there, I finally understood how LTA (NS) Soh felt: I was blind to the proceedings and at the mercy of the needle. Furthermore, I knew that my barely-visible veins would be a problem.
I was not wrong. After feeling the initial needle prick, I heard ME2-1 Benitez affirming LTA (NS) Soh. However, as LTA (NS) Soh attempted to move the needle in, the usually amiable ME2-1 Benitez suddenly raised his voice: Look, it's swelling now! Do you know what'll happen when you remove the needle?!
Horrified, I sat up. A small bump had formed. I scrambled to speak: Oh my god, will the blood spurt out onto his face?!
No, ME2-1 Benitez deadpanned anticlimactically. Nothing will come out, because the blood has pooled underneath the skin. He was obviously having fun with us too.
Relieved, I laid back down. Turns out that LTA (NS) Soh had just made another hole in the vein, causing a hematoma (an upsized orh cheh or bruise). He plastered me up and tried again on someone else. He did better the second time around.
Cradling my little bruise, I felt quite proud of myself and the scar that I would soon have. LTA (NS) Soh must have been too, because he revealed that I was the first person to successfully IV him. His buddy back in Basic Military Training tried unsuccessfully on both his arms before giving up.
So, I was actually the best he'd ever had.
This tough-as-nails commando counsels people on the brink of despair to cope with their problems. And he does this of his own volition, charging nothing for his time and effort.
Sometimes even the best of us can do with some help; even the best of us stumble. Sometimes the person who extends that lifeline is an unlikely one.
Meet 1st Warrant Officer (1WO) Alex Quah, the commando who also happens to be a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) paracounsellor. He has helped many people cope with their problems, which range from excessive gambling to relationship issues.
Most people in the SAF who do counselling work do not pursue training beyond the week-long course conducted by the SAF Counselling Centre (SCC). Not 1WO Quah, the Plans Warrant Officer in Headquarters Commando.
He discovered his knack for counselling during the SCC course which he attended in 2007. He was encouraged to go for this course when he returned from an overseas posting. When I was overseas, I realised that there was a limit to how much I could help my soldiers. I could do better if I had more training.
During his three-year overseas appointment as Sergeant-Major, he was the de facto disciplinarian but soldiers often confided in him. My then-Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Adam, told me that I had a gift - I genuinely care for people, and that's why soldiers trusted me.
He felt that he was ready for more, so in 2008, he enrolled in a part-time programme conducted by Swinburne University, Australia for a master's degree in counselling.
The two years which followed were tough for 1WO Quah, who had to juggle duties in camp, family commitments and studies. He graduated in 2010 among the top 15 percent of his cohort.
His efforts were also commended by then-Chief Commando Officer Colonel Lam Shiu Tong, now Brigadier-General (Retired). Back then, very few Warrant Officers and Specialists would pursue Master's studies on their own.
Keeping the faith
Today, 1WO Quah volunteers his time across a few organisations and in his community. He also helps people to quit smoking by giving talks organised by the Health Promotion Board.
His focus is on helping people to recover from addiction-related issues. I don't want to see anyone being condemned just because of past mistakes, said 1WO Quah.
He recalls one case: a 20-year-old who relapsed a few times and returned to gambling.
But 1WO Quah never gave up on the young man. I believe that human beings are born wanting to do good… Sometimes we go astray and just need someone to lead us back, to help us recover.
He says that in severe cases, counselling is not enough, which is where organisations like One Hope Centre for problem gambling come in.
Everyone who attends the sessions help each other by discussing issues openly. For example, how to deal with gambling debts and ways to stay away from gambling, said 1WO Quah.
At the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Agency, he serves as a counsellor and mentor to former convicts who are battling drug addictions. In his community, he serves as a grassroots leader and helps to organise events for his estate in Jurong.
Taking it seriously
Since actively volunteering seven years ago, 1WO Quah has chalked up more than 800 hours of counselling work. He even pays a supervisor to review his case logs.
No one believes that till today, I am paying for supervision! laughed 1WO Quah. I'm still seeing my supervisor, even after graduating with my Masters in 2010. But it's necessary because it helps me to maintain and improve my counselling skills.
It can also be emotionally draining to constantly listen to the problems others face. That's one more reason why it's important to see a supervisor - it's like therapy for a counsellor!
He is a registered counsellor with the Singapore Association for Counselling, a professional body that establishes standards in training and practice. To join the association, a counsellor must have completed at least 600 hours of certified counselling work.
Weekends for 1WO Quah usually means devoting time to his voluntary work. But priority is reserved for his family, if they need him to be around.
I also make it a point for my family to eat together daily before any individual activities, said 1WO Quah, who is married and has a daughter.
At 51 years old, he is due to retire from the SAF in a few years.
People have asked me if I want to leave the Army because of the skills I have as a counsellor - I always say 'I don't think so' because I need to pay back whatever the Army has given me till today.
I don't think so much. I just feel that we need to care for each other, as human beings.
Over 80 fighter jets from two opposing camps lit up the dark skies above the Northern Territory of Australia with trails of orange flames from their jet engines. Among them were F-15SG and F-16C/D fighter jets from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).
These aircraft were taking part in Exercise Pitch Black - the largest and most complex air combat exercise conducted by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). This is a large force employment training which brings a large number of aircraft into the airspace all at once to play out realistic war time scenarios in day and night.
About 100 aircraft and 2,300 personnel are taking part in the ongoing exercise which started on 1 Aug and will conclude on 22 Aug. This year's biennial exercise saw new players France and United Arab Emirates joining Australia, Singapore, Thailand, United States and New Zealand.
During the exercise, the air forces conducted air-to-air combat, and air-to ground attacks against simulated threats, through day and night. They also practised airborne early warning and control, and air-to-air refuelling.
The RSAF deployed about 300 personnel, six F-15SG and eight F-16C/D fighter aircraft, a Gulfstream 550 Airborne Early Warning (G550-AEW) aircraft, and a KC-135R air-to-air refuelling aircraft.
The vast airspace and bombing ranges in Darwin form a realistic training environment for the RSAF servicemen to sharpen their operational capabilities, said RSAF Exercise Director Senior Lieutenant Colonel (SLTC) Linus Tan.
For example, the RSAF's F-16C/D fighters successfully conducted their first live drop of the GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II laser-guided bomb during the exercise.
Having that opportunity to do suchstand-off weapon employment is critical…(it) gives the air crew and the ground crew the confidence in terms of the platform capability, said SLTC Tan.
Stand-off weapons can be launched from a sufficient distance that allows the attacker to evade defensive fire from the target area.
For pilot, Captain (CPT) Adrian Tan, the greatest takeaway was being able to operate with other aircraft such as the RAAF's F/A-18F Super Hornet.
We need to match each other's capabilities, to form up, to come up with the best game plan to achieve the objectives, said 32-year-old F-15SG pilot from 149 Squadron. It's really a good learning experience.
The ground crew also gained valuable experience working under poor visibility during night operations.
Night flying preparations can be dangerous due to poor light conditions, said Military Expert (ME) 2 -1 Bevin Gabriel, a Dedicated Crew Chief of 111 SQN which operates the G550-AEW.
(But) we have a set of crew who are well trained and professional in their job. So there is no need to worry.
This was something which Group Captain Michael Gray, the overall Exercise Director from RAAF would agree with. In an interview with cyberpioneer, he noted that Singapore had been a proven participant in the exercise series since 1990.
He said: Singapore performed very well in a whole range in all areas… They have significant capabilities in their aircraft and in their aircrew from their training. So (we are) always pleased to work with them.
I am leaving India very reassured (by) this new leadership and very energised to see how indeed we can find concrete ways that we can deepen that bilateral relationship, said Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen during his official visit to New Delhi, India, on 19 Aug, when he met the new political leadership headed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He added: Both India and Singapore feel that we can play a very positive role for regional stability whether it is in the region of South China Sea, Strait of Malacca or the Indian Ocean.
During the visit, Dr Ng met his counterpart Indian Defence Minister Arun Jaitley. Both were satisfied with the level of cooperation in the field of defence and agreed it would be a good time to step up defence relations between India and Singapore.
This could be achieved under the ambit of an enhanced partnership between the two countries, which will deepen the defence relationship and allow both sides to explore new areas of cooperation for mutual benefit.
Both ministers also reaffirmed their countries' warm and long-standing bilateral defence relations, and discussed defence cooperation at the bilateral and multilateral levels, including the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM)-Plus and Shangri-La Dialogue. Also present at the meeting was Indian Defence Secretary Radha Krishna Mathur.
Mr Jaitley also hosted Dr Ng to a luncheon attended by senior officials such as Chairman Chief of Staff Committee and Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha, Chief of the Army Staff General Dalbir Singh and Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Robin K Dhowan.
As part of his visit, Dr Ng met Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. Dr Ng also laid a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti memorial and inspected a Guard of Honour parade at the Indian Ministry of Defence. India and Singapore will commemorate 50 years of diplomatic relations in 2015.
Defence interactions between the two countries include high-level visits, policy dialogues, joint military training, courses, seminars, and other professional exchanges. Bilateral defence engagements have deepened since the signing of the Defence Cooperation Agreement in 2003, as well as the Air Force and Army Bilateral Agreements in 2007 and 2008 respectively.
When Singapore's former chief transportation engineer and road safety warrior Associate Professor Gopinath Menon says that a driver training system is impressive and thorough, it is high praise indeed.
He made the comment after visiting Kaki Bukit Camp - where the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) conducts training for transport operators - and the cross-country driving circuit located in the Mandai area.
He is chairman of the Military Transport Safety Review Panel (MTSRP) which has been tasked to make recommendations to improve the SAF's transport training system.
I am impressed at the level of detail and the small things that the SAF looks into, from the number of driver hours to the simulators and the obstacle courses that the drivers have to go through. It's all very professional, said Assoc Prof Menon, who was Singapore's chief transport planner from 1991 to 2001. He added, however, that there was always room for improvement.
During the visit on 15 Aug, the panel was briefed on the SAF's driving training system. They also experienced the driver training simulators and training circuits.
The second half of the five-hour visit took the panel to Mandai Camp II, where they went through part of the SAF cross-country driving circuit.
The three-member panel comprises other industry experts: Mr Poh Key Boon, an Executive Director with Poh Tiong Choon Logistics Group, and Mr Tan Poh Chye, Vice President Safety with SBS Transit.
Said Mr Tan: There are things for us to learn from the SAF as well, and we welcome the SAF to share its expertise with us.
The panel will visit Sembawang Camp next, where the Supply and Transport Centre is located, on 26 Aug. It will be submitting its findings by end-September.
Armour training in both the classroom and the field is becoming more engaging, effective and efficient. Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing was updated on how the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Armour Formation was achieving this, when he visited the formation on 15 Aug.
Mr Chan also got an updateon the Army's training transformation, and tried out the Leopard Driving Training Simulator (LDTS) at the Armour Simulator Centre. The simulator allows soldiers to experience realistic driving training before operating the actual platform.
Speaking of the benefits of using simulators, Lieutenant (LTA) Nick Chan, an armour simulation wing instructor, said simulators enabled training to be done more realistically and safely. Soldiers can train in different scenarios and adverse conditions which cannot be replicated in field training, so that both their basic and collective skills can be honed.
During his visit, Mr Chan took part ina live firingat the SAFTI Live Firing Area, utilising the Army Live Firing Range Enhancement (ALFRE) systems. These use instrumented target systems to improve realism and training experience during live-firing exercises.
With the new systems, soldiers can fire on moving targets during local training, receive gunnery feedback which allows them to improve their skills and competencies as well as reduce time and resources spent on administrative set-up.
Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Andy Quek, Head Doctrine and Training Development Branch at Headquarters Armour who is in charge of the ALFRE systems, said: The major leap we have done with ALFRE is that we are now able to do more operationally-oriented live firing, (whereas) in the past, we did more technical live firing.
At the end of his visit, Mr Chan officiated at Armour's 45th Anniversary Parade, praising the achievements of armour personnel both past and present. He said: Many years ago, you (the pioneers of armour) went where no one else had been; you took on the task when not many people even knew what to do. Your spirit defined the armour formation's foundations.
He added: You were bold, you were decisive. You dared to venture where no one else had been. You dared to establish the fighting doctrines (which) no one else had dreamt of. And step by step, you built the armour formation that we are so proud of today.
Also at the parade were Chief of Army Major-General (MG) Perry Lim, Sergeant Major of the Army Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) Ng Siak Ping, and Armour veterans.
To raise a child, it takes an entire village.
Likewise, to defend a country, it takes the collective efforts of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Regular soldiers, National Servicemen (NSmen) and Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) volunteers.
Just as the SAF cannot build a strong defence without the commitment of NSmen who form the backbone of the SAF, it also cannot do it without the commitment of the general public towards National Defence.
Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen said this at the MINDEF Volunteers' Dinner, held at Marina Mandarin Singapore on 14 Aug. The annual dinner recognises the contributions of some 300 volunteers serving on 41 MINDEF boards and committees. During the dinner, Dr Ng also presented certificates of appointment and re-appointment to the volunteers.
Recognising that fair and equal treatment towards all servicemen is crucial in garnering the public's support for and trust in national service, Dr Ng thanked the volunteers for lending their expertise to develop and improve on the SAF's systems and processes, saying that we co-opt expertise which we do not have, because these are critical roles that (volunteers) need to play.
The volunteers, who come from both the public and private sectors, are experts in fields such as medical, safety, financial, legal and NS management.
One expert who has been a longstanding and active MINDEF volunteer is Professor Ponnampalam Gopalakrishnakone, Emeritus Professor from the Department of Anatomy, Venom and Toxin Research Programme in the National University Health System.
As an Adjunct Principal Research Fellow at DSO's Defence Medical and Environmental Research Institute, Prof Gopalakrishnakone was part of the team that had helped to establish DSO Laboratories in the late 1980s.
Now into his 15th year as a volunteer, his research into venom and toxins has helped protect soldiers from the effects of attacks by venomous creatures during outdoor exercises - a common and potentially dangerous situation. I was very keen because this is my speciality, and it is a good place to contribute, said Prof Gopalakrishnakone of his decision to volunteer with MINDEF.
As for Chairman of Medical Board and Head and Senior Consultant from the Department of General Surgery at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, Associate Professor (A/P) Kenneth Mak Seck Wai, who is a member of the SAF Emergency Medical Specialist Advisory Board and course director and instructor of Headquarters Medical Corps' (HQMC's) Advanced Trauma Life Support Course and had served as a Medical Officer during his NS days, witnessing the developments in HQMC's training facilities and programmes through the years has assured him of the SAF's desire to improve itself.
When I look at the resources and equipment that they have (now), they are equivalent to any emergency department in any hospital; the training they have in place, such as simulator training, also makes it a lot more realistic. It's a demonstration of the commitment the SAF has to making sure that its doctors, medics and healthcare staff are trained, he said.
This let him know that his efforts were in good hands, and that the systems developed by his Board would be administered appropriately. He said: We are very confident that, if ever we need (to utilise these medical processes), the systems will work and deliver, and that’s the satisfaction I get.
A/P Mak and his team have successfully implemented several changes to the SAF's medical procedures, including allowing civilian ambulances to enter camps so that soldiers may be sent swiftly to hospitals for treatment.
With the volunteers generously giving of their time and expertise to the SAF, it is important to let them know that their opinions are valued and taken seriously. And for Mr Mulyadi Ahmad, Senior Manager, Department of Public Cleanliness, National Environment Agency, this assurance is found in his Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) Recognition and Benefits for National Service Working Group.
He said of his experience: I definitely think so (that the Committee is open to members' recommendations). Minister of State Dr Mohamad Maliki bin Osman (who chairs the Committee) was very open to our suggestions and debate. Even though the debates could get heated at times, I found it very positive because everybody was trying to give the best recognition to our NSmen. We had a small part to play in the recommendations, and that is very rewarding.
During his speech, Dr Ng also announced the implementation of the SAF Volunteer Corps (SAFVC), which would commence its first intake next March. The SAFVC would see women, first-generation Permanent Residents and new citizens serving in the SAF.
Mrs Laura Hwang, Board Member (Immediate Past President) of the Singapore Council of Women's Organisation, was highly supportive of the new Volunteer Corps. When asked if she would encourage other women to volunteer - like she has, as a member of the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence - she gave a resounding Absolutely!
As far as the work in the Army is concerned, there are so many jobs that can be done by both men and women, she explained. Suggesting that the SAF list out the various roles, open them up and encourage participation, she believed that you'll see the results, and probably be very happily surprised!