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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17 Apr 2015, 1000 hours (GMT +8)
Man's best friend has recently been given a complete overhaul - meet BigDog and his family. At 110kg, BigDog is roughly triple the weight of a typical military German Shepherd or Belgian Shepherd. In place of fur, it has a hard mechanical exterior. And where dogs have muscles, BigDog has hydraulics. It's not exactly cute and fluffy, but this electronically powered and hydraulically actuated robo-dog may not be all that different from its furry brethren. Google, under its robotics subsidiary Boston Dynamics, has produced a whole family of quadruped robots (which BigDog is a part of) that can run, climb stairs, and even jog next to its owners or operators. Evolution of the robo-dog In 2005, BigDog was unveiled by Boston Dynamics in collaboration with Foster-Miller, the NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the Harvard University Concord Field Station. Designed as a robotic pack mule to accompany soldiers in terrain too tough for conventional vehicles, BigDog stands at 0.76m tall and 0.91m long. It is powered by a 15-horsepower go-kart engine which operates at over 9,000rpm. The engine powers a hydraulic pump which in turn drives the hydraulic leg actuators. Each of Bigdog's four legs has four actuators - two for the hip joint, and one each for the knee and ankle joints. With this power plant, BigDog is capable of traversing difficult terrain, running at 6.4 kmh, carrying 150kg, and climbing a 35-degree incline. In the place of eyes and ears, BigDog has approximately 50 sensors. These measure a multitude of factors such as the attitude and acceleration of its body; the motion and force of joint actuators; as well as the engine speed, temperature and hydraulic pressure of the internal engine. These sensors feed information to the onboard computer, which performs a variety of functions such as control, data communication, communications, and electric power distribution. To control BigDog, the operator wears a Vest Operator Control Unit (OCU), which comprises a Head Mounted Display and an OCU computer on the vest. The operator can input controls on a steering controller which is then transmitted to BigDog over a 900 MHz radio. The operator also has the option of wearing retro-reflective markers, allowing BigDog to use its light detecting and ranging component to detect the operator and follow autonomously at a distance without needing control inputs. The bigger brother Recently, an even more militarised and rugged version of BigDog known as the Legged Squad Support System (LS3) was put to the test at the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014, a military multilateral training event featuring 22 nations and about 25,000 personnel. Compared to BigDog, the LS3 has greater operational tolerances - withstanding greater temperature ranges as well as wetter and dirtier environments - and has the ability to carry up to 180kg of equipment. To allow soldiers to focus more on their mission at hand, the LS3 has been programmed to recognise voice commands from its operator. For example, the command engine on activates LS3, while the command follow tight orders LS3 to follow the same path that its operator takes. At RIMPAC 2014, an LS3 unit had been attached to the United States (US) Marines from India Company, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment at the Kahuku Training Area. Affectionately nicknamed Cujo by the company, the LS3 was used by the Marines to conduct resupply missions to various platoons in terrain that is difficult to reach by all-terrain vehicles. I'd say 70 to 80 percent of the terrain we go through, it can go through, said Lance Corporal Brandon Dieckmann, one of Cujo's operators. There are times when it is going to fall over, but most of the time it can self-right and get back up on its own. I thought it was going to be stumbling around and losing its footing, but it's actually proven to be pretty reliable and pretty rugged (although) it has a bit of a problem negotiating obliques and contours of hills, he added. I was surprised how well it works. While these robo-dogs are still in the experimental stage, don't be surprised if mechanised mutts soon become a soldier's best friend.
14 Apr 2015, 1000 hours (GMT +8)
The upcoming Temasek Club will offer officers and senior military experts a new and improved one-stop venue for recreation and interaction. Back in the good old days, Temasek Club used to be a popular wedding venue. Our officers were proud to hold their weddings at Temasek Club as it was a privilege, recalled Military Expert (ME) 7 Low Yong Joo. Today's wedding dinner is usually a huge celebration; the current club house is too small and old. With a new club house, our hope is that more officers will get married and mark their life's next milestone here, said the chairman of Temasek Club's Redevelopment Committee. Designed to hold cohesion events for SAF units, the club's focal point will be an upsized banquet hall that can accommodate 600 people. It is also suitable for formal functions such as military dining-in and weddings. This is just one of the many new features that Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officers, senior military experts and their families can enjoy at the new Temasek Club at Rifle Range Road. It will replace the current club house at Portsdown Road. Built in 1982, the old facility was designed to serve only 4,000, but the club now counts over 16,000 members. These include full-time national servicemen, as well as operationally ready national servicemen who hold key appointments. A new and bigger club house is clearly needed. Sports will be a top draw at the new Temasek Club. It will house the biggest public bowling centre in Singapore. The 38-lane facility, developed by the Singapore Bowling Federation, will also be the training base for our national keglers. Located near the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, the club house is a convenient stop for members who wish to cycle, jog or hike at the existing nature trails. Fitness buffs can work out in a lifestyle gym which offers popular group exercises such as spinning and zumba. They can also make use of sports facilities such as the 50-metre pool with water play features for kids, as well as futsal and tennis courts. Other facilities include a pre-school, guest houses, and a range of food and beverage (FB) outlets.
13 Apr 2015, 1615 hours (GMT +8)
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will step up its efforts to foster stronger military-military and civil-military collaboration to respond more effectively to disasters. Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen said this at the opening ceremony of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) Global Forum on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination on 13 Apr. Held at Changi Command and Control Centre, the three-day forum is co-hosted by Singapore and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), and attended by some 100 delegates from more than 25 countries. The WHS Global Forum will see discussions on ways to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of civil-military disaster relief responses and operations at the national, regional and international levels. It will also shape the agenda of the UN World Humanitarian Summit, which will be held in Istanbul in May 2016. In his keynote address, Dr Ng said that in recent years, the SAF had been focusing on evolving a military doctrine for non-traditional security threats, scoping operations and maximising efforts. This was stemmed from the fact that there was no clearly defined military doctrine for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) efforts, and was thus one of the reasons for Singapore hosting the Global Forum. He suggested three broad parameters to shape the forum discussions: One of which was that militaries should not replicate what civilian organisations can do better. A simple example - it makes little financial sense for military aircraft and ships to transport items like blankets and even food from developed countries to areas of need, said Dr Ng. He added that civilian agencies were more equipped to buy necessities and distribute them, as they had greater purchasing power. Dr Ng also noted that militaries should confine themselves to critical windows of need while civilian agencies gear up to take over, and that militaries will need to build up information hubs and network with civilian organisations even before disasters happen. To this effect, the SAF has been increasing its engagement with agencies such as the Singapore Red Cross and Mercy Relief, both of which have been playing an increasing role in regional disaster relief efforts. At the regional level, Singapore has set up the Information Fusion Centre and the Changi Regional HADR Coordination Centre (RHCC). The former currently hosts International Liaison Officers from 15 countries to collect maritime information and feed them to all their partners, while the latter works closely with key stakeholders like UN OCHA and the ASEAN Coordinating Centre on Humanitarian Assistance (AHA) to enhance civil-military coordination in disaster regions. The SAF has also participated in its fair share of HADR missions, with 20 deployments within the last decade, said Dr Ng. The largest relief effort was for the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami, where the SAF deployed 1,500 personnel, three Landing Ships Tank, 12 helicopters and eight transport and utility aircraft. Recent efforts include flood relief efforts in Kelantan, Malaysia and fire-fighting operations in Chiang Mai, Thailand. In response to the increase in military engagements for HADR missions, Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Kyung-wha Kang noted that militaries have standing forces and unique capabilities and assets that can deploy rapidly in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. These are often used to support the initial response while national authorities and humanitarian agencies identify needs and establish longer-term and more structured operations, said ASG Kang. This was also the reason that having strong civilian-military coordination was important, she added. Moving forward, a series of workshops will be held at the Changi Command and Control Centre. These include the introductory session of the Regional Consultative Group on Humanitarian Civil-Military Coordination for Asia and the Pacific, and the biennial ASEAN Regional Forum Disaster Relief Exercise. Dr Ng concluded his speech by saying that the use of technology must be leveraged to enable better information sharing and build closer networks between civil and military players for a more effective disaster relief response. For instance, the RHCC's OPERA Command and Control Information System can take data from a wide range of sources, fuse it together and disseminate it to partner militaries and civilian organisations like OCHA and AHA to enable more effective relief efforts. Partnerships are key, and these will bring knowledge, capacity and expertise to bear on the enormous challenges at hand, he said.
11 Apr 2015, 2140 hours (GMT +8)
About 5,000 Singaporeans who are based in Shanghai paid tribute to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, the Republic's founding Prime Minister, at Singapore Day on 11 Apr. A day-long event held in major cities over the world to connect overseas Singaporeans, this year's edition of Singapore Day in China included a special tribute to Mr Lee, who passed away about three weeks ago. In his address, Guest-of-honour Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said: We would not be gathered here today, as Singaporeans, if not for Mr Lee and our pioneers. Even with his passing, Mr Lee brought Singaporeans together, in Singapore and also overseas. Mr Teo led the crowd to observe a minute of silence for Mr Lee. During an interview with the media, Mr Teo added that despite the strong outpouring of emotions, he was glad to see that there was a strong positive mood, to want to move ahead - to live by the values laid down by Mr Lee and the founding fathers. Singaporeans penned tribute messages to Mr Lee in an exhibition tent which featured photo montages of his life and contributions to Singapore. One of Mr Lee's legacies was to introduce National Service (NS) - a cornerstone of Singapore's defence and nation-building efforts. At the Ministry of Defence's (MINDEF's) booth, Singaporeans found out more about pioneers who, like Mr Lee, helped to build up the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). The stories of these pioneer servicemen, like the legendary Captain (CPT) (Ret) Tiger Hong Seng Mak, were originally curated for the SAF50 exhibition held in February at VivoCity to mark the SAF's 50th anniversary this year. MINDEF brought part of the exhibits to Shanghai. It brought back fond memories for Lance Corporal (LCP) (Ret) Tan Choo Wah, 65, who enlisted in 1968. I remember 'Tiger' Hong, who owned the parade square. Training was tougher then, but we got through it, said the 65-year-old who was from the SAF's pioneer batch of combat engineers. Singaporeans also found out about the new Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) format through a fitness challenge. It attracted not just men, but also women and children. Each participant had to complete as many push-ups or sit-ups as they could in one minute. CPT (NS) Jason Tay, 39, gave thumbs up for the new IPPT format, as well as the SAF's slew of new facilities like the Multi-Mission Range Complex which allows soldiers to conduct day and night live-firing indoor in all weather conditions. The new IPPT is easier to train for, and the new range (MMRC) is more efficient; these are definitely great steps forward, said the artillery officer who visited the MINDEF booth to update himself on the latest developments in the SAF. Parents also brought their children to the MINDEF booth to find out more about today's NS and Basic Military Training. Ms Sherlyn Lim, 39, described the bunk and military equipment showcase as a good preview. It mentally prepares my son for what to expect in three years' time when he enlists for NS, she said. Earlier in the day, Mr Teo met with Shanghai Party Secretary Han Zheng as part of his six-day visit to China. He also visited sailors, midshipmen and senior military expert trainees on board Landing Ship Tank (LST) RSS Resolution. The ship was docked at Shanghai's Wu Song Naval Base for a port call as part of the midshipmen's training, and to network with their Chinese counterparts. Such port calls strengthen the defence ties of the Republic of Singapore Navy and the host navies.
08 Apr 2015, 1000 hours (GMT +8)
In the second of our three-part series, Republic of Singapore Air Force pioneer Colonel (COL) (Ret) Frank Singam, 64, tells us what it's like to be a Black Knight. He was in Singapore's very first Black Knights team in 1974, and headed the aerobatics team in 1977 and 1978. WHAT I MISS MOST ABOUT THE SAF The camaraderie fostered when we were developing the Air Force. Brigadier-General (Ret) Michael Teo, COL (Ret) Mark Wong and I were the three pioneer F-5 pilots. We had to work very hard to train up the other pilots and ensure that they were operationally capable in time for the planes coming in. A lot of trust was involved; you had to trust your fellow wingmen, leaders, technical people, air traffic controllers and fighter controllers. In retrospect, that was the most fun I had. WHAT YOU DIDN'T KNOW After a show, your hands are tired from grabbing the stick and throttle too hard because of the sheer excitement that people are watching you! Sometimes while flying, you'll hear a voice of one of the other Black Knight pilots (over the comms) and know that someone is a little stressed. We'll then quietly say, Ease it up a little bit, so that he can get back into formation. Humorous conversations? No time for that, dear! It was all work and focus! MY BEST BLACK KNIGHT MEMORY The SAF Day flypast in 1975, which the late Dr Goh Keng Swee, then-Defence Minister, attended. We had to fly in from behind the crowd and be precisely over Dr Goh just as he was sitting down. And we did it. As he sat down, our planes came roaring in right over his head! Everyone talked about the broad smile he had on his face.
06 Apr 2015, 1000 hours (GMT +8)
Singapore's defence advisory council, ACCORD, has 18 initiatives to boost support for NS and Total Defence. Here's what it means for you. For Singapore's male population, National Service (NS) is a rite of passage. At some point in their lives, every fit male Singaporean will don the uniform to serve the country. For women, their knowledge of the nation's defence may be less rich because they do not serve NS. Boosting their awareness of and support for NS was one of the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence's (ACCORD's) focus areas. Their 18 initiatives come from months of extensive engagement with three key groups - Family and Community (FC), Employer and Business (EB), and Educational Institutions (EI). These are also the names of the three main ACCORD councils when it was restructured in August last year. The Ministry of Defence has accepted these initiatives, said 2nd Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on 5 Mar during the Committee of Supply debate. More engagement Under the initiatives targeted at better engaging women in the community, women will have more opportunities to understand the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Total Defence (TD). They will get access to regular small group information-sharing sessions. ACCORD member Claire Chiang said: What we (women) see are the uniforms and the shining of boots and how tired the men are when they come back on the weekends. Added Ms Chiang, who co-chairs the FC Council: But there are no concrete platforms for women to bridge this gap for a deeper understanding. Hence, the idea to conduct sharing sessions for women was born. The idea is to tap into existing women organisations to conduct these sessions. It's going to go a long way in exciting the community once again that defence counts on each and every one playing their roles, said Ms Chiang, who is Senior Vice-President of Banyan Tree Holdings Ltd. Better transition Most university-going Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) of yesteryear will remember their first day at school after serving the nation. After two years of being away from academia, it can be hard to catch up with the rest. This is why one of the 18 ACCORD initiatives is for Institutes of Higher Learning to better support the transition for NSmen when they re-enter the education system. This could come in the form of putting some course materials online so that students can catch up in the interim time before the beginning of their first semester, said Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President of UniSIM and also member of the EI council. In coming up with the ideas, the EI council worked closely with schools in Singapore, added Prof Cheong. Another initiative is to immerse students in TD programmes so that they have a better understanding of Singapore. Younger students can also look forward to more TD outreach programmes. For example, cohort TD experiences and National Education programmes will be organised for Primary Six students. This builds on current efforts such as Primary 5 students attending the National Day Parade. There will also be other ground-up initiatives in schools, both local and private institutions, to help students better understand NS and the need for defence. Supporting NSmen NSmen, too, will receive more support. For example, the collaboration with the Ministry of Social and Family Development will tap on the ComCare programme so that eligible Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) can receive financial aid beyond their two-year NS stints. One of the initiatives is to encourage employers to sign up online to receive early notification of their NSmen employees' ICT call-ups. The business community will be happy to see more employers utilise this online initiative, said Mr Teo Siong Seng, Managing Director Pacific International Lines and member of the EB council. With ample notice, this supports the planning for better business operation efficiency. Feedback gathered by the EB council also showed that both employers and employees welcomed the notion of more seminars to promote awareness of NS and TD. Employers will be informed of (and better appreciate) the training activities that their employees go through, added Mr Teo. Another of the initiatives will see enhanced career fairs co-organised with Trade Associations and Chambers of Commerce to help NSFs move into the next stage of their lives. I think that these 18 initiatives are a good start and we have sufficient to work on for now, said Prof Cheong. There will always be new and good ideas, and we will take them up. It's a continuous process of trying to improve.
03 Apr 2015, 1700 hours (GMT +8)
The defence partnership between the United States and Singapore is a key part of regional security and stability. This was the key message from Ms Christine Wormuth, US Undersecretary of Defence for Policy in a public lecture held in Singapore on 2 Apr. Ms Wormuth was speaking to an audience of local and foreign military officers and academics on the topic of The US-Singapore Defence Relationship: A Shared Commitment to Peace and Prosperity in the Asia-Pacific Region. Elaborating, she highlighted Singapore's contributions to multinational counter-piracy efforts in the Gulf of Aden, and her recent commitment to the global fight against the militant Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Singapore has stepped up and been a very important member of the 60-nation counter-ISIS campaign, she said. Singapore has committed liaison and planning officers, a KC-135R tanker aircraft for air-to-air refuelling, and an Imagery Analysis Team to the counter-ISIS coalition led by the US. Ms Wormuth also noted Singapore's initiative in setting up a Regional Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Coordination Centre to help Asia-Pacific countries better respond to disasters. She added that Singapore was instrumental in developing a multilateral framework for dialogue and cooperation, by being a founding member of the ASEAN - a platform which brings together South East Asian countries. On US' contributions to the region, Ms Wormuth highlighted the US Navy's rotation of four Littoral Combat Ships operating out of Singapore. The second ship, the USS Fort Worth, arrived late last year and played a part in the recent search for AirAsia flight QZ8501 which had crashed in the Java Sea in December 2014. The US is also working with Vietnam and Indonesia to build their maritime defence and disaster relief capabilities. Ms Wormuth said the US will continue to engage South East Asia countries, particularly through the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) Plus framework - a platform for dialogue and practical military-to-military cooperation. We really need multilateral institutions (like the ADMM-Plus) to confront the most important security challenges that we are facing, she said. From our perspective in DOD (Department of Defence), creating the ADMM-Plus, formed in 2010, really sort of took multilateral defence cooperation to a new level. She also highlighted that the US is concerned about the territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas. Our goal is really to get all claimants to work collaboratively and diplomatically to try to resolve disputes by peaceful means, she said, adding that the US is working with China to create better communication channels to avoid miscalculations in these hotspots. Both countries are also working on a set of rules of behaviour to govern the safety of aerial and maritime encounters. Ms Wormuth emphasised that despite having to deal with crises in the Middle East (ISIS threat) and in Europe (Russia's illegal violation of Ukraine's territorial sovereignty), the US will continue with its rebalance to Asia. As a global world power, the United States does have to focus on those challenges, she explained. But the fundamental reason for the rebalance to Asia…is more about opportunities and seizing the future, and working with countries in the region to move forward in a positive way. The lecture was given on the sidelines of Ms Wormuth's visit to Singapore to take part in the 8th US-Singapore Strategic Security Dialogue, held on 3 Apr. During her visit, she also called on Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen.
02 Apr 2015, 1700 hours (GMT +8)
The biennial Aerospace Technology Seminar (ATS), a gathering for the growing community of aerospace professionals in the Ministry of Defence, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), academia, and the local and overseas aerospace industries, returned on 2 Apr to the Air Force Training Command auditorium. This year, the seminar was organised with the aim to give insights into ongoing trends in the aviation industry, such as the rise in unmanned aircraft and networked systems. Since its inception in 1990, the ATS has been organised by the Air Engineering and Logistics Department (AELD) of RSAF. The seminar gives participants the opportunity to interact with speakers from esteemed companies, educational institutions and the RSAF which shared on its experiences, areas of expertise, and the latest advancements in aerospace engineering technology. In his opening address, Military Expert (ME) 7 Francis Cheong, Head of AELD, said: The Air Engineering and Logistics Organisation (AELO) recognises the value that technical conferences bring to levelling up the engineering and maintenance expertise of its people. It is for this reason that we began organising the ATS 25 years ago. While we have kept the majority of the traditional aerospace domains (aerodynamics, propulsion, structures, and avionics) in the seminar, new topics have also been introduced, added ME7 Cheong. These additional topics reflect the engineering demands and challenges faced by AELO over the years. One of the new topics that had been introduced in ATS 2015 was that of aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO). One of the presenters at ATS 2015 who spoke on the topic of MRO was Mr Fabrice Godeau, Managing Director of Altran Singapore Pte Ltd and Altran Malaysia Sdn Bhd. Mr Godeau was here to present on Altran's VueForge system, which uses connectivity and analytics to process the huge amount of data generated during aircraft service life-cycle management, and use it all to draw correlations to generate a holistic picture. I think the seminar is really interesting because we allow for innovation, said Mr Godeau. For example, there is exposure, and we can share about what is upcoming in the industry. Mr Godeau believes that the rate of technological advancement in the aerospace industry has been rapid, especially with regards to that of connectivity and Big Data (Cloud services and analytics, etc.), hence the seminar gave him a valuable opportunity to gain insights through sharing. He shared: The volume of information that pilots have to take in is now enormous. We require increasing amounts of artificial intelligence to sieve the essential information from this data, hence I feel that intelligent systems are key - machines to machines. Also present at ATS 2015 was Chief of Air Force Major-General Hoo Cher Mou, Chief Defence Scientist Dr Quek Tong Boon, and other distinguished guests.
02 Apr 2015, 0830 hours (GMT +8)
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) hosted military dental officers - including four Chief Dental Officers - from the Asia-Pacific region for an exchange at the Defence Forces Dentistry Forum 2015 from 1 to 2 Apr. Themed Dental Health Support for the Next Generation Armed Forces, the two-day forum saw about 100 participants sharing the latest dental techniques and best practices from their own armed forces. They came from eight countries that included Thailand, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. The SAF was invited by Singapore Dental Association and Asia Pacific Dental Congress (APDC) to organise the forum. In his opening address, SAF Chief of Medical Corps Rear-Admiral (RADM) (Dr) Kang Wee Lee said: The scientific programme serves as a platform for participants to discuss a wide range of military oral health issues and to share military dental knowledge and experiences. Dr Shahul Hameed, Chairman of the Local Organising Committee, APDC, said the discussion is important as military dental support is needed in disaster relief work. For example, SAF dental officers supported the International Disaster Victim Identification work at the Indian Tsunami Ocean Tsunami in 2004, and the Christchurch Earthquake in 2011. Victim identification in disaster is a multinational effort so forums like this enable the dental forensic experts from different countries to come together and share ideas on how to do things better and more efficient the next time round, said Dr Shahul. In his address, RADM (Dr) Kang also shared how the SAF Dental Service takes care of the dental needs of the SAF's servicemen in peacetime and during military operations, as well as contribute to peace support operations and socio-civic missions. These include the areas of Forensic Dentistry, Facial Trauma Management, Force Dental Health Protection and Field Dentistry. He also highlighted that the SAF Medical Corps will continue to work closely with national health-care institutions to improve the dental health of SAF servicemen. In attendance were dental professionals from the Ministry of Health, National Dental Centre of Singapore and National University of Singapore. SAF dental officers - comprising Regulars, Full-time National Servicemen (NSF), and Operationally Ready National Servicemen - also took part in the forum. They gained new practical knowledge in the areas of forensic dentistry, facial trauma management, and field dentistry, among others. For instance, Captain (CPT) (Dr) Guru O learnt how his overseas counterparts conducted dentistry work in war zones. The knowledge will help me to work in an operational setting, said the 23-year-old NSF dental officer. For Brigadier-General (Dr) Golam Mohiuddin Chowdhury, Chief Dental Officer of the Bangladesh Armed Forces, the close link between the civilian and military dental services in Singapore (where civilian dental surgeons serve NS) inspired him to consider getting his dental officers to serve in community hospitals. Unlike in Singapore, our dental officers are all regulars who serve in army hospitals, treating only soldiers and their families. We should extend our service to the community, especially the poor, he said.
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.


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