The threat of religious extremism in Asia stemming from the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the need to monitor the dynamics among US, China and Japan.
These were some of the key security concerns raised by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen in his keynote address at the third International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Fullerton Forum: The Shangri-La Dialogue Sherpa Meeting, at the Fullerton Hotel on 26 Jan.
Dr Ng was addressing about 60 delegates from 22 countries. Held from 25 to 27 Jan, the Sherpa meeting strengthens the Shangri-La Dialogue by providing an inter-sessional platform for delegates to engage in frank discussions on current defence and security issues.
Besides the two concerns, Dr Ng also spoke of several other themes which should be raised at the upcoming Shangri-La Dialogue: Political stability for countries in Asia, like Thailand and Myanmar, and the impact on security; and how countries can better coordinate and work together in light of transnational challenges arising from disasters and cybersecurity.
Dr Ng suggested three points. The first was to optimise current platforms to improve multilateralism and enhance regional security. He cited the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief and Military Medicine Exercise in held in Brunei 2013, which featured over 3,000 personnel from 18 ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus countries, as one such example.
Such practical cooperation builds confidence and mutual understanding which helps to prevent incidents on the ground from spiralling out of control because of misunderstandings or miscalculations.
He added that, in order for these platforms to stay relevant, it was important for them to take it up to the next level of cooperation.
Countries should use these multilateral platforms to proactively identify new initiatives, and enhance those proposed by others to tackle challenges in the changing geo-political landscape.
Dr Ng's two other suggestions were for countries to focus on practical measures to tackle security challenges and deliver concrete outcomes; and to enhance collective efforts to build real capacity to respond to challenges quickly and effectively.
On his final point, he elaborated that this was the reason Singapore established the Changi Regional HADR Coordination Centre (RHCC).
He said: Our hope is that the RHCC can contribute to more effective multinational military responses to disasters, by enhancing operational coordination among military responders while minimising duplication and gaps in assistance.
In closing, Dr Ng emphasised that, in today's interdependent world, countries must be on the same page to maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
It is crucial for us to recognise that regional peace and stability depends on the collective will, and indeed the collective efforts, of nations to address the security challenges facing the region.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is turning 50, and it's pulling out all the stops to make this the most memorable birthday celebration.
And what better place to unveil the SAF50 celebration plans than at Dempsey Hill, former home of the Central Manpower Base?
During a media event held on 22 Jan at Unplugged The Live Music Room, Colonel (COL) Roland Ng, Director, Nexus and SAF50 co-secretariat, unveiled the SAF50 tagline - Our SAF : Giving Strength to Our Nation.
The tagline was created after extensive consultation with Ministry of Defence and SAF personnel, pioneers, National Servicemen and Full-time National Servicemen and their families, as well as the larger Singaporean public.
One consistent theme that came up (during the consultation) was 'strength' - the SAF derives strength from the support of our people. And at the same time, the SAF also gives strength to the nation to provide for its security and stability, said COL Ng.
An activity-packed year
Kicking off the year-long festivities is SAF50@Vivo, a large-scale event held at VivoCity from 12 to 15 Feb. There, Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen will officially launch the SAF50 celebrations on 12 Feb.
Describing the event as a combined open house, Military Expert (ME) 7 Andy Tay, Commander Naval Logistics Command and Co-Chairman of SAF50@Vivo, said: This time around, we are having a tri-service event. The Navy, together with the Army and Air Force, will be bringing our military assets and capabilities to VivoCity.
Visitors can look forward to getting up close to military hardware such as the Super Puma helicopter, the Heron unmanned aerial vehicle, the Protector unmanned surface vessel and the SPYDER air defence system. They can also try their hand at some of the simulators, such as learning to fly an F-16 aircraft or shooting targets with naval gunnery.
And of course, there is the perennial favourite - the Navy ship visit. This year, Landing Ship Tank (LST) RSS Endurance, one of the Navy's largest ships, will be docked at the VivoCity Promenade. About 25,000 tickets will be available for public balloting, and ship visitors will also have the chance to ride on a Fast Craft Utility launched from the well-dock of the LST.
Members of the public can ballot for the LST visit tickets on the Republic of Singapore Navy Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/singaporenavy) from 16 Jan.
According to ME7 Tay, SAF50@Vivo will feature many firsts for visitors, including a peek at the rarely-seen naval submarines. Visitors will be able to climb on board a scaled replica of the latest Archer-class submarine's conning tower, and take a look at a life-sized model of the heavy-weight torpedo fired by the submarines.
This is the first time that some parts of the Singapore Navy submarine capability will be shown to the public, said ME7 Tay.
Our SAF story
One of the highlights of SAF50@Vivo is the SAF50 exhibition, an interactive and experiential display that will showcase the real-life stories of the men and women who have contributed to Singapore's defence over the last 50 years.
COL Ng expressed his hopes that the stories will touch Singaporeans, both in and out of the uniform: First, we hope that the stories will help (people) understand the SAF better, because these stories provide a perspective of the SAF that has never been presented before.
Second, through SAF50, we (wish to) show our appreciation to the pioneers for laying down the foundation of the SAF. We also hope that the current generation of servicemen feel appreciated and motivated to continue contributing towards building a strong SAF.
Finally, we hope that Singaporeans, through understanding the SAF better, understand that they themselves contribute to building a strong SAF and will continue to provide their support.
Other SAF50 activities include a roving exhibition that will travel to various locations across the island from February to August, as well as a Thank You card movement where the public can write messages to SAF servicemen and women.
For more information on SAF50, visit www.SAF50years.sg.
With the recent terror attacks in France and Australia, it is more important than ever to stay vigilant even in peace time, said 2nd Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing during his visit to 807th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (807 SIR) at Jurong Island on 22 Jan.
We must not let our guard down in Singapore, especially for vital installations like this in Jurong Island.
Commending the readiness and focus of the men on duty, he added: The NSmen (Operationally Ready National Servicemen) are all very mission oriented in what they do, so they take the mission very seriously.
Since the last time I've been here (Jurong Island) to see the soldiers, the commanders and men have constantly made improvements to the way they do things to be more efficient and effective.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) works closely with the Home Team and other agencies to protect key installations, and Mr Chan emphasised that we will continue to make sure that we maintain our vigilance and our readiness as…security challenges become more complex.
Commanding Officer of 807 SIR, Major (MAJ) (NS) Edmund Yeo agreed with Mr Chan, adding: The NSmen get to be deployed and get to play a part in defending the nation. In current circumstances, (operations are) very real, and the men are very committed.
While protecting the island is a heavy responsibility, MAJ (NS) Yeo credited strong family support in helping him juggle his NS, work and family commitments. Having good family encouragement and a good mindset provides me with the support to carry out operations successfully.
Lance-Corporal (LCP) (NS) Abdul Razak, a security trooper from 807 SIR, shared that he found that his deployment meaningful, saying: I am very honoured and proud to be a part of these security operations.
I understand why we are here, and what we are doing this for… I think it is very important for every National Serviceman to know that the security of Singapore is very important and that their contributions (to defence) are important.
Also present at today's visit was Chief of Staff - General Staff, Brigadier-General (BG) Lim Hock Yu; Commander, 2nd People's Defence Force, BG Terry Siow; and other commanders.
1993 South-East Asian (SEA) Games show veteran Colonel (COL) (Ret) Tan Chong Boon is back to help the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) run the region's biggest sports event.
More than 20 years ago, when Singapore last hosted the SEA Games, COL (Ret) Tan, then a young Captain, orchestrated the opening ceremony at the old National Stadium as a cue master. The result was a seamless spectacle of fireworks, mass displays and musical performances in front of a 55,000-strong crowd.
Today, as Singapore prepares to host the 28th SEA Games in June this year, the 54-year-old retired Artillery officer is back as a volunteer advisor. He will be sharing his experience with the Artillery Formation that has once again been tasked to organise the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games.
I am a gunner so when you know your Formation is doing this, and you have the experience, it's natural to just step forward and volunteer, said the former commander of Army Officers' Advanced School who spent 33 years in the SAF.
In the next few months, COL (Ret) Tan will meet with the committee once every two to four weeks to help fine-tune their plans. His role is very much like a devil's advocate.
My job is to understand their plans, walk the ground with them and provide my observations. It could be blind spots that the show committee may not have paid attention to, said the current general manager of The Chevrons, a clubhouse for SAF Warrant Officers and Specialist Corps.
Sometimes when you are too engrossed in your own plan, you cannot see the gaps... We (will) need to do modelling and role-playing to see if there are any gaps.
This is especially so when the region's biggest sporting event is taking place in the new Sports Hub which is still a work-in-progress. COL (Ret) Tan recalled that during the 1993 SEA Games, the senior officers had to exercise flexibility, and kept fine-tuning their plan even at a late juncture.
Initially I was not involved, but as time passed, the senior officers realised the shows were much too complex, and a cue master at the performance stage was needed, he recalled.
There was lots of coordination needed as we 'toggled' between the stage and field. I would be cueing the emcees to make the announcement to start the mass display, and when the focus was on the field, we would black-out the stage, get the chairs and equipment out for the next performance.
This year, in his advisory role, COL (Ret) Tan will primarily be coaching the 21-man operations sub-committee in charge of security, crowd and traffic control.
He will draw from his experience in running the operations hub of the 2006 International Monetary Fund (IMF)-World Bank Annual Meeting. It was then the biggest international event ever hosted by Singapore, with over 20,000 delegates, including finance ministers and central bank governors from 184 countries.
In the 2010 Youth Olympic Games held in Singapore, COL (Ret) Tan also played a similar role as the deputy chairman of the executive committee. Then, he oversaw the operations of the opening and closing ceremonies attended by delegates from 205 countries.
COL (Ret) Tan is looking forward to the SEA Games as it will coincide with the Republic's 50th birthday celebration. The new Sports Hub presents a great opportunity for us to stage memorable opening and closing ceremonies. This will be a show that will be part of Singapore's 50th (birthday) celebrations and I believe the SAF will deliver as always.
On a personal note, the avid sports fan hopes that the Singapore soccer team will deliver too. He recalled the organiser of the 1993 SEA Games had counted on Singapore reaching the soccer finals, and scheduled for the closing ceremony to take place after it. But Singapore had unexpectedly crashed out in the semi-final.
So far, our best is second placing. It will be nice to see the Lions win the soccer Gold in the new Sports Hub for Singapore, he said.
As for the 200-plus Regulars who are involved in the preparations for the SEA Games, COL (Ret) Tan urges them to give it their best. Singapore hosts the SEA Games only once every 20 years, so this is a very rare opportunity. One generation of officers would probably get to do it only once.
MV Swift Rescue returned to Changi Naval Base on 18 Jan after a 20-day search in the Java Sea for AirAsia plane QZ8501. During its deployment, the ship found the main fuselage of the ill-fated flight.
The main fuselage was found on 14 Jan. Said Major (MAJ) Wee Hong Tat, Deputy Officer Commanding of MV Swift Rescue: Our sonars picked up a large contact which was nothing like what we had seen in the past two weeks of searching.
From the sonar returns, there were five large objects on the bottom which were most probably metallic, said MAJ Wee. Through the cameras of the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), a submersible vehicle, they obtained visual confirmation that it was the main fuselage of QZ8501.
It was the last Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) ship to return and that marked the end of the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF's) deployment in the Indonesia-led multinational search operations.
The deployment began on 28 Dec 2014 and involved more than 400 personnel, two C-130 aircraft, two Super Puma helicopters, five RSN ships and a 6-man Autonomous Underwater Vehicle team.
Speaking to the media after receiving MV Swift Rescue, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen commended the men and women who were deployed for the search operations.
I am very satisfied with the way our SAF performed; they were very professional. They went out, did their jobs, put in their full effort for every task assigned.
He added: They've helped the families of the victims find closure as well as find answers to what caused the accident.
Commander Task Group Senior Lieutenant Colonel (SLTC) Chow Khim Chong recounted the weather conditions during the search. There was constant rain and rough seas but everyone pushed on.
Speaking on the level of coordination during the search, he said: Indonesia was very forthcoming with daily updates and communications with the other ships in terms of exchanging information on the ground went very well.
During each day of the search operation, the deployed forces from the RSN and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) would comb the search sectors assigned to them by BASARNAS - Indonesia's national search rescue agency.
The RSAF was the first from the SAF to join the search operations and the focus in those early days was on the surface search. RSAF Detachment Commander, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Lim Kuang Hiok, said: We flew about nine hours each day across three sorties. This was to make use of the useful hours in each day to maximise the search time so that they could complete the assigned search sectors. This is just one of the things we are trained for.
For men on the ground such as 3rd Sergeant (3SG) (NS) Goh Zhe Wen, it was the thought of the families that kept him going during the three-hour long sorties. I just kept telling myself that I must do this diligently and properly because it's very important for them (the families).
That, too, came with challenges. Compared to the size of the sea, the objects that we were looking for were quite miniscule.
Added 3SG (NS) Goh: I'm just glad that I can help the families draw some closure in my own way. The 20-year-old had volunteered for the search operations.
Those on the ships were spurred on by similar thoughts. Recounting when Landing Ship Tank RSS Persistence found a life raft during a search, Military Expert (ME) 1 Nicholas Wee said: I felt quite sad upon seeing the raft but I'm also proud that we did whatever we could to help.
Said the 27-year-old sailor: We gave some closure to the victims' families. That makes all our work here worthwhile.
Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General (LG) Ng Chee Meng and Chief of Navy Rear-Admiral (RADM) Lai Chun Han were among the senior officers who welcomed MV Swift Rescue back.
Life in the corporate world did not appeal to Officer Cadet (OCT) Tey Weely. So she took the bold step to join the military after her A levels.
Now, the petite 19-year-old is trained to take control and orchestrate air warfare operations. A career in the military appealed to me because it's more meaningful, as compared to chasing profits.
The Air Warfare Officer (AWO) said: I can't picture myself working in a private company. In the SAF, the goal is national defence and there's a sense of mission and purpose.
OCT Tey was commissioned at the first Officer Cadet Course Commissioning Parade this year on 17 Jan. She was also the first female to receive the Sword of Honour award in the AWO course. The award is added responsibility; I must always keep a high standard.
Reviewing the parade was President Tony Tan Keng Yam. Speaking to the 499 new officers, he said: Forge strong partnerships and build deep relationships with those under your command and across the SAF, so that you can become greater than the sum of your parts.
Dr Tan also paid tribute to Singapore's pioneers. Our pioneers worked hard to build up this country, laying a firm foundation so that future generations can live out their hopes and dreams.
The same is true of the SAF and its pioneers. The early generations of SAF leaders built up the SAF into a modern fighting force, so that a small country like Singapore can remain free in an uncertain world.
It is a message that resonates with Midshipman (MID) Tan Zheng Zhi Kenzo Chandra. OCS has imparted many values to me and these are lessons that will carry through.
They taught me how to be a leader and to be mentally bulletproof - to be ready for anything that comes.
He lists taking control of a Landing Ship Tank (the largest naval ship Singapore has at more than 140m long) during his Midshipman Sea Training Deployment as one of his most memorable experiences. It's this type of training that gives us confidence that we can do it when needed.
Added OCT Tan: Not many people ever drive a ship, much less a navy ship! I'm glad I got to do that and learn many other skills.
For OCT Timothy Justin Bala, becoming an officer is just one step towards living his dream of becoming a fighter pilot. His father used to serve in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and had retired two years ago.
I went to my dad for advice on whether I should join the RSAF. He told me I have to be committed and be positive in everything that I do in NS.
Trained as a Logistics Officer, the Sword of Merit recipient appreciates the insights into how the SAF operates. It's not just about soldiers fighting but also how the SAF resupplies its troops.
There is a lot of information to learn and we had to overcome both physical and mental tiredness, said OCT Timothy. He will head to the 1st Army Maintenance Base while his application to join the RSAF is being processed.
Of the 499 commissioned on 17 Jan, 409 were from the Army, 48 from the Navy and 42 from the Air Force.
You might have been to Aljunied MRT station or Boon Keng MRT station, but did you know that these are named after pioneers who helped to make Singapore what it is today?
Thanks to an animation clip produced by a group of four students from Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS), more Singaporeans will know more about them.
Their one-minute clip titled The Pioneer Connection tells the story of, among other pioneers, Mr Lim Boon Keng, the philanthropist who founded SCGS to provide education for girls.
The video was one of the top 10 clips showcased at the N.E.mation! Downtown Picnic held on 17 Jan at the National Library.
The public screening marked the start of voting for the animation competition organised by Nexus, the central coordinating agency for National Education.
Team member Sarah Mok, 13, said her team, the Chunky Monkeys, wanted to pay tribute to the pioneer generation through their video.
We hope the younger generations can understand the importance of these pioneers, like our school founder, Mr Lim Boon Keng, to the development of early Singapore, she said.
The theme of gratitude and appreciation dominates this year's N.E.mation. Nine of 10 teams injected these elements into their clips.
For team E-lemonators! from CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School, they wanted to spread the message that youngsters can contribute just like what the pioneer generation had done.
Their video A Nation in Sync shows how four girls - representing each of them - do acts of kindness such as giving up seats for the needy or buying food for the poor.
The soundtrack of their video is a mix of four National Day Songs: Will You; Song for Singapore, Stand up for Singapore and Home.
The team hoped the lyrics, such as Believe in yourself, you've got something to share would challenge youngsters to continue the work of the pioneers.
The pioneer generation, such as the Samsui women, had done a lot. But (today), many of us don't know how we can contribute to Singapore, said team member Sabrina Low, 14.
Through the video, we want to spread the message that the younger generations can start by paying it forward, through simple acts of kindness.
Another team from CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School chose to show their appreciation to the men and women in uniform.
To produce the animation titled Thank You SAF, the team Millennium Dragons made a huge 3D pop-up book measuring 1.5m by 1m. With every flip of a page, a model of a different military asset would pop up.
Team member Siow An Qi, 14, said their inspiration came from a daily gratitude writing exercise done in school.
She explained: We have to write a gratitude note each day in school to show appreciation for people around us. So we thought of doing the same to show gratitude of the people who protects our country.
She added: It is timely since this year is the 50th anniversary of the founding of SAF (Singapore Armed Forces).
Visit https://nemation.sg/ to watch the clips and cast your votes. Voting closes on 9 Feb.
All pre-enlistees and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) servicemen have to undergo mandatory cardiac screening before they are enlisted or deployed for military training and operations.
To enhance and refine its cardiac screening system to provide robust and quality screening, the SAF has partnered with the National Heart Centre Singapore (NHCS) to establish the SAF Cardiac Fitness Centre (SCFC) - a centralised facility dedicated to pre-enlistees and servicemen which was officially launched on 16 Jan.
Pre-enlistees and servicemen found to have abnormalities such as a heart murmurs, or cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes and high cholesterol in their initial medical examinations by SAF Medical Officers (MOs) will be referred to the SCFC for specialised cardiac screening investigations. There, they will undergo advanced tests such as Exercise Electrocardiography (ECG), Echocardiography, Myocardial Perfusion Imaging, and CT Coronary Artery Calcium Score.
This is in contrast to the previous system where individuals would have to travel to various health-care facilities such as the Military Medical Institute or restructured hospitals to undergo these specialised tests.
In his speech at the opening ceremony, 2nd Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing highlighted the increased convenience that the SCFC provided: This new centre will provide a one-stop service for all our servicemen for any issues relating to cardiac fitness. For the soldiers, it will translate into shorter waiting time and more comprehensive health-care checks when they come here.
Chief of Medical Corps, Rear-Admiral (Dr) Kang Wee Lee, was in agreement: With all cardiac screening being centralised at a dedicated centre, the SAF is able to better collate and study the cardiovascular risk profile of our pre-enlistees and servicemen.
Mr Chan then elaborated upon the SAF's unique approach towards health care - a combined civilian and military health-care system in contrast to independent ones in many overseas nation: There is no reason for us to design a separate and independent military health-care system that is distinct and separate from the rest of the civilian health-care system.
There is also no reason for us to make a distinction between servicemen and civilians. Because every one of our servicemen, especially Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen)…are also civilians, Mr Chan added.
Located on level eight of the NHCS building, the SCFC also allows for a closer research partnership between the SAF and the NHCS through better collation and study of the health profiles of pre-enlistees and servicemen.
Major (Dr) Muhammad Idu, a cardiologist and one of the two SAF MOs attached to the SCFC elaborated: The SCFC allows for comprehensive screening for cardiac disorders.
It (the tests at the SCFC) are actually a tertiary-level check because the primary checks and screenings are done by our medical centre MOs.
Corporal (CPL) Mohammad Ridzuan Bin Ishak, from 1 Army Maintenance Base Headquarters was found to have an abnormal ECG after his tier one screening. He was then referred to the SCFC where he underwent the Exercise ECG and was found to have a minor heart abnormality. Eventually, CPL Ridzuan was graded Physical Employment Status (PES) B2L2. On his experience, he said: During the Stress ECG, I had to run on the treadmill, which had 10 stages of increasing speeds.
He laughed as he reminisced: I only had the stamina to reach stage seven… Luckily, my condition was diagnosed as a minor one and I am still combat-fit, completing my Basic Military Training with no difficulties.
The 28th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games is set to open with a bang on 5 Jun with its Opening Ceremony organised by the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF's) Artillery Formation. Highlights of the ceremony include: Singapore's first extensive stadium aerial system where performers and props will fly, the largest high-definition floor projection using 160 projectors, and a first-in-Singapore audience interaction system where audiences wear medallions which collectively form a giant LED screen.
Taking up the challenge gamely, Colonel (COL) Lawrence Lim, Chief Artillery Officer and Chairman for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies (OCC), said: The Singapore Artillery is honoured to be organising the OCC once again.
He elaborated: Building on our experiences from organising the Ceremonies for the '93 SEA Games, we look forward to staging an inspiring and spectacular show to kick off the 28th SEA Games. COL Lim, who is also an executive committee member of the SEA Games Organising Committee, added: After 22 years, some of our pioneers who were involved in the last Games are still contributing today as volunteers and advisors in our committee.
Embodying the spirit of the Games with the theme Celebrate the Extraordinary, the Ceremonies will comprise three segments - audience interaction; ceremonial proceedings of the SEA Games; and the Show. To achieve this, COL Lim and the Artillery Formation will be working with a creative team led by Ms Beatrice Chia-Richmond, together with about 5,000 performers and volunteers as well as 3,500 soldiers.
On the inspiration behind the show, Ms Chia-Richmond said: The Ceremonies aim to truly demonstrate the 28th SEA Games theme to the region, and we hope that it will pave the way for everyone to celebrate the triumph of the human spirit - be it in sports or daily life.
However, the journey towards the OCC has not always been smooth-sailing. As COL Lim elaborated: I faced a great challenge in finding a way to make use of all the opportunities made possible by the new National Stadium.
We wanted to create a show that was very close to the audience, and one of our ideas was to transform the two-dimensional space into a three-dimensional one using the aerial system. This aerial system in itself also posed a great challenge as it was the first one implemented in Singapore.
The OCC will also involve diverse segments of the community, with volunteers hailing from companies such as Deloitte Singapore and Nanyang Technological University among others. Tickets are also kept affordable in a concerted effort to make the Games accessible to all.
Tickets are priced from $12 to $60 for the Opening Ceremony, and from $12 to $40 for the Closing Ceremony, with concessions for students, senior citizens and full-time National Servicemen. For more details check out the SEA Games website www.seagames2015.com or their Facebook page www.facebook.com/SEAGAMES2015
When the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) C-130 transport plane flew over flood-hit Kelantan on 30 Dec, all that the soldiers in the flight could see were rooftops of submerged houses and buildings. Such was the scale of devastation from what was the worst flood to hit Malaysia in decades.
On board the flight was the SAF water purification team which was en route to the north-eastern state of Peninsular Malaysia, one of the worst affected areas. Their mission: To produce clean drinking water for the affected residents.
The flood had contaminated the drinking water supply, putting many at risk of falling ill from waterborne diseases. For two weeks, the SAF team, which also comprised personnel from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) and Public Utilities Board, successfully produced 136,000 litres of drinking water using their Water Purification Units (WPUs).
Working closely with the Malaysian Armed Forces, they distributed the purified water to the residents. The flooding has since subsided, and the SAF team has wound down its relief operation. Theyreturned to Singapore on 14 Jan.
When Malaysia accepted Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's offer of assistance on 29 Dec, the SAF team swung into action immediately.
We had 12 hours to prepare, understand the requirements and get the force ready, recalled Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Fan Mun Poh, the SAF Task Force Commander.
Seven WPUs were brought over to Kelantan: Four from the SAF, two from humanitarian organisation Mercy Relief and one from the SCDF.
The first detachment took off on 30 Dec morning, and the second detachment took off the next day.
A major challenge of the operation was getting the WPUs to process the river water that was heavily contaminated with mud, debris and sediments.
Third Sergeant Azaharie Bin Shakirin, a WPU operator, said: The machine filters got dirty easily. We had to be on standby to wash them every half an hour.
But the WPUs are designed to process water contaminated up to a certain extent and the river water in Kelantan was a severe test of their limits.
Recalled LTC Fan: We were putting our machines under a lot of stress… The lowest point of our deployment was when we had only three working machines.
But the SAF team showed great resolve and repaired the machine, which had broken down because of the large amount of silt in the river water, within two days. Back home in Singapore, technical staff were also brainstorming for solutions to troubleshoot the WPUs.
LTC Fan added: When you see the devastation first-hand, you realised how much that little drop of water means to them (the locals).
When our soldiers handed over the clean water, you could sense the appreciation... That pretty much wiped out whatever frustration that you had. You know that the mission is for a good cause.
LTC Fan was also impressed with the Malaysian soldiers who had to pick themselves up from the destruction of their homeland. They were affected by the flood, and yet they had to be at the forefront to help others. Their soldiers are courageous and committed.
Fully automated with a sleek look, the Airborne-trooper Training Facility (ATF) promises more realistic and progressive training for soldiers undergoing the Basic Airborne Course (BAC).
The unpredictable rainy December weather can be a bummer, especially if you are training to jump out of planes. However, with the indoor ATF, trainees can now undergo all BAC training regardless of weather conditions. In addition, this new facility promises more realistic, effective and efficient airborne training.
Located at Pasir Ris Camp, the ATF consists of two training facilities - the Parachute Training Facility and the Rappelling Training Facility, and was launched by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen on 1 Dec 2014.
At the launch, Dr Ng commented that the ATF was a worthwhile investment as it was important that the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF's) elite forces have the confidence to respond to real-life situations.
At the old facility, a lot of it was broken up and it wasn't dynamic. But in this facility, everything is autonomous and you get as close to real-life situations as possible. At the same time, trainers are able to break down the performance and give you your critique. So I would consider it a very significant improvement, he said.
More progressive training
As an all-in-one facility, the ATF allows soldiers to hone their basic airborne skills, such as heli-rappelling insertion and heli-roping insertion, at any time. It also eliminates the need for trainees to travel between the old training facilities which are located a distance apart, thus saving time and increasing training opportunities for the soldiers.
The emphasis on more progressive training was another reason for this integrated facility and this is evident in the three training systems under the Parachute Training Facility. Trainees have to go through the Landing Trainer System (LTS), the Rotational Trainer System (RTS) and the Airborne Trainer System (ATS) in that sequence as part of BAC.
The first of the three stations, the LTS is where troopers learn various parachute landing fall positions. While the old version at Hendon Camp could only bring trainees up to 3m high, the LTS boasts two variable heights of 4m and 8m. This allows for more progressive and realistic training as compared to the past, with 8m being the height that an airborne trooper should begin preparations for his landing.
The LTS also allows trainees to experience different rates of descent, such as at 2m/s, 3m/s and 4m/s.
With these new options, Chief Commando Officer Colonel (COL) Simon Lim explained that instructors could now design more progressive training modules.
As the facility allows for calibration of the height and the rate of descent...this will allow our trainees to slowly build their confidence, as well as enhance proficiency, to prepare them for the live jump.
Some 3770 recruits celebrated the end of their arduous Basic Military Training (BMT) with a graduation parade - the first Singapore Armed Forces parade of 2015 - held at the Float@Marina Bay on 10 Jan.
Also marking the end of another significant journey at the same place were 400 Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) from the694th and 695th Battalions, Singapore Infantry Regiment (694 and 695 SIR), who had completed their NS cycle.
Reviewing Officer, Member of Parliament Christopher De Souza, thanked the NSmen in his speech, saying: You have contributed significantly as part of the Island Defence Force, so that the rest of Singapore can sleep peacefully at night, and for that we salute you.
To the graduating recruits from Basic Military Training Centre and 6 SIR, Mr De Souza said: For 50 years, a strong and credible defence has provided a safe and stable environment for our children to grow up in and for our businesses to prosper. All this would not be possible without the conviction, hard work, and determination of our pioneer generation.
I urge the recruits who are graduating from BMT today to carry on this pioneering spirit in the defence of Singapore.
It was apt then, that the parade featured a handing over of the Singapore Flag by Captain (CPT) (NS) Jason Seow, Battalion second-in-command of 694 SIR, to Recruit (REC) Luzerne Cheng. It represented the handing over of the responsibility of defending Singapore to a new generation of soldiers.
Coincidentally, CPT (NS) Seow was REC Cheng's biology teacher at Swiss Cottage Secondary School.
I feel that it is very meaningful, myself as a teacher, to pass the state flag to a student, said CPT Seow. …where I pass the responsibility of defending the country to the younger generation.
REC Cheng agreed, saying: I think one very important thing is that it was a personal touch…It was someone I knew who was passing down from the previous generation to (the present).
Also present at the event were Chief of Army Major-General Perry Lim, BMTC commanders, and family and friends of the newly-trained soldiers and the NSmen.