Come July, all Singaporean households will receive a National Day funpack as part ofthe country's 50th birthday celebration.
The tote bag will come in 50 designs created by children, pioneers, celebrities and professional designers.
Each funpack will come with childhood game items like thecapteh and card games like Happy Family, as well as traditional snacks like haw flakes and murukku.
There will also be a commemorative figurine of Singa Lion, an iconic mascot of the National Courtesy Campaign and Singapore Kindness Movement.
Colonel (COL) Frederick Choo explained that these items were chosen to evoke memories of the games that we used to play, the snacks we used to enjoy, and the icons that we grew up with.
Through these items and funpacks, we hope that the seniors in the families will be able to tell stories of our yesteryears to the younger ones, said the chairman of Engagement, Celebrations and Mobile Column for National Day Parade (NDP) 2015.
Spectators who are attending this year's NDP at the Padang and Marina Bay floating platform will receive the same funpacks. However, these will come with additional food, drinks and interactive items for the NDP show.
A total of 1.2 million funpacks will be distributed by the People's Association. Singaporeans will receive instructions about the collection of the funpack through mail by July.
The winning designs for the funpacks were chosen from more than a hundred entries submitted by Singaporeans from all walks of life.
Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Melvin Tan, NDP's Chairman of Logistics and Finance, said their aim in crowdsourcing for designs was to engage Singaporeans for the Golden Jubilee and give their inspirations on what is unique about Singapore.
Among those picked were Mr Chan Yeo Foo, 82, and Madam Wee Chai Neo, 75. They are part of a six-person team from the Geylang East Home for the Aged who came up with three winning design concepts.
Working with two volunteers who helped them to create the design, they completed the colouring of the designs in three days.
Mr Chan felt that their contribution was meaningful because the designs contain drawings of old and new places in Singapore like the former National Theatre, and the Esplanade.
We are happy to be able to do this together with my team mates - each of us coloured the drawings bit by bit to complete them.
Connecting with other Singaporeans
Singaporeans can also look forward to participating in a host of activities leading up to NDP. One such initiative is for Singaporeans to pack a funpack for another Singaporean.
Each volunteer packer will pen a personal message on a card which will be placed in each funpack. The recipients will be encouraged to reply to the packer with a thank you note.
We hope to inculcate the spirit of paying it forward - that we do something for you not because we know you, but because you are a fellow Singaporean, said COL Choo.
Various voluntary welfare organisations, such as the Down Syndrome Association, have stepped forward to take part. Thirty young adults with Down Syndrome will spend two days packing at Kranji Camp.
They will also pen well-wishes on post cards that are specially designed by artists with Down Syndrome. Each of these 1,200 cards will be placed in the funpacks.
Mr Andrew Soh, 44, a manager in the association, felt that the project was an inclusive way for people with Down Syndrome to contribute actively to society.
About 200 students and teachers from Temasek Junior College (TJC) will be packing funpacks with soldiers from 3rd Battalion, Singapore Guards, as part of the SAF-Schools Partnership Programme.
Mr Daniel Kwan, 35, a TJC teacher, said the initiative will allow students to better understand what goes on behind the scenes during the preparation of NDP.
Birthday cake float
In another initiative, a group of students from the National University of Singapore (NUS) will be making a float structure of a giant birthday cake using about 10,000 birthday postcards.
So far, they have collected about 50,000 postcards with birthday wishes for Singapore from primary school students.
We wanted to have the entire youth community - from NUS to primary schools - to celebrate Singapore's birthday together, said Mr Karthik S/O Tamil Maran, 25, an events director of the NUS Students' Union.
The float, measuring 4m by 3m, will be installed with four EZ-link card donation devices. The public can make a donation with just a tap of their stored value card. All proceeds will go to the Community Chest.
The float will be placed at the Marina Bay floating platform on 7 Aug, and at Esplanade on 8 and 9 Aug.
An NDP exhibition
Singaporeans can also look forward to a sneak preview of the NDP show at an exhibition to be held at the Marina Square Central Atrium from 5 to 14 Jun.
One of the highlights is a showcase of the vintage uniforms that soldiers, policemen, nurses and firemen wore back in the 1960s.
Participants of the NDP show's vintage parade, including those from the SAF Veterans' League, will be present during weekends to share their personal stories from the early years.
Successful applicants for the tickets of NDP or preview show will be notified via phone from 1 to 5 June. They may collect their tickets from 5 to 14 Jun, between 10am to 10pm, at Marina Square Central Atrium.
Despite initial difficulties, Military Expert 3 (ME3) Song Bee Leng, Senior Systems Supervisor from Signals Formation, excelled in her course and became the first-ever female valedictorian in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)-National Institute of Education (NIE) Continuing Professional Education (CPE) programme.
She was among the 96 SAF personnel who received their certificates and diplomas at a graduation ceremony on 28 May at the NTU@One-North Campus.
Recounting the challenges she faced in the course, she said: The training pedagogies and terminologies that were used were unfamiliar to me…As a result, I had to put in a lot of extra effort and time to ensure that I understood what was being taught. Furthermore, I had to be humble and know when to ask for help.
On what her motivations were, she said: I enjoy learning and think that it is something that is very interesting …what I learn was useful, and I will be able to apply it back in my unit.
This spirit of continuous learning was integral to the SAF-NIE CPE programme, which was designed to allow SAF regulars to stay current with the latest in learning sciences and pedagogies.
This programme is part of the SAF Learning Transformation which is steering away from didactic teaching and moving towards a more learner-centric approach. The SAF-NIE CPE programme also provides a good opportunity for participants to attain professional skills-based certificates progressively throughout their career.
Like ME3 Song, Master Warrant Office (MWO) Gilbert Chew, the other valedictorian, found the programme challenging too. 'It was difficult to juggle between the course and work commitments, he said.
However, MWO Chew, Chief Master Trainer at the SAF Military Intelligence Institute, also found the programme to be immensely rewarding. He said: The course content was very relevant, especially in today's context where we want to ensure that the soldiers coming into the army have a positive learning experience. By attending this course, we are kept abreast of the latest pedagogies which we can apply (as trainers).
This point was emphasised by Dean, Managing Director NIE International Professor Lee Sing Kong in his opening address. He said to the graduands: Instructors are very important in terms of making an impact on the trainees under you. You either kill their interest or you ignite their passion.
That is why, in today's context, we need to upgrade ourselves and keep ourselves relevant. Why? Simply because change is occurring in almost every dimension.
Colonel (COL) Ng Wai Kit, Deputy Commandant of SAFTI Military Institute, also touched upon the importance of the programme in his speech. The only way that we can teach the right things is to make sure that we get our content and curriculum correct, he said. That's not easy, and that is why most of you (the graduands) have gone through the learning sciences, to learn how to convert operational doctrine into curriculum, and make sure that the right things are being taught.
The graduands were presented with various certifications, based on which of the seven programmes they had completed, namely, the Specialist Certificate in Learning and Instruction, Specialist Diploma in Learning and Instruction, Specialist Diploma in Learning Sciences, Specialist Advanced Diploma in Learning and Instruction, Specialist Postgraduate Diploma in Learning and Instruction, Advanced Course in Learning and Instruction, and the Advanced Course in Learning Sciences.
The 12-part documentary, which airs on Channel NewsAsia, follows the trials and tribulations of 250 fresh-faced recruits during their year-long journey to becoming Commandos.
Enduring seemingly endless turn-outs (where instructors wake the trainees up for physical training) at 3am, having only a few hours of sleep during a five-day outfield mission, carrying heavy combat loads of about 30kg in the blazing sun - it's no surprise that the trainees often go to sleep tired and wake up tired.
We watch them go through personal struggles and endure sheer physical pain as they walk down this path, said Ms Devika A. Rao, Supervising Producer from IFA Media. Filming began when the recruits enlisted in June 2014.
From dealing with being away from home to getting used to a regimented life of waking up at the crack of dawn and constantly following orders; from coping with a lack of confidence to getting past their personal fears, the series really takes a close look at what these recruits go through on a day to day level.
If you've ever wondered what it takes to join this exclusive group of soldiers, be sure to catch all the action in Commandos this June!
In light of new powers, transnational challenges and maritime disputes, rules should be adhered to with the correct spirit, to build mutual confidence and trust for regional stability.
This was Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen's key message at the concluding session of the Shangri-La Dialogue. Held from 29 to 31 May, the high-level security summit is a gathering of defence delegates from around the world to discuss ongoing issues.
Speaking at the plenary session, Dr Ng said that, as Asia played an increasingly important role in global trade, international finance and military security, there would be pressure for rules to govern according to the international order, to accommodate nationalistic aspirations of new entrants and rising powers in the Asia Pacific.
Citing the rising tensions in the South China Sea as an example of the power shift, he said: None would disagree that a rules-based system must prevail if there is to be stability and peace in our region.
However, he added, these rules must also be infused with the correct spirit to respond to these challenges.
What is equally vital is the political commitment to build mutual confidence and trust within that framework, based on shared interests and prosperity, he said.
While Singapore was taking no sides in the disputes, Dr Ng expressed concern over the uncertainties in international agreements, which have created instability in the region. He said the intention to work towards an early conclusion of the Code of Conduct was a positive example that must be followed through to its completion.
We must all work together, to provide clarity… if not on principles or law, then on practices and procedures that maintain regional stability and restore confidence and trust.
Dr Ng also touched on new transnational challenges such as terrorism, piracy, cybercrime and trafficking of humans and drugs affecting the region, as well as the important role that key global players had to play.
He urged the powers like the United States, Europe, China, India, Japan and ASEAN countries to ensure that the security architecture remained inclusive and operated on rules which had the consensus of the larger international community.
Noting that these same rules which had brought peace and prosperity over the past decade should remain relevant and strong, Dr Ng also called for a new consensus which should take into account the realities of the new challenges.
(This new consensus should ensure that)…principles such as sovereignty, respect for international law and peaceful settlement of disputes that protect the global commons remain at the core of global order in this century, he said.
On the sidelines of the Dialogue, Dr Ng hosted breakfast for Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu, and held a meeting with Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani.
Ministers from Asia Pacific and beyond have agreed that the current issues faced in the world have become transitional and transnational, especially in the areas of human smuggling and terrorism. And all these point to the fact that security challenges can only be solved with countries working together.
This was the consensus reached by 22 ministers and representatives at a private luncheon hosted by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen on 30 May, on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue taking place in Singapore from 29 to 31 May.
Among the issues discussed was the importance of maintaining overflight in critical waterways, which included the South China Sea.
Speaking to the media after the lunch, Dr Ng said: Everyone understood the security challenges… The relevance of a dialogue (is) where we can sit down and share with each other our perspectives, and try to find a way forward.
On the issue of the South China Sea, he noted that the claimant states should come together and find a satisfactory formulation. He added that there had to be willingness from claimants and non-claimants from all states to respond, so that even as disputes occurred, they would occur in the context which reduced tensions and miscalculations.
Citing the example of the Code for Unexpected Encounters at Sea, Dr Ng said: Putting it in layman's terms, you have to decide whether you want to drive on the left-hand side of the road or the right-hand side.
If people don't know, then you have a risk of collision. But if everybody is clear that this is a left-hand drive, or right-hand drive, whichever you choose, then you reduce the risk of mishaps.
While Singapore is taking no sides in the disputes, Dr Ng noted that critical waterways, regardless of whether it was the South China Sea or the Malacca Strait, are of international concern, as a potential disruption of these waterways would affect everyone.
On a more positive note, Dr Ng said he was glad that issues like these were being raised and terms, discussed.
We recognise that when it comes to sovereignty claims, it may be politically difficult for countries to want to agree there is even sovereignty dispute, much less suffer the political consequences if they lose.
We recognise the reality and we're finding ways forward. (They) may not be as quick as what others want, but at least we're talking, he said.
At the opening plenary session of the Dialogue held earlier, United States Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter also urged countries to peacefully resolve territorial and maritime disputes, especially in the region of the South China Sea.
He said: We all know that there is no military solution to the South China Sea. It is time to renew diplomacy, focus on finding a lasting solution that protects the rights and interests of all.
He reaffirmed US presence in the Asia-Pacific, as the US continued to remain engaged, stand up for international law and help provide security and stability in the region for decades to come.
Mr Carter revealed his plans to attend the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting to be held in Malaysia this November. He encouraged ASEAN countries to seek out new and innovative ways to work together to maintain regional security.
On the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue, Dr Ng hosted breakfast for ministers of the Five Power Defence Arrangements. He also held meetings with ministers and officials from Thailand, Timor Leste, Malaysia, US, Spain and the United Kingdom.
All countries must strive for a peaceful, open and inclusive international order to ensure stability and prosperity for the next 50 years. This was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's main message at the opening of the 14th Shangri-La Dialogue on 29 May.
Delivering his keynote address at the annual high-level security summit, Mr Lee outlined three issues that were on the agenda, namely the balance of power between the United States and China, cooperation within the ASEAN region, and terrorism.
On the issue of power balance, he noted that there were many interdependencies and opportunities for the US and China to benefit from each other, such as China being America's second biggest trading partner, and the latter as a source of technology and ideas for the former.
He added that this could translate into a positive bilateral relationship between the two countries, which was also a key determining factor for the stability of the ASEAN region.
All Asian countries hope that the US-China relations will be positive, said Mr Lee.
We are glad that both the US Administration and successive Chinese leaderships have engaged, worked together and managed the problems that have come up between them, despite nationalistic pressures on both sides, and inevitable tensions from time to time.
However, Mr Lee noted that competition between the two countries was unavoidable. Citing the example of territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea, and how the US was responding to Chinese activities with increased over-flights and sailings near the disputed territories, he said that non-claimant countries should not take sides on the merit of rival claims. He explained that this would lead to tensions and bad outcomes, and every Asian country would stand to lose.
He also urged that, while these maritime disputes were unlikely to be solved anytime soon, they should be managed and contained.
Mr Lee's keynote address marked the start of the three-day security forum, organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
The Dialogue is a platform for defence ministers and senior officials to engage in conversations to build confidence, while fostering practical security cooperation.
As ASEAN celebrates its 48th anniversary this year, Mr Lee noted that it had taken the lead to progressively build a framework of cooperation, engaging South Asia, East Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific.
He cited the ASEAN Regional Forum and the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting as successful platforms initiated by ASEAN to promote political and security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific.
While regional integration had become much better, Mr Lee urged that the countries should not rest on their laurels as progress would not continue automatically.
As the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) grows in power, it has also become a real threat to the region, with Southeast Asia being its key recruitment centre.
With several individuals and groups in the region, including Singapore, already pledging their allegiance to ISIS, Mr Lee noted that this was the reason Singapore took the threat of terrorism very seriously.
The threat is no longer over there (Iraq and Syria); it is over here. We are participating in the international coalition against ISIS and we're contributing a KC-135 tanker to the operation. He added that the tanker's deployment to the Middle East had begun that day.
Mr Lee concluded by saying that he hoped for a world where legitimacy and constructive engagement are the international norm, and every country, big and small, can compete peacefully for the chance to prosper.
On the sidelines of the Dialogue, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen met ministers and senior officials from Australia, China, Cambodia and the US.
Earlier in the day, he met German Federal Minister of Defence Dr Ursula von der Leyen, with whom he held a joint press conference at the Ministry of Defence.
During the conference, Dr Ng said that this year marked the 50th anniversary of both countries' diplomatic relations, and Germany was among the first few countries to form diplomatic relations with Singapore when the latter gained independence.
Here we are today, with very strong bilateral defence relationships, at various levels. Military to military, policy, and many shared interests on many common issues - terrorism, cybercrime, human trafficking, humanitarian disaster relief.
Sharing the same view on their countries' defence relations, Dr von der Leyen said Singapore was one of Germany's key partners in the region, especially in the area of security.
She also noted that there were talks on intensifying training and cooperation between both militaries, as well as sharing expertise gained on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR), and military coordination.
Attended by 26 ministerial-level delegates, the Shangri-La Dialogue will see the leaders go through a series of plenary sessions to discuss topics ranging from managing strategic tension to HADR operations in Asia-Pacific.
Plenty of people do marathons every year in running-mad Singapore but her story is pretty unique - Military Expert (ME) 2 Cheryl Chen did it a few months after delivering her first child in mid-2008.
I started running and training a month after delivery and did a marathon at the end of the year, she said. I felt that I needed to take care of my kid but I also needed some time for myself.
Since then, she has been doing the Army Half Marathon (AHM) every year. Somewhere in between preparing her son for school and getting to work, ME2 Chen finds time to run daily.
My husband got me hooked on long distance running, said ME2 Chen. Her husband had taken her to her first AHM when she was still going through Basic Military Training.
But it could have all turned out another way. While studying at a polytechnic for her diploma in Law, her sights were set on joining the police force.
My best friend wanted to join the Army so we signed up for both (the SAF and police force). Her best friend ended up in the police force and ME2 Chen in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). We ended up both working in the intelligence units, so that's really a twist of fate!
What can we say; she's destined to be in uniform.
The first and only Singaporean to be signed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, mixed martial artist CFC (NS) Royston Wee packs a serious punch.
Standing at 170cm tall and weighing in at 61kg, Corporal First Class (CFC) (NS) Wee is one of Singapore's most talented mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters. At 29 years old, he has already fought twice for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the largest MMA promotion company in the world.
Boasting a record of 4-1-0 (4 wins, 1 loss, 0 draws), it might come as a surprise that CFC (NS) Wee only started his martial arts career when he was 21 years old, after graduating from polytechnic.
This top Bantamweight (weight class of about 57 to 61kg) contender was not always the powerhouse that he is today - after all, even the great have to start somewhere.
I began learning MMA for a few months before enlisting for National Service (NS), he recalled. During the first few months while I was in Basic Military Training (BMT), it was a bit difficult for me to continue. I tried to train as much as I could in Tekong, and I would head down to the gym on weekends.
The Transport Operator from 6th and 9th Divisional Air Defence Artillery Battalions still has fond memories of his NS days. Going from BMT and then to unit, I've met new people and some of them have become my good friends, he said. More importantly, when you go through NS, you become more independent.
From being assigned tasks or waking up for exercises at 3am, it teaches you one very important thing - responsibility.
These qualities would come in handy for CFC (NS) Wee. After NS, he continued his martial arts journey by becoming an instructor at Impact MMA.
I started competing in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu around that time, said CFC (NS) Wee. My first competition was an inter-house. Even though I was only a white belt then, I won all the fights and got gold for that competition.
It was only in 2011 that CFC (NS) Wee started fighting in MMA, chalking up his first two MMA victories in the Malaysian Fighting Championships in November and December that year.
He then left to further his studies in Australia, but after returning to Singapore, he got his big break in 2013 - being selected for the UFC.
It was a bit overwhelming at first, he reminisced. UFC is (a competition) of the highest standard in the world… Everybody wants to be in the UFC.
His debut UFC fight, held at Marina Bay Sands on 4 Jan 2014, also marked the very first time a UFC fight was held in Singapore. Winning the fight via a unanimous decision after dominating his opponent in all three rounds, CFC (NS) Wee would then go on to win his second fight, this time held in the 15,000-seat Cotai Arena in Macau in August last year.
There is a Chinese proverb that says: A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the People's Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA (N)) took that first step in enhancing bilateral ties, with the inaugural Exercise Maritime Cooperation which took place on 20 May, and 23 to 25 May.
The four-day exercise saw RSN frigate RSS Intrepid and missile corvette RSS Valiant, together with Chinese frigate Yulin, conduct gunnery firing and manoeuvring drills.
RSN Commander Task Group Colonel (COL) Ken Cheong said: The exercise is a major step for us; we have moved from very basic manoeuvres to more advanced bilateral training. The two naval forces also conducted air-defence and other war-fighting drills.
He added: It's a stepping stone to more interactions in the future. We have achieved all the training (targets). Besides bilateral training objectives, we also made friends.
The Chinese Task Group Commander, PLA (N)'s Senior Captain Zhang Ming Qiang, voiced similar sentiments: The exercise increased our mutual understanding of how each other operates, and it has enhanced our ability to operate together. It's win-win for both sides.
The RSN was open and sincere with us, and very serious in their work. That left a deep impression on us from this first time (that) we are exercising together.
Said PLA (N) Commander South Sea Fleet Rear Admiral (RADM) Shen Jinlong: Exercise Maritime Cooperation reflects our common goals and beliefs, and is a new achievement in the exchanges and interactions between both our navies.
Apart from the drills at sea, sailors from both sides also planned for the exercise together, and went through simulator training at Changi Naval Base.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exercise on 20 May, RSN Fleet Commander Colonel (COL) Lew Chuen Hong highlighted the growth in professional interactions between the two navies.
He said both navies could learn from each other and deepen professional knowledge to strengthen mutual trust and understanding.
This year marks 25 years since Singapore and China established diplomatic ties. Exercise Maritime Cooperation comes on the back of the Four-Point Consensus agreed on by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen and Chinese Minister of National Defense General Chang Wanquan during Dr Ng's visit to China in November last year.
Founded in Seletar East Camp on 1 Jun 1970, the Republic of Singapore Air Force's 160 Squadron (SQN) is Singapore's first and longest-serving air defence squadron. On 23 May, more than 400 past and present servicemen and women of 160 SQN returned to Seletar East Camp to celebrate the squadron's 45th anniversary.
On the same day, a heritage storyboard commemorating the oldest Royal Air Force (RAF) base in the Far East and the birthplace of 160 SQN was launched. Produced by the Urban Redevelopment Authority, 160 SQN, and the 160 Anti-Aircraft (AA) Alumni, the heritage storyboard traces the history of the old RAF Seletar from its beginnings in 1928 to its handing over to the Singapore Air Defence Command in the 1970s. It also tells about the origins of 160 SQN and its first home at Block 450, which was used by the squadron personnel.
Built in 1930, Block 450 was the barracks occupied by RAF personnel, and subsequently, RSAF personnel from 160 SQN.The building was gazetted for conservation in June last year. Fondly known as alpha, it housed the operational flight of 160 SQN between 1970 and 2002.
Guest-of-Honour, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing, launched the storyboard at Block 450, in Seletar East Camp.
Speaking at the celebration, Mr Chan paid tribute to the pioneers of 160 SQN, saying: All this (the safety that Singapore enjoys today) would not have been possible without the gumption and the fighting spirit of our pioneer generation.
This is my tribute to the pioneer anti-aircraft community in Singapore - thank you very much, on behalf of all the Singaporeans, for allowing us to sleep well at night. Without your effort, without your sacrifices, today we would still be worrying.
Major (MAJ) (NS) Jayson Goh Swee Kang, president of the 160AA Alumni, agreed with Mr Chan. In his welcome address, he also paid tribute to the pioneers in the anti-aircraft community, such as Professor Lui Pao Chuen, who made the decision in 1968 to purchase the 35mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft gun.
MAJ (NS) Goh also spoke about the significance of the conservation of Block 450 and the new storyboard. He said: With the launch ofthe heritage board, Block 450 will become a new focal point. Not only for servicemen to come back and remember the good old days, but more importantly, for a future generation of Singaporeans to come and visit, and learn more about their heritage.
Also present at the celebration was Chief of Air Force, Major-General Hoo Cher Mou.
I reported at SAFTI Military Institute in early March with my vintage Skeletal Battle Order (SBO). There were murmurs as I walked towards a group of officer cadets (OCTs) from Alpha Wing.
This is damn cool, one of them said, referring to my SBO which reflected my status as an Operationally Ready National Serviceman.
I was there for their jungle survival training which prepares them for the Jungle Confidence Course (JCC) overseas. As a specialist, I did not get to attend JCC so I was eager for a sneak preview.
The JCC is a nine-day course in which cadets go through an energy-sapping navigation exercise through the dense jungle. They then have to survive in solitude for three days.
The first day was a show-and-tell session on how to create tools that are needed for survival for a prolonged period of time. These included the A-frame shelter with a fire place, wooden fork and spoon, spear, monitor lizard trap and fishing rod. We also learnt how to forage for food and obtain water through condensation.
There were so many details to remember: The shelter had to be tied to a tree, the roof must be downward sloping, the fireplace had to be layered with soil and leaves… The cadets listened intently, conscientiously taking down notes. They will be tested during the JCC. Every point counts. The JCC is not a sure pass course.
I couldn't catch up, and turned to my team-mates OCT Benjamin Tang and OCT Ho Kang Hua. Hey, you guys know what's going on, right? You have to take care of this old man here, okay?
Sir, no problem, we can manage, OCT Tang said with a grin. (The cadets insisted on addressing me as Sir because civilians out-rank everyone.)
Home in the wilderness
The next morning, we began a two-day, one-night exercise in a forest near Pasir Laba Camp. We started building the A-frame shelter by tying the wooden poles together to form the skeleton. Each lashing had to be wound ultra-tight. After all, you don't want your shelter to give way when you sleep on it!
I tried out each step to get a bite-sized experience. To avoid taking away the cadets' much-needed practice time - they have to construct a shelter individually during the JCC - I worked on the wooden fork and spoon, and did the grunt work like chopping the trees for wood and leaves.
By noon, the hunger pangs hit, and I was dehydrated from the scorching sun. I had arrived earlier in the morning with an empty stomach and brought only two half-filled water canteens. The three of us were supposed to share one day's worth of combat rations and 21 litres of water.
In JCC, cadets are given just about a day's worth of combat rations, and have to obtain drinking water from river streams.
Since I was not a trainee, the instructors allowed me to get water and food from the training shed. But I felt bad seeing my buddies taking small sips of water.
I help you guys get syrup water? I offered. OCT Ho declined, waving his hands frantically: No, no. It's okay. We have to get used to it. JCC will be worse!
I was impressed by their integrity.
In the next few years, more navies in the region will operate more submarines, including in the increasingly congested South China Sea. While this raises safety concerns, there are also opportunities for cooperation in submarine operational safety.
Minister of State for Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman made this point in his opening address at the 4th International Maritime Security Conference (IMSC) on 20 May.
He cited how the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the United States Navy are currently co-hosting the Asia-Pacific Submarine Conference (APSC) over the next few days for submariners to discuss submarine rescue and operational safety.
The IMSC and the APSC are key events of the International Maritime Defence Exhibition and Conference (IMDEX Asia) - the largest maritime defence show in the Asia-Pacific - currently being held at Changi Exhibition Centre.
Speaking to about 350 participants which included Navy and Air Force Chiefs, coast guard senior officials and leading maritime academics from the region and beyond, Dr Maliki highlighted the opportunity to tap on the diverse and extensive expertise of…the international maritime community present today.
We can leverage on this shared wisdom and ask ourselves how we can build stronger linkages in cooperation through multilateral cooperation.
He added that conducting maritime exercises is another way to strengthen cooperation among various countries. The RSN, for example, will be hosting a series of exercises on the side lines of IMDEX.
The war games, codenamed Maritime Information Sharing Exercise (MARISX) and the Western Pacific Naval Symposium Multilateral Sea Exercise (WMSX), are being held both on shore and at sea.
Dr Maliki said that on shore, navies would strengthen information-sharing linkages, while at sea, eight navies would exercise maritime security scenarios to strengthen interoperability.
For the first time, the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) is being used in this series of exercises. The region's first code of conduct for unplanned encounters between navy ships and aircraft, CUES could help prevent maritime tensions from escalating into conflict.
It was endorsed by Asian-Pacific naval chiefs at the 14th Western Pacific Naval Symposium in Qingdao, China last year, following a two-year period of rising territorial tensions and air and sea confrontations in the South and East China Seas.
Enhancing regional framework for submarine operational safety
Singapore's Chief of Navy Rear Admiral (RADM) Lai Chung Han was one of eight speakers at the IMSC, which was themed Safe and Secure Seas - Strengthening Maritime Cooperation. They spoke on how different navies can co-operate to address various maritime threats.
In his speech, RADM Lai called for countries to come up with a regional framework for submarine operational safety in order to reduce the risk of underwater accidents in the South China Sea.
With the increasing numbers of submarines operating in that congested and confined water space, it is perhaps no exaggeration to say that it is an accident waiting to happen, he said, citing estimates that the navies of Asia-Pacific could operate over 130 diesel-electric submarines by 2020.
There is an urgent need to establish a broader framework beyond existing bilateral agreements on submarine rescue, RADM Lai added.
One such agreement was the Joint Standard Operating Procedures for a Memorandum of Agreement for mutual submarine rescue support which the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) signed with the United States Navy yesterday.
Singapore also has similar arrangements with Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam.
To kick-start the creation of the regional framework, RADM Lai suggested that navies could share non-sensitive information - such as the movement of large crude carriers as well as dredging and other underwater activities - to facilitate the planning of submarine operations.
He also suggested the sharing of best practices in submarine rescue, training, as well as coming up with common standards for submarine safety regimes.
Finally, navies can work towards creating a code of conduct to guide submariners on manoeuvring to prevent accidents during an unlikely encounter, he added.
RADM Lai also called for regional navies to extend joint piracy patrols to new hotspots in the South China Seas. Such efforts have been successful in bringing down the number of piracy attacks in the Straits of Malacca in recent years.
About 200 naval engineering professionals from 20 countries also gathered at another conference at IMDEX Asia to discuss new developments on naval technology related to defence and maritime security.
The opening ceremony of the 2nd International Naval Engineering Conference @IMDEX 2015 (INEC@IMDEX Asia 2015) was officiated in the afternoon on 20 May by Permanent Secretary (Defence Development) Major-General (MG) (NS) Ng Chee Khern.
Themed Adapt and Transform - Flexible Capability in an Uncertain Environment, the discussions centred on the areas of multiplying effect, flexible platforms, underwater technology and effective support solutions.
In his opening address, MG (NS) Ng highlighted how the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) had tapped on technology to overcome various challenges such as limited manpower.
He cited the RSN's latest Littoral Mission Vessels (LMVs), which come with features such as equipment automation to optimise manpower use.
To prepare for uncertainty, the SAF also injected flexibility in the design of its hardware so that they could be rapidly reconfigured for different missions, he added.
We do not always know the sort of operational scenarios under which the SAF would be called upon to operate or fight, MG (NS) Ng explained.
For example, the RSN's Endurance-class Landing Ships Tank provide various ways to transport equipment and personnel, such as via cranes, fast craft or helicopter.
Such versatility has proven useful in missions such as the Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Operation for the Boxing Day tsunami in 2006, he noted.
Building bilateral ties
On the sidelines of IMDEX Asia, opening ceremonies were also conducted for two bilateral exercises that the RSN is participating in separately with the People's Liberation Army (Navy) and the Indian Navy.
The exercises aim to strengthen bilateral ties and enhance mutual understanding and friendship among personnel of these navies.