Singapore Government


At the Budget debate, Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen highlights the need for the SAF to constantly evolve to take on potential security threats.

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01 Apr 2015, 1000 hours (GMT +8)
How do you shape the men in the street into fighting-fit soldiers in just a few months? PIONEER takes you through the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF's) fitness road map to find out. Private (PTE) Jeremy Jeevan and his platoon mates are marching at a furious pace to their objective. These armoured infantry men from 40th Battalion, Singapore Armoured Regiment (40 SAR) have been forced to travel on foot after their Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle was hit by enemy fire. The journey through undulating terrain and thick vegetation is energy sapping, especially for PTE Jeevan who has to lug his 12.5kg General Purpose Machine Gun (GPMG). The unwieldy weapon puts tremendous stress on his small 1.6m frame. His heart pounds harder with every step he takes, lactic acid building rapidly in his leg muscles, and soon he finds himself lagging behind the pack. But through sheer will power and with some help from his buddy, he makes it to the objective where he and his platoon mates must summon whatever energy left in their exhausted bodies for the final assault. This may be just an exercise. But it shows the high combat fitness levels of these troopers. It's remarkable when you consider the fact that when PTE Jeremy first enlisted, he was clearly unfit. I had poor stamina, and I couldn't run. I never thought I could survive (through an exercise carrying a GPMG), said the 22-year-old Full-time National Serviceman (NSF). That our soldiers - most being national servicemen like PTE Jeevan - are able to endure extreme physical stress, and remain combat effective is not something that happens by chance. It takes a systematic approach backed by sports science. Commanding Officer of the Army Fitness Centre (AFC), Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Chia Geok Koon said that it is important for all newly-enlisted soldiers in the SAF to first build up their baseline fitness before they move on to develop combat-oriented fitness through physical training in combat gear. This holistic fitness road map is based on two key principles of sports science: progressive training and specificity. The former refers to the gradual increase of training over time, while the latter refers to how you must train specifically for a certain task or exercise in order to become better at it. For example, the new Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT), rolled out by the SAF in April this year, measures physical attributes that are important for servicemen who, in general, need to carry heavy loads, run and dash. The three-station format tests soldiers on the strength and endurance of their upper body, lower body, core and abdominals, as well as their cardiovascular fitness. In particular, the new push-up station not only builds upper body strength, it also strengthens the core - the group of muscles required for functional movements. It is widely adopted by militaries worldwide including the United States Army. The new format also allows servicemen to train without the need for specialised technique or equipment. Hence, they can easily incorporate these exercises into their daily routine. In the past, servicemen had to find a chin-up bar to train for the old IPPT's chin-up station. LTC Chia noted that the new IPPT is a good test of a soldier's baseline physical fitness that is relevant to the SAF. He explained: In a military operation, there are numerous actions that you need to do: push, pull, squat, climb, run and more. But any test format can only measure a limited number of these fitness attributes. There is no best test format, except the one that suits our needs. What we need is a test protocol that is effective for our conscript army…(and) that our servicemen can train for. Combat-oriented fitness But physical training alone does not make a soldier. While noting that good physical fitness contributes to combat fitness, LTC Chia explained that if you are not used to the combat loads or movements, your body will be uncoordinated and require more energy and effort when carrying out these tasks. As a result, you'll tire out easily. So we need to train operationally according to what our combat tasks require us to do, said the 44-year-old Guards Officer, who holds a degree in Sports Science. Most physical training involves lifting weights in gyms or doing callisthenics using your own body weight. You hardly carry loads and move the way you do in a combat environment. This is where the Standard Obstacle Course (SOC) comes in. Unlike in the IPPT, a soldier has to don his No.4 combat uniform, helmet and Load Bearing Vest (LBV) as well as carry the Singapore Assault Rifle (SAR) 21 for the SOC. This extra weight adds physical stress and discomfort. The 12-obstacle course simulates the jungle and urban operating environments to help soldiers gain coordination, mobility and confidence. The Low Wall, for example, is a test of your muscular strength, while the Dodging Panels - a series of closely-spaced walls - hones your agility in going through a confined passage. The last 300m sprint to the finishing line builds your anaerobic capacity or VO2 max - the maximum rate of oxygen consumption during exercise. It is an indication of your cardiorespiratory fitness. The passing timing for the course is 4m:30s for the commanders and 6m:00s for the men. Even the fitter soldiers have described the experience as painful. 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Adriel Phua, a 22-year-old Bionix commander in 40 SAR who attained the Gold award for IPPT, said: The last 300m is a killer. You have to really push yourself to the limit to meet the passing timing. It has trained me not to give up halfway, to fight on even when I am totally exhausted with all the heavy loads during outfield exercises. LTC Chia explained that the SOC was designed to help soldiers deal with intense combat stress. We simulate mental stress through the increase of intensity in training. That way, our soldiers build muscle well as resilience indirectly.
31 Mar 2015, 1000 hours (GMT +8)
The country's fastest guys are all fired up to take on the region's biggest sporting event when the SEA Games return to Singapore this June. In a 4x100m relay, teams usually clock a lower timing over 400m than the sum of each runner's 100m timing. This is because all the runners except the first one have that additional distance in the passing zones to accelerate, creating the perception that runners run faster in a team than as individuals. After spending some time with the boys of Singapore's national relay team, it appears that their mouths also run faster when they are together than when they are alone. On their own, each is somewhat soft-spoken. Hwa Chong Institution teacher Corporal (CPL) (NS) Lee Cheng Wei answers politely and earnestly; full-time athlete CPL (NS) Muhammad Amirudin bin Jamal is self-deprecatingly funny; Singapore Management University undergraduate Lance Corporal (LCP) (NS) Gary Yeo Foo Ee appears aloof but soon reveals his cheeky side; and Nanyang Technical University undergraduate LCP (NS) Calvin Kang Li Loong, the baby of the group, exudes a youthful confidence. Put them together, and they are a boisterous bunch. Asked if they've done photo-shoots before, LCP (NS) Yeo answers: Yah, many times. But usually it's just one person (in the shot). And he takes his own photos… CPL (NS) Lee chimes in, and puts them online! They all turn to LCP (NS) Kang and explode in laughter. LCP (NS) Kang, unfazed, continues to strike the perfect staring-into-the-distance-and-looking-muscular pose. When LCP (NS) Kang said as a team, we are stronger, he probably did not mean this. Stronger together What he did mean was that competing as a team has opened many doors for the sprinters. They are part of a core team of national relay runners who take turns competing together. Running in a relay team gives us an edge: our individual timings may not be the fastest, but our combined timing takes us further. As a team, we are stronger. We get more opportunities to compete overseas too, explained LCP (NS) Kang. It's not to say that the guys are any less competent individual runners. LCP (NS) Yeo and CPL (NS) Amir are decorated SEA Games participants in the 100m who won the silver medal in 2011 and bronze in 2013 respectively. But being gifted runners does not guarantee easy success in the relay. Passing the baton at high speeds requires precision and trust, said LCP (NS) Kang. It's about being confident that my teammate will react appropriately to the situation. CPL (NS) Amir added: It's also important for us to set aside our egos. We are doing it as a team, not as individuals anymore. A team outside the team Teamwork is also the main reason that they were able to continue training while serving their National Service (NS). All four sprinters expressed gratitude to their NS superiors and colleagues who showed support by allowing them to make time for training and competitions. Said CPL (NS) Lee: They would ask about my race preparations and encourage me. A lot of Regulars are into sports, and they know what an athlete goes through since they train too. CPL (NS) Amir agreed, thanking campmates who willingly swapped duties to allow him to attend training sessions. Singapore Armed Forces Sports Association member LCP (NS) Kang also felt that NS has instilled discipline in him. Maintaining the athlete's lifestyle is not easy, and the army taught me to maintain that integrity. On home ground With the SEA Games finally returning to Singapore after 22 years, no one is more excited and hungry than the boys to put up a good show. Especially since Singapore has been winning Silver in the last three Games. LCP (NS) Yeo said: Everyone wants to compete on home ground, and even more so at the new National Stadium. Sports enthusiasts may remember that they were the four who ran the heart-stopping 4x100m finals at the 2011 SEA Games, when Singapore lost the gold medal to host Indonesia by a photo-finish. This is the year we've given ourselves, said LCP (NS) Kang wistfully. We've tried to win the gold so many times, so the feeling of redemption is there. There's pressure for us to perform, and I think we can do it.
31 Mar 2015, 1000 hours (GMT +8)
From a convent school background where she hardly spoke to any guys to joining the (traditionally) male-dominated military, Military Expert (ME) 1 Clarie Teo's life took an about-turn when she made the unconventional decision to pursue Marine Engineering after her O levels. She decided to join the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) during her first year in polytechnic. Recalling the week that final exams ended, she said: I got a letter asking me to report for training the very next Monday! That's how efficient the Navy can be. Being in the RSN is a challenge that ME1 Teo relishes. She recalled an incident when one of the frigate's engines heated up and had to be taken offline. In the meantime, the ship had to make do with power from the other three engines. Together with the engineering department, she checked and rectified the fault - a clogged fuel filter - within the hour. The rest of the ship's crew was quite amazed we did it so quickly. On what she enjoys about being a sailor, she added: Shipboard life is never relaxing but what I like is the team spirit and sense of family among the crew.
30 Mar 2015, 2115 hours (GMT +8)
The Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) Hermes 450 (H-450) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) has achieved Full Operational Capability (FOC), and this was marked by a ceremony this afternoon at Murai Camp officiated by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen. Operated by the RSAF's 116 Squadron, the H-450 is the first advanced UAV to achieve FOC status in the Singapore Armed Forces. Compared with the older UAVs, the H-450 features extended endurance, advanced avionics, and more capable sensors. These advanced capabilities are key, especially because of the increasing importance of UAVs in enhancing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance operations. Dr Ng elaborated: UAVs are now indispensable assets in advanced Air Forces around the world. UAVs have now become a critical asset to many military operations and have proven themselves to make a decisive difference to outcomes, whether it is in peacetime operations or battles. This is especially true for the H-450, which boasts a 3-in-1 payload that includes an Electro-Optical, Forward Looking Infra-Red system, and a Laser Designator. This enables the UAV to augment the SAF's battlefield surveillance capability through a wide array of missions such as target acquisition and designation, reconnaissance, and battle damage assessment. The H-450 also has an autonomous flight mode, which allows pilots to focus on collecting and processing information. As Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Timothy Ang, Commanding Officer (CO) of 116 Squadron, elaborated on the capabilities and usage of the H-450: It is an eye in the sky…and will be used to support ground forces. For example, to provide real time updates to the ground commanders on the situation or to improve our strike effectiveness. In his speech, Dr Ng also touched upon the past operational experience that the RSAF and SAF had with UAVs: During our six-year-long deployment to Afghanistan, the SAF deployed our UAVs in theatre, where they provided surveillance over key roads and identified threats such as Improvised Explosive Devices for the International Security Assistance Force. The UAV task force and our Imagery Analysis Team received accolades from many military commanders and political leaders. In addition, Dr Ng commended the defence engineers and scientists for their roles in delivering capable platforms such as the H-450: I know that all groups worked very closely alongside together…and that our engineers and technicians as well as scientists brought their technical expertise to help us realise this advanced fighting concept. Also present at the ceremony were Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Ng Chee Meng, Chief of Air Force Major-General Hoo Cher Mou, and other senior officers from the SAF.
30 Mar 2015, 1000 hours (GMT +8)
They are identical twins but have spent much of their careers in rival camps - those of the Commandos and the Guards. When you're competing against someone, it's only natural that you might not see eye to eye. By a strange twist of fate, a pair of twin brothers was caught in the traditional rivalry between the Commandos and the Guardsmen, elite units that battle it out in the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF's) annual Best Combat Unit competition. Imagine the fighting and perhaps jealousy that would come between the brothers. From the late '80s to the '90s, Master Warrant Officer (MWO) Raman S/O Karrupiah (the older twin by 10 minutes) and 1st Warrant Officer (1WO) Letchuman S/O Karrupiah, were regimental quartermasters in 1st Battalion, Singapore Guards, and 1st Commando Battalion respectively. Logistics readiness is a component of the competition, and the duo was expected to lock horns and duke it out every year. Compete they did, but here's a little secret: they actually helped each other. Yes, even when I was in Commandos, and Raman was in Guards, we shared knowledge (with each other), recalled 1WO Letchuman, now a Logistics Warrant Officer at Army Logistics Training Institute. This was something quite unthinkable, given the intense competition between the two formations. Of course, our officers didn't like it. They knew I had a twin brother in Guards, and 'warned' me - jokingly - not to share ideas with him, said 1WO Letchuman. Our loyalties were still with our own units, added MWO Raman, who has since moved on to become the Logistics Operations Readiness Warrant Officer at 9th Division/Headquarters Infantry. But we didn't compete with each other like the combat troops did. Logistics and combat are different; we don't draw lines. The twins shared their best practices, and helped each other to fine-tune work processes. They even extended practical help to each other. Yes, the Commandos and Guardsmen shared resources. Sometimes during exercises, if I was short of stores, I could get them from him. And when he needed stores, I would support him. In those early days, we didn't have handphone or email, we relied on each other to get things fast, said 1WO Letchuman. The duo, in fact, has been a pillar of support for each other since they joined the SAF Boys' School, a now-defunct military school for young boys, in 1978. Beating the odds Joining the military school was a choice made for them by circumstances. They needed money to support the family then - their father, the sole breadwinner, had suffered a stroke. And since they struggled academically - they took the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) thrice - their uncle felt that they would do better in a highly disciplined environment, and advised them to join the military. He was right. Despite holding just a PSLE certificate till today, they have risen through the ranks to become warrant officers. I had never dreamt of becoming a warrant officer. If I became only a sergeant, I would already be very happy, said MWO Raman. One reason for their remarkable rise was their willingness to ask questions and learn from people who are better than them, even from younger, full-time national servicemen. Don't know, ask; Not sure, ask. If you keep quiet you will never find out the answers, said MWO Raman. He recalled that when SAF began using the computers in the 1980s, he didn't go back to the office for a week because he was scared. But he came back eventually. I forced myself to sit down, look at the computer screen, and ask the educated soldiers to teach me. Whoever can teach, and has better knowledge, I'll learn from them. Real experience Even though the twins are logisticians, they have experienced danger and witnessed grave destruction in overseas operations. In 2001, 1WO Letchuman was in East Timor (now Timor-Leste) as part of the SAF's peacekeeping operations there. Back then, militia unrest had left most of the country's infrastructure destroyed. Recalling his experience, he said: We were in a theatre (of conflict), we had to carry pistols. There was rioting and houses were burnt, but fortunately we didn't meet with any danger. MWO Raman took part in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operation in Indonesia. The widespread destruction and the overwhelming smell of decaying bodies are still etched in his mind. As shocking and saddening as the experience was, he was glad to have been able to help, bringing much-needed food, water, tents and medicine to the survivors. When asked to reflect on their SAF journey so far, the duo felt that it had been most fulfilling. Despite being 52 years old this year, they are still raring to go and hope to extend their careers as trainers. Start together, end together! said MWO Raman.
27 Mar 2015, 2245 hours (GMT +8)
The mood was sombre. A total of 1,055 specialist cadets (SCTs) were graduating from their 22-week course, but the atmosphere was far from celebratory. There was no doubt that the passing of Singapore's founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew had an effect on everyone who was at the parade. The solemnness of the event was amplified by the minute of silence observed by the parade participants and attendees. The graduation parade was held at Pasir Laba Camp on 27 Mar. In his speech, Chief of Staff-General Staff Brigadier-General (BG) Lim Hock Yu paid tribute to Mr Lee, and said that the Singapore Armed Forces' achievements today were only possible through Mr Lee's vision and inspiring leadership. He said: The late Mr Lee firmly believed that a strong defence is the cornerstone of Singapore's success… We pay tribute to him by making sure that every one of our commanders and soldiers continues to be committed to the defence of Singapore. BG Lim added that the strength of the SAF lay not in its advanced military hardware, but in the continued commitment, competence and fighting spirit of its people, and urged the graduands to help their men understand and internalise the importance of National Service (NS). Lead by example and with conviction, empathise with your fellow soldiers, and engage them sincerely. Be their guide and their mentor. In turn, they will look to you for guidance and support. His message was not lost on SCT Audrey Ng. The 24-year-old became a regular with the Military Police (MP) Command as she wanted to do her part by contributing to the defence of Singapore, and keeping it safe. Inspired by her two elder brothers who signed on as regulars, she had asked them the reason for signing on and this was what her elder brother told her: If you can't even protect your country, what makes you think that you can protect your family? And that was why I decided to sign on as well, simply because they've both inspired me. It's not easy, but I have always felt that if my brothers can go through it, I, as their sister, can do it too. There's nothing to stop me, said SGT Ng. Having brothers who were already in the force also helped shape her decision to join the MP Command. Seeing that she liked the law and MP Command was a more disciplined vocation, SCT Ng's brothers advised her to go into it as she would really enjoy (the job) and one where she would stay for long. When asked what kind of leader she would want to be to her men, SCT Ng said: I want to be someone who walks side by side with them because I want to let them know that even though I have a (higher) rank and am in charge of them, we are ultimately the same once we step out of the military. Without their help, there is no way I can finish my task. Giving orders is easy, but teamwork is ultimately most important. For SCT Rohan Matthew Thomas, a ruptured appendix forced him to drop out of his Combat Diving Course (CDC) last August, just three weeks short of his graduation. However, this did not stop the 20-year-old from doing a recourse three months later. I was devastated and very angry. But I had the support of my family. They told me to snap out of it and stop feeling sorry for myself, and start all over again, said SCT Rohan. So I went back. I was so close to the end and I did not feel that there was any reason to give up. The golden bayonet recipient also shared that despite his going out of course, his batch mates made it a point to visit him in hospital and at home each time they booked out. Their heartwarming gestures made SCT Rohan feel like he was still part of their batch. Going through the CDC again may have been tough, but all these just proved that he could really accomplish anything if he put his mind to it. SCT Rohan revealed that he would be going for an Officer Cadet School interview two weeks later. Going through it (the CDC) again just makes me know that I'm tougher than I think I am, and nothing can beat me down. For SCT Jason Lam, being posted to the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) was somewhat of a dream come true. He had always wanted to be a pilot, but a failed test dashed that ambition. Nevertheless, the 21-year-old was glad that he still made it as a Ground Based Air Defence (GBAD) specialist. The golden bayonet recipient shared that during his days in GBAD, he and his fellow trainees had to perform a daily 15-minute drill of checking their uniform and bearing, and accounting for strength in the parade square before starting the day. All these helped build up our discipline and our drills, he said. When asked about his thoughts on the passing of Mr Lee, SCT Lam said that while his death was a sad incident, he felt that he should continue to do his best and perform his duties as a full-time National Serviceman well. He added: As an air defender, I think my role is very important, and if anyone wants to attack us, my focus should be on playing my part well. SCT Ng agreed. I really think that what Mr Lee Kuan Yew has left for us is important. There are people who think that NS is a waste of time, but all our defence skills were actually picked up from NS. As Mr Lee said, if we do not want to defend Singapore, who will? Of the graduands, 1,002 were from the Army, 17 from the Republic of Singapore Navy and 36, from the Air Force. Present at the parade were also senior SAF officers, as well as families and friends of the graduands.
26 Mar 2015, 1215 hours (GMT +8)
They heard the call. They stepped forward. And now, the first batch of Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC) Volunteers (SVs) will finally begin their training. On 24 Mar, 68 non-National Service (NS)-liable Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) reported at Maju Camp for their enlistment into the SAFVC. After taking their oath of allegiance, like their NS counterparts, they waved goodbye to their accompanying families and loved ones before embarking on a two-week journey to learn to become soldiers. The SAFVC was established as one of the accepted recommendations by the Committee to Strengthen NS, with the purpose of allowing more Singaporeans and PRs to contribute to national defence, show support for NS, and deepen their understanding and ownership of national defence. Since it was officially launched in October last year, the SAFVC has received about 900 applications, from which 150 were eventually selected to form the 2015 cohort. The second and third batches will enlist on 11 Apr and 15 Jun respectively. Interview and selection process The five-month-long selection process included face-to-face interviews between the applicants and a panel of three to five members from the selection board. The board comprised SAFVC commanders, senior commanders from the sponsoring Headquarters (HQs) whose units the volunteers will be deployed to, and senior NS officers with the ranks of Senior Lieutenant-Colonel and above. The first part of the interview is trying to ascertain if the person has the right motivations and aptitude, explained SAFVC Commander Colonel (COL) Mike Tan. Eventually we will ask the sponsoring HQs whether they find the person eligible for his particular role. We then spend a long time deliberating to make sure our assessments are accurate enough. COL Tan also highlighted the importance of including senior NS officers in the panel: These volunteers will be expected to work with NSmen (Operationally-ready National Servicemen). The NS commander has a very important input for me (because) it's the set of eyes making sure that the person before us is able to work with the NSmen. Board member COL (NS) Leonard Yeow, who is Chief of Staff of Division Hub 2, HQ 2nd People's Defence Force (2 PDF), agreed: We were primarily looking at motivation, as COL Tan said. For us who have been in NS for a long time, we listen and decide if it (the motivation for signing up) sounds right. Subsequently we look for the technical capabilities. (Nonetheless), the atmosphere is always positive and friendly. COL (NS) Yeow, who has been in NS for 34 years, added that the process of interviewing applicants had been heartening: While NSmen have enough reasons to be motivated, it's very nice to hear the people they have been defending come forward and say they want to volunteer. Training The first batch of SVs will undergo the Basic Training Course (Continuous) from 24 Mar to 4 Apr. Under instructors from the Basic Military Training Centre and other SAF training schools, they will learn basic military skills like individual field craft, live firing and the technical handling of the SAR 21, as well as undergo the Battle Inoculation Course (BIC). The course will culminate in a two-day field camp on Pulau Tekong. When asked how the training would cater to such a diverse group of SVs, COL Tan explained: (Indeed, we have) two genders (with ages ranging from) 18 to 45 years old, different cultural backgrounds. We spent a long time with our trainers discussing how to do the training. In the course of preparing my trainers, I can't help but hark back to those days when we had the Hokkien platoons when we (the SAF) first started. We have a long history of training people, so I am confident. Although tough, many of the SVs are already looking forward to training and learning about the military way of life. I'm most looking forward to the BIC, Kimberley Winona Jeremiah, a 19-year-old Mass Communication student at Republic Polytechnic, said excitedly. I've liked military stuff since I was young and I wanted to sign up because I like the training involved, such as the Standard Obstacle Course, and learning to shoot the rifle. Even though I'm scared of the physical aspect, joining a sport in poly has prepared me. Citing her father, Lieutenant-Colonel (LTC) (NS) Jeremiah Jonathan Mark, as her inspiration, Ms Jeremiah hopes that becoming an info-media staff would allow her to spread awareness of the SAFVC among young people like herself. It's like a dream come true for me, said LTC (NS) Jeremiah, Commanding Officer of 806th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment. Last time, when we went to MMRC (Multi-Mission Range Complex), I would come back and tell her about it. But there was no way she would have a chance to see it. In my heart, I was thinking, how I wish I had a chance to bring her there. Now, there's a chance. LTC (NS) Jeremiah added wistfully: I hope this will open her eyes. It will also inculcate a never-say-die attitude in her. As for Dr Vidyadhar Padmakar Mali, a Senior Consultant in the National University Hospital, he hopes his participation will in turn inspire his son, who will be serving NS in two years' time. We've always brought him up to know that he has to serve NS once we became PRs, so there was no two-ways about it. And my going through this process ahead of him gives him a positive outlook. He will see his own father doing NS out of his own volition, even though it's not mandatory for me, explained the 45-year-old, who has since obtained his citizenship. He will be joining the SAFVC as a medical doctor. Becoming an SV is also a family affair for Mr Jiang Hong, a PR from China who has been living in Singapore since 2006. I can see that I am half Singaporean, because I studied here, I'm working here, and my family is here. I should protect my family and Singapore, he said earnestly. The 27-year-old is a Transactional Logistics Coordinator in Becton Dickinson Holding Pte Ltd, and became a PR in 2012. Mr Jiang revealed that his wife, also a PR, is equally keen to join the SAFVC. After I told my wife of my interest in participating, she wanted to apply too. But I told her to wait until I had finished my training, so that at least there was someone to watch over the home. She was very understanding. Maybe she will apply in the next batch. Following their graduation from the Basic Training Course, the SVs will begin their Qualification Training in the latter half of the year, to prepare them for their specific roles in the SAF. They will then have the opportunity to be deployed from this September onwards.
21 Mar 2015, 2000 hours (GMT +8)
A remote-controlled plane that can take off and land vertically - without first taxiing on a runway - was the big winner at this year's Singapore Amazing Flying Machine Competition (SAFMC). Created by a team of students from Singapore Polytechnic, the flying gadget achieves this feat by tilting its wings - along with it its propellers - upward. They beat 29 other teams to emerge first in the unconventional aircraft category. Their plane also won the 1800-metre flight race, with a timing of 150 seconds, and the freestyle performance competition. The team are members of the polytechnic's aviation club: Mr Jonas Hii, 21; Mr Bryan Lim, 19; Muhd Hazim, 19; Mr Ho Cheng Wei, 21; and Mr Gavin Lim, 20. They took four weeks to conceptualise and create their flying machine. Our plane is able to take off on the spot in confined spaces, just like a helicopter, said Mr Bryan Lim. Considering the fact that most commercial and military planes require a runway to take off, what these students achieved was noteworthy. Their inspiration came from the XC-142, a tilt-wing military aircraft, created by the United States Air Force to test the feasibility for vertical take-off and landing in a military operation. Such capability is valued by the military as it allows an aircraft to take off when a runway is damaged or not available. There were over 1,100 participants in the competition which was open to primary, secondary, and tertiary students as well as members of the public. They competed against one another in creating flying gadgets in various categories, including paper planes, gliders, and radio-controlled aircraft. Currently into its 7th year, the competition, which is organised by DSO National Laboratories and Science Centre Singapore, aims to promote interest in science and technology among Singapore youths. It attracted eight international teams from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia this year. Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing gave out the awards to the winners at the Science Centre Singapore on 21 Mar. In his address, Mr Chan noted how advancement in aviation technology had made long-haul flight possible, allowing Singapore to become a global aviation hub in the past decades. But the Republic now faced stiff competition from other countries. He urged the students - the scientists and engineers of tomorrow - to continue their good work, and come up with the next generation of technology. Whether Singapore can continue to entrench our position as a global node will depend on your effort, of what you can come up with, what you can invent, what you can innovate… he said. For teachers and parents A new competition category was introduced this year to encourage parents and teachers to learn alongside their children and students. Twenty-three teachers and parents took up the challenge to create paper planes that could fly the longest, furthest or most accurately. In his address at the award ceremony, Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive of Science Centre Singapore, commended the parents who joined the new competition as a way to encourage their children to take part in SAFMC 2015. He said: We salute you because you instil the kind of passion, together with your children, that would go a long way.
20 Mar 2015, 2245 hours (GMT +8)
To celebrate Singapore's golden jubilee, photographers have captured the multiple facets of Singapore life across the eight themes of Celebrate, Culture, Diversity, Heritage, Home, Makan, Progress, and Hopes Dreams, in the 12th SAFRA Photographer of the Year award competition. Organised by the SAFRA Photographic Club, the biennial competition attracted a record participation of 80 National Servicemen photographers. They contributed a total of 300 photographs - each featuring Singapore's unique identity and aspirations. Minister of State for Defence and Deputy President of SAFRA Dr Maliki Osman unveiled the winning photographs and presented prizes to the winners, at SAFRA Toa Payoh on 20 Mar. Organising Chairman Ken Lim said: We are very heartened that this year's focus on SG50 has garnered so much support from the photography community. Every photograph is a tribute to the things that make us Singaporean. They remind us of our roots and what makes this our home. Merit award winner Leow Ek Teck, said: The idea was to capture moments and slices of Singapore that would otherwise have been lost. His winning photograph was of the Singapore Armed Forces paratrooper, Red Lion 3rd Warrant Officer (3WO) Shirley Ng, which he submitted under the theme of Hopes Dreams. Explaining his prize shot, Mr Leow said: There was this sense of joy that she finally made it and achieved her dreams when she participated in the National Day Parade. Walking beside 3WO Ng in the picture is a young Red Lion. Said Mr Leow: The young Red Lions, I presume, would someday want to become freefallers as well, so that is a dream they aspire to. Members of the public can view the winning photographs which will be on display at SAFRA Toa Payoh till 29 Mar. The exhibition will also feature the best works of more than 40 pioneer and associate members of the SAFRA Photographic Club.
19 Mar 2015, 2130 hours (GMT +8)
For some years now, Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers have learnt off-road driving skills in a purpose-built facility. PIONEER recently had a go at it. In a small city-state criss-crossed with some of the best paved roads this corner of the globe, soldiers looking for some serious off-road driving training can find themselves in a bit of a fix. After all, crossing rough terrain is in every soldier's job description. So what is an army to do? It builds a facility filled with the kind of obstacles and track conditions that a military driver might encounter, right in its own backyard. The SAF Cross Country Driving Circuit (CCDC) was built so that we can have the space to train capable transport operators in a realistic setting and to give them the confidence to deal with the cross-country road conditions that they have to negotiate during operations, said Chief Warrant Officer Devendran S K B, Commanding Officer SAF Supply and Transport Centre. Completed in 2009, the CCDC is tucked away in the quiet Mandai area where many military camps sit. It is a 36-hectare facility built to train soldiers on the finer points of off-road driving. The CCDC holds 26 stations ringed by a 5km track, and is filled with the kind of obstacles that seasoned rally race car drivers would be more accustomed to. With inclines so steep that all you see is the sky to descents so hairy that they strain the braking foot, the CCDC is not a place to visit on a full stomach. Rough roads The stations are plainly named - Muddy Track, Plank Bridge and Trunk Logs - so that operators know exactly what they are getting themselves into. Once on the course, trainees realise immediately what it is like to go off-road. And even the tiniest increase in speed seems to cause the vehicle to pitch and roll, making the stations more exciting than their monikers. Trainees are also taught the right way of engaging different settings on the SAF vehicles, which allow them to negotiate roads that would faze less hardy vehicles. For example, the Ops Utility Vehicles (OUVs) have a low-range setting to give the vehicle more torque to climb steep inclines.
18 Mar 2015, 1000 hours (GMT +8)
PIONEER writer Matthew Neo becomes a 2nd Lieutenant (2LT) who has to help defend Singapore against an enemy invasion in Ops Battleforce 2, the SAF's latest action strategy game. I'm glad to see you here, 2LT Matthew, said the imposing Brigadier-General from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) as he introduced himself. It is a challenging time for us now as our home has been invaded…but we shall stand steadfast and defend our home with all our might. As a commander in the game, I was provided with a bird's eye view of the battlefield. Moving the map about was simple - a series of swipes and pinches that should be familiar to anyone accustomed to using a touch-screen mobile phone - and commanding the movement of my troops was as easy as tapping them, and drawing a route to a new rally point. Sounds simple enough, but I was soon subject to a trial by fire. Enemy reconnaissance troopers had landed on the island, and I was tasked to take them out. I placed my entire force of 10 infantry soldiers on the drop zone on the beach before advancing towards enemy headquarters. As the timer ticked towards zero, my troops encountered heavy enemy fire. Pressure was mounting, but it seemed my tactics were effective as the enemy headquarters went up in flames with time to spare. As I got further in the game, more units were unlocked. Many a boring bus ride home transformed into a carefully choreographed battlefield with long-range artillery supporting the might of Leopard 2SG tanks while aircraft streaked overhead and frigates watched from the sea. Units have three modes or stances - guard, aggressive, and hold - which dictate how they respond to an enemy presence. I was particularly impressed with the amount of control I had over my units: Everything - from the position of an airstrike to the route my tanks and infantry took to an objective - was left up to me. The campaign became progressively challenging, pushing me to constantly think of new strategies or approaches to succeed. Hats off to the men and women who serve in the SAF. Commanding my forces from the comfort of an air-conditioned room was tough enough, so one can only imagine the trials that they go through in the field. This game may not boast intricate graphics or complex gameplay, but it has definitely instilled in me a new appreciation for the need for defence. Download Ops Battleforce 2 from the iTunes Store or Google Play to give it a try now.
16 Mar 2015, 2230 hours (GMT +8)
Defence ministers from the ASEAN member countries signed a Joint Declaration at the 9th ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) on 16 Mar, which underscored their commitment to addressing common security challenges. At the meeting held in Langkawi, Malaysia, the ministers noted with serious concern the rise of violence and brutality committed by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and condemned all terrorist acts of destruction and violence carried out by radical groups. Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen said the unanimous condemnation against ISIS by all ASEAN member states, which were predominantly Muslim states, was a very powerful statement by ASEAN. He stressed: We must deny ISIS a stronghold in Iraq and Syria or any other country from which to radicalise our people here. We must counter their false ideology with the pure and virtuous tenets of Islam. What ISIS is preaching or doing has nothing to do with Islam. The ADMM must respond collectively to the threat of religious extremist terrorism as it affects us all, said Dr Ng. He said Singapore would be hosting a symposium in April for East Asia Summit countries to share best practices on de-radicalisation and religious rehabilitation. The ASEAN defence ministers pledged to cooperate in accordance with both domestic and international law, including the ASEAN Convention on Counter Terrorism to counter the imminent threat of terrorist organisations through information sharing, increasing surveillance and promoting awareness among the public about the threat of radicalism. Dr Ng elaborated that information sharing was about intelligence sharing and early warning among member countries. Other matters discussed at the meeting included the good progress in practical cooperation under the ambit of the ADMM and ADMM-Plus. Proposals to improve the region's response to non-traditional security challenges like humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations were also discussed. Dr Ng stressed that responses to non-traditional security areas must be based on flexible, voluntary and non-binding participation to provide assurance to and respecting the independence of each ASEAN member state. While in Langkawi, Dr Ng also had a bilateral meeting with Brunei Minister of Energy Yasmin Umar. Dr Ng and his ASEAN counterparts will call on Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak on 17 Mar. He will also be attending the opening ceremony of the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) Exhibition 2015 in Malaysia, where he will meet personnel from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) participating in the exhibition. Taking part in LIMA 2015 are two Republic of Singapore Air Force F-16 fighter aircraft, a Republic of Singapore Navy Formidable-class stealth frigate RSS Stalwart, with a Sikorsky S-70B naval helicopter on board, and a patrol vessel RSS Sovereignty in the static display.


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