The Employer and Business Council (EB) of the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (ACCORD) planned to form three working groups at its inaugural meeting at SAFRA Toa Payoh on 1 Sep.
The three working groups will look into the areas of challenges which Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) face when supporting National Service (NS), how to better recognise skills and competencies Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) pick up during NS as well as possible areas for the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to work together with business communities.
Mr Thomas Chua, President of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry noted that due to the manpower shortage which local business are facing, the EB council provided a good opportunity to collaborate with MINDEF and the SAF to equip NSmen with relevant industry skills and to better match them to companies.
Co-chaired by 2nd Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing and Executive Chairman of Asia Resource Corporation Tony Chew, the meeting was attended by leaders from different sectors of the business community.
Commenting on the importance of the council as a bridge between the NS business worlds, Mr Chew said: NS is an important and integral part of Singapore's defence. We are participating in the EB Council because we believe that our inputs and recommendations can improve the support and integrations between the business community and NSmen.
Although most of the council members were from the older generation of NSmen and do not have up-to-date knowledge on the current NS trainings and programs for NSmen, Mr Chua felt that this put the council in a good position to improve understanding between older and younger NSmen in the area of NS commitment.
The ACCORD EB Council is one of the three councils formed after the restructuring of ACCORD. It serves as a forum to engage the business community on NS issues and to strengthen collaboration between the community and MINDEF and the SAF.
What you need to know about the changes.
There comes a time each year when all Singaporean men must jump, crunch, sprint, pull and run in the name of defence.
From April next year, this will be reduced to pump, crunch and run as the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) is simplified to a three-station format (instead of five).
If you do not already know, the new three-station IPPT consists of push-ups (new), sit-ups and a 2.4km run.
Speaking to local media on the changes to IPPT on 23 Jul, Chief of Army Major-General (MG) Perry Lim said: We will introduce a simpler IPPT format with fewer stations so that our servicemen can train for IPPT on their own without the need for specialised equipment.
The transition will be gradual, he added. We are prepared to give NSmen (Operationally Ready National Servicemen) an option to do the existing five-station format or the new format for one to two years after April next year.
The goal is to get everyone more involved in keeping fit, he noted. We want our NSmen to take ownership of their physical fitness.
Easier to train for
For NSmen like Captain (CPT) (NS) Lim Seow Lye, the simplified IPPT format makes it easier for him to train for the annual test. I can easily train for the two new static stations at home, he said. To train for the old five-station IPPT, some equipment, such as pull-up bars, is needed.
Like many NSmen, the 34-year-old juggles work, family and NS commitments. CPT (NS) Lim is a manager at Certis Cisco and serves in a National Service (NS) Guards unit.
Being able to train for his IPPT easily at home is a benefit to him. That way, my wife won't nag that I leave her alone to manage the kid and housework! he laughed.
Simpler scoring system
The scoring system will also change to a simpler format. Soldiers will earn points for their performance in each of the three stations. And the entire IPPT will be scored upon a maximum of 100 points.
Explained Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen in a Facebook post on 23 Jul: This way, soldiers can make up through more sit-ups, if they are weak in push-ups and running, or vice versa. There's a limit to how much you can make up, but I like this counting system because it encourages NSmen to max out on each station and it plays to the individual's strengths.
The 2.4km run carries the heaviest weightage. Soldiers can potentially score up to 50 points for the run. Push-ups and sit-ups carry a maximum of 25 points each.
For NSmen the magic number is 51. That's the number of points they need to pass the new IPPT format. For Full-time National Servicemen and Regulars, the bar is set higher at 61 points. They are held to a higher passing standard because fitness training is incorporated into their work and training routine.
Fewer IPPT stations do not mean a lowering of the bar. For example, to just meet the passing grade, a typical 30-year-old NSman who is weak in the 2.4km run will still need to clock a run-timing of 13min 50s (for 25 points), 27 sit-ups in a minute (for 13 points) and 21 push-ups in a minute (for another 13 points).
Said Colonel (COL) (NS) Bervyn Lee, commander of an NS brigade: To do well in the three stations still requires effort. (And) we shouldn’t allow three or five stations to define our fitness… My fitness is mine and mine alone to take care of.
COL (NS) Lee holds a PhD in Sports and Exercise Psychology, and is a member of the SAF fitness advisory board.
Our servicemen will still need to train to pass IPPT. To achieve Gold and Silver will be just as challenging as before, said MG Lim.
The new IPPT format was designed as part of the SAF's holistic fitness regime. Explaining the move, MG Lim said: Over the past few years, we have implemented a revised combat fitness training and test regime for our soldiers.
Other military forces have also moved away from the older, more onerous physical fitness test formats. The United Kingdom military puts its soldiers through a similar test of push-ups, sit-ups and a beep-test. A beep-test is a series of short sprints in time to recorded beeps (hence the name) which measures aerobic fitness like the 2.4km run. The SAF builds up the combat fitness of its soldiers through the Standard Obstacle Course (SOC), Vocation Obstacle Course (VOC) and Vocation-Related Exercises (VREs). The VOC and VREs were implemented in September 2010.
The VREs are developed in line with sports science principles of progressive training and specificity, targeting muscle groups relevant for the combat task, said Dr Roger Tian, a sports physician from Changi General Hospital, at the launch of the redesigned SOC.
Regular route marches and field exercises also help develop soldiers' combat fitness.
Having implemented an effective combat fitness regime, we think it is timely for us to review our IPPT, which is a test of physical fitness, said MG Lim.
Age categories have also been re-looked and shortened. Instead of five-year bands, servicemen will now be held to different physical fitness standards every three years. The new age category system is more sensitive to the effects of age on physical fitness, said MG Lim.
For example, an NSman within the 34-to-36 age group will need to perform 35 push-ups in a minute for 20 points, 35 sit-ups in a minute for 20 points and run 2.4km in 10min 40s for 41 points. This gives him a total of 81 points which qualifies him for the IPPT Gold award.
Drop one age-band, and the NSman will have to do 36 push-ups in a minute, 36 sit-ups in the same time and run the 2.4km distance in 10min 30s.
For elite units in the SAF such as the Commandos, naval divers and Guardsmen, the bar for IPPT Gold is a minimum of 85 points.
More time for IPPT
From 1 Sep, NSmen will have a year to clear their IPPT, IPPT Preparatory Training (IPT) and Remedial Training (RT) requirements. The current system gives NSmen nine months to clear IPPT and IPT, then a further three months to clear RT if needed.
Under the new system, soldiers must attempt and pass the IPPT within 12 months of their birthdays. NSmen can also opt for a 10-session IPT programme.
The extra time is welcome for NSmen like Corporal (NS) Azfar Bin Hashim. Having a 12-month window on top of the simpler IPPT format really means that NSmen have no excuse to fail, said the 30-year-old writer, who served NS as a Close Combat Instructor with the Army Fitness Centre.
The award money for doing well in IPPT has also been raised by $100 across the board. Achieving the Gold standard now nets NSmen a $500 cash award (compared to $400 under the old system) and a Pass with incentive comes with a $200 award.
IPT and RT as NSmen know it will also change from 1 Sep. Training will move away from IPPT-centric exercises and include more varied workouts such as high-intensity circuit training and sports-fitness classes like kick-boxing.
The IPT and RT class sizes will also be reduced from 50 to 30, so that fitness trainers can better coach each participant. Training sessions will also be shortened to about 75 minutes, as compared to two hours. To provide more convenience for NSmen, the Fitness Conditioning Centres where IPT and RT are conducted will extend their opening hours and offer more sessions on weekday nights and weekends.
Currently there are IPT sessions available every weeknight, with the exception of Fridays. On weekends there is one session on Saturdays and two on Sundays.
Another change: NSmen will be able to book IPT and RT sessions on the same day. Currently NSmen must book their sessions at least 24 hours in advance.
I think the SAF has done its best to help and encourage NSmen to keep in peak fitness. Seriously, kudos to the SAF, said Lieutenant (NS) Gerald Tan, a Business Development Manager who serves as a Motor Transport Officer in the 428th Battalion, Singapore Armoured Regiment.
He had one suggestion: Maybe we can keep the old IPPT for NSFs and NSmen can do the new (three-station) IPPT.
He's probably not the most popular NSman with the NSF population right now.
For more information on the new IPPT format and fitness system, check out mindef.sg/newippt1!
In the post-9/11 era, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has to not only protect our skies from conventional threats but also plug aviation security gaps. Here's a look at how it keeps our busy airspace safe.
An aircraft requests an emergency landing in Singapore because of an engine fault. But what follows is a bout of radio silence. Could it be a hijacked plane in disguise?
Taking no chances, the RSAF scrambles its fighter jets to check on and escort the aircraft. At the same time, its Ground-Based Air Defence (GBAD) units adopt a state of high readiness.
This is one of the scenarios the RSAF has prepared for since the fateful 9/11 terrorist attack. Like many countries, Singapore stepped up security measures to prevent terrorists from turning a hijacked plane into a suicide attack.
To deal with such complex, transnational peacetime threats as well as traditional threats, the RSAF started building up a Third Generation Networked Multi-layered Island Air Defence System.
In recent years, it has brought in advanced platforms such as the Gulfstream 550 Airborne Early Warning aircraft and the Surface-to-air PYthon and DERby (SPYDER) missile system. These and other capabilities are networked to enable the RSAF to see further and respond faster and more effectively.
Eyes on the sky
All air defence operations are managed and planned by the RSAF's Air Defence and Operations Command (ADOC). Whether during times of peace or conflict, potential threats have to be identified early.
With the rise of terrorism, the need for early detection has grown exponentially because terrorists do not follow the rules of conventional warfare - the threat is unknown, can come from anywhere, and strike suddenly.
Singapore's skies are always monitored round the clock. The 24/7 nerve centre of the RSAF's air defence system, comprising a group of air traffic and air defence controllers, watches over Singapore's skies using a suite of long-, medium- and short-range military sensors.
The data collected from the different sensors, including civilian air traffic radars, are fused to form a complete air picture. The surveillance is an intense task; at any point in time, Air Warfare Officers (Command, Control and Communications) and Air Operations and Systems Experts can be staring at over 200 blips on the screen.
Each blip represents an aircraft or a possible aircraft, and each has to be identified using information from civilian aviation and intelligence agencies. Based on the information, the controllers have to detect questionable aircraft from the sea of blips through their flight characteristics, track them and watch for any further suspicious movements.
We can check with various agencies to assess the pilot's intent. We need to know where the aircraft has been, who the passengers are, and whether there are people among them who might be of concern to us, said Commander of ADOC, Brigadier-General (BG) Cheng Siak Kian.
And if someone claims to have a weapon or bomb on board, we would need the intelligence agencies to provide us with details about that person.
The RSAF not only has a robust surveillance system and information network to identify and track potential threats, it can orchestrate a rapid and effective response.
The RSAF's fleet of F-16, F-15SG and F-5 fighter jets are on 24/7 standby on a rotational basis; they can be scrambled for operations in a matter of minutes.
The same goes for its GBAD units which operate an array of surface-to-air missile systems such as the I-Hawk and SPYDER systems.
The operations of the fighter jets and GBAD units are tightly orchestrated by the air defence control team.
When activated, the pilots and GBAD operators have to adhere to a strict set of rules of engagement - manoeuvring to intercept the threat, conducting visual checks, escorting the aircraft or even firing warning shots - while reporting their observations to the control team.
These drills are practised regularly and in great detail. The activation plan was put to a real test in 2008 when an unknown light aircraft was detected heading towards Singapore without an approved flight plan.
The response from the RSAF was quick and decisive. Two armed F-16D+ fighter jets were scrambled to intercept the errant plane, and GBAD units readied their weapon systems. The Cessna turboprop plane was eventually escorted to Changi Airport without incident.
BG Cheng noted that although the incident turned out to be a false alarm, it proved that the RSAF was always ready when called upon. Even if there was a real threat, the show of presence by the RSAF in the air would discourage anyone with ill intent from taking their chance.
The fact that the fighter pilots are going to be there to present themselves, to direct the aircraft, and deter them from flying certain flight profiles - that's something that will certainly factor into the (intruder's) psyche.
The RSAF has a multi-layered air defence system. The outer range is covered by the fighter jets, while the inner ranges are covered by various GBAD surface-to-air platforms such as the I-Hawk system and SPYDER.
These assets are networked to prevent a single point of failure. If any single sensor or weapon system is down, it will have minimal impact on the air defence system as other systems can continue to function.
Networking also provides greater strike effectiveness. In the past, a weapon system or shooter relies on its own sensor to detect and track targets. But today, the shooters and sensors are connected. Tracking data from a particular sensor, such as the FPS 117 or Giraffe Agile Multiple Beam (AMB) Radar, can be relayed to the shooter most suitable to eliminate a particular threat.
The whole idea is to allow you to centrally command these weapon systems on the network. More importantly, we can now select the best shooter, using the best tracking radars, to intercept any incoming targets more efficiently and effectively, said BG Cheng.
The RSAF is also constantly improving its air defence system to deal with emerging threats. For instance, the SPYDER, which was brought into the RSAF in 2011, has the capability to intercept precision munitions. And the G550-AEW aircraft, which has a detection range of over 200 nautical miles, was brought in to provide an extended range of surveillance.
Going forward, the RSAF will be replacing the I-Hawk system with the ASTER-30 Missile System. The next generation surface-to-air missile system can take out fighter aircraft up to 70km away.
BG Cheng said: We have built an Island Air Defence System that allows us to defend the country from a wider range of threats that we may face, both now and into the future.
He added, however, that it is the servicemen, and not the hardware, that allow the RSAF to provide this high level of assurance to Singaporeans.
Post-9/11, the need for a 24/7, very high level of vigilance and alertness to survey the skies became more pronounced. It is a highly demanding job, and we couldn't do it without the dedication of our people in the RSAF.
Ready to scramble
What happens when a possible airborne threat is detected? In the case of 145 Squadron (SQN) which operates the F-16D+ fighter jets, an alert upgrade announcement would be heard over the Air Base.
Pilots and Weapon Systems Officers (WSOs) (Fighter) on standby duty would drop whatever they are doing, grab their flight helmet and gear, and dash to their jets. Every second counts during a scramble.
In just a matter of minutes, they would be up in the skies en route to their objective. Their mission in such cases would typically include visual identification, intercept and escort of the unknown aircraft.
The fighter jets act as the eyes in the sky for the air defence controllers on the ground.
From the lessons learnt from 9/11, hijacked aircraft may pose as aircraft in distress. Obviously, the air controllers won't be able to know what's really happening, said pilot Lieutenant (LTA) Emil Vincent Lau.
So they send us up to be their eyes in the sky. And from there we will be able to make the recommendation whether to escort them or to turn them away from Singapore.
The pilots are trained to react in a variety of scenarios and keep a lookout for trigger points: Is the errant pilot responsive and forthcoming? Is he under duress? Is the aircraft turning in a direction that it is not supposed to go?
The pilots then relay information to the air defence control team, and the executive officers on duty - a senior RSAF commander and his command team - will decide on an appropriate response.
The process is very fast. But we have trained extensively...and are prepared to take appropriate action without hesitation when the time comes.
Sense of responsibility
The I-Hawk operators from 163 SQN know that they hold great responsibility in protecting the national airspace because after the fighter jets, they are the next layer of Singapore's air defence.
Deployed 24/7 across Singapore, they operate the only medium-to-high altitude air defence surface-to-air missile system in the RSAF's GBAD arsenal.
We find the work purposeful because we're protecting the airspace so that Singaporeans can sleep soundly at night, said Captain (CPT) Randall Wu, a Fire Unit commander. He completed his full-time national service (NS) as an officer in 163 SQN but found his work so meaningful that he signed on as a Regular.
Similarly, Corporal (CPL) Ong Jun Yong, a full-time national serviceman (NSF), feels strongly about his role as an Air Defence Weapon Operator.
He said: Not every NSF has the chance to do live ops daily. If there are any threats, we have to be ready to engage them to protect Singapore.
The 20-year-old will be extending his NS by three months next year to hone his proficiency in his first live-firing exercise.
You don't get this chance very often. So I want to grab it to gain the experience.
Apart from peacetime deployments, 163 SQN also trains its troops for wartime scenarios in which operators have to move out in the field, and set up the I-Hawk system. To sharpen their skills, they take part in high-profile exercises such as the Five Power Defence Arrangements exercises. Such multilateral training allows them to practise tracking fighter jets flying through a larger airspace.
Can these servicemen live up to their responsibility?
There is only one answer for 1st Sergeant (1SG) Thiyagaraj S/O Subramaniam, an Air Defence Systems Specialist. We have been through deployments, we know the capability of our system and we know we can engage a target. If a situation calls for it, we know we are competent and able to defend Singapore.
The Sunday got off to a running start for more than 46,000 people, who took to the Marina Bay area in the early morning of 31 Aug for the SAFRA Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon (SSBR AHM) 2014.
One of Singapore's oldest long-distance running events, the SSBR AHM are jointly organised by SAFRA and the Army, and seek to promote bonding and fitness as a lifestyle among Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) national servicemen and their families.
And this year, the event's objectives were clearly met: Not only was there an increase in the number of immediate family members participating in the various events with SAF Regulars and national servicemen (up to 3,500 from last year's 2,974), but the number of runners taking on the longer 21km race had grown as well. Of the 21,800 21km-route participants, 84 percent were SAF Regulars and national servicemen, an encouraging eight percent higher than last year.
Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing, who flagged off the SAFRA 5km Fun Run and Families for Life 800m Father and Child Challenge, said: Our aim is to encourage a culture of fitness within the SAF and particularly in the Army. This year… we saw more and more people taking up the longer distances, namely the 21km and 10km (races).
One in four participants in the 21km race this year were NSmen (operationally-ready national servicemen) participating for the first time. So, we are very happy that the fitness culture has been taking root in the SAF.
Mr Chan also took on the 5km route after the flag-off, together with Minister of State for Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki bin Osman and Minister of Parliament for Tampines GRC Baey Yam Keng.
On improvements made to the race routes this year, Mr Chan said: I've gotten feedback that the (participants) are generally very happy with the route this year. The organisers have gotten rid of some of the choke-points, so they had a much smoother run.
A familiar sight at the event were flag-bearing SAF formations completing the races together. Lieutenant (LTA) (NS) Alvin Lee from 2 General Supply and Transport Battalion was a part of the Combat Service Support Command (CSSCOM) contingent, which comprised Regulars, NSmen and full-time national servicemen (NSFs).
To prepare for the 21km race, the NSmen began training together in June. LTA (NS) Lee described his experience: We met every Sunday to train in East Coast Park. The NSFs and Regulars, who trained in their respective camps, would also join us on the Sundays. During the race, we tried to stay together to help pace each other and ensure better timings. To motivate the runners, we would call out each other's names and cheer for them.
He added: I think the Army did a good job, especially in calling the NSmen back to participate in the run. I can keep in touch with my friends and also get updates on Army matters.
And with 737 father-and-child pairs taking part, this year's Families for Life 800m Father and Child Challenge broke the record for the Largest Father and Child Race. At the post-race carnival in the Padang, kids got to try out fun-style challenges inspired by the SAF Standard Obstacle Course (SOC), such as crawling through tunnels and racing up an inflatable Apex ladder.
Lance Corporal (LCP) (NS) Jason Ho, who had just completed his third Father and Child Challenge, was accompanying his son, four-year-old Jayen, on the miniature balancing bridge.
Explaining why he always looked forward to participating in the SSBR AHM, LCP (NS) Ho said: It's a good way to spend family time together. Jayen also enjoys the experience of running. (At the start of the Challenge,) he couldn't wait to start running, and I had to ask him to stop! The 800m distance was just right as well.
As for the fun-style SOC, I told him that in the Army, he would have to go through the obstacle course. This is for kids, so he wanted to try it out, he added.
Had inventor Rube Goldberg been around, he would have certainly been proud of the sight at the Singapore Amazing Machine Challenge (SAMC) on 28 Aug. Held at the Singapore Science Centre, the competition pitted more than 200 students in 58 teams against one another. They were given a simple objective: to tell a Singapore story by constructing a machine, but there was a twist - it had to be done in as many steps as possible.
The teams had spent months conceptualising and testing their machines, and were given one day (28 Aug) to construct them from scratch. The judging and awards presentation took place on 29 Aug, with Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing as Guest of Honour.
The SAMC is part of the DSO National Laboratories' Amazing series of competitions, an outreach programme to promote interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics among young Singaporeans across primary to tertiary levels.
This year's edition of the SAMC, which was the sixth time that it has been organised, was divided into three categories. Contestants could either design their machines to unscrew the lid of a jar in category A; unscrew and remove the lid of a jar in category B; or unscrew and remove the lid of a jar, then fill up the entire jar with marbles in category C.
In her welcome address, Mrs Chew Wai Lee, Vice-Principal of Singapore's School of Science and Technology, said: In the design and construction process for their (the participants') amazing machines, they would have tapped on knowledge and concepts from different subject disciplines and explored various creative solutions.
This is applied learning at its best.
Mr Chan agreed, adding: (The rationale behind the competition is) to know how well you (the students) have learnt, and how well you are able to cross-fertilise the ideas.
The winning team of category C was team #opensesame from Nanyang Girls' High School. The members were Andrea Chong, Pan Xin-Min, Li Huiying, and Tan Wan Yun, all aged 16.
They had chosen a unique aspect of Singapore to represent in their machine - Recycling. It was constructed from recycled materials, symbolising Singapore as a clean and green nation.
The girls faced many challenges over the course of the competition, such as when the complexities of their machine led frequently to breakdowns or malfunctions.
We faced difficulties in our design because the (various steps the machine had to perform) wouldn't transition smoothly. The machine was also not entirely reliable and flaws would emerge every now and then, forcing us to troubleshoot, said Andrea.
However, that was what led to their largest takeaway. Huiying added: We've been working on this machine for a few months, and there have been a lot of disappointing moments and failures, but through that we learnt not to give up.
Apart from team #opensesame, other prize winners include team Graciousness A from Zhangde Primary School, who clinched category A; and team ACSI4 from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), winners of category B.
How do you make the message of Total Defence strike a chord with Singaporeans?
Tell the stories of ordinary Singaporeans - the likes of taxi drivers, national servicemen and nurses - who have contributed to nation-building.
This was the idea which Pamela and the Nexus team came up with. Earlier this year, they helped to put up Singapore's biggest Total Defence (TD) campaign to date, marking 30 years of TD. Even though she had to work on most weekends to run the series of events and media outreach, she had no complaints.
It's very fulfilling to see (such a large-scale) project unfold from scratch, said the 29-year-old.
She started her career with the Republic of Singapore Air Force as a human resource executive in 2008, before joining the Defence Ministry's Public Affairs Directorate as a media relations officer three years later. She then made the move to Nexus in 2013.
Even when she is away from work, Pamela puts her creativity to good use. She often organises cookout with her friends, like a recent shell-themed session which saw them cooking dishes such as crab cake and clam aglio olio.
Two friends pursue a shared love for pets after a successful career in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
There is a season and a time for everything - so the saying goes. For Ms Doris Ong, last year was one of new beginnings - starting her pet-grooming business Pet Cove - and also endings: leaving the SAF and her marriage.
She started the business with Ms Alvina Lee with no experience in pet grooming, apart from taking care of family pets. The two women first met in 2010 while working at Headquarters Training and Doctrine (HQ TRADOC) in the SAF.
They hit it off right away. Having common topics - we were both paracounsellors - and discussing our cases helped us to cement the friendship. So when Ms Ong left the SAF in July last year, the two thought of turning their passion for pets into a business.
It was also a time of personal upheaval for Ms Ong who was going through a divorce. I went through a huge change, from being in uniform and married, to being a civilian and single. Ms Ong spent 22 years in the SAF, holding many appointments, and had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
In a way, setting up the business was a cathartic release for Ms Ong. When asked what it was like to start a business from scratch, both women let out a collective groan.
We were working through the night, said Ms Ong.
It was decided that the business would include her 12-year-old daughter Mei Qi, who aspires to be a vet, from the get-go. The eventual plan is for Mei Qi to have her own veterinary clinic at Pet Cove to make the business a truly one-stop shop.
To better things
Said close friend and business partner Ms Lee: During the period of setting up Pet Cove, Doris made it a point to spend time with Mei Qi - she would wake up at 5am to take her daughter to school so that they could talk on the way. Both of us probably slept about three hours daily.
That is why Pet Cove is something special - integrating her (Doris') second career and family, she added. The business marks the time that she has moved on in life, together with Mei Qi.
The grand plan
Very early on, the duo had decided their business would not be a run-of-the-mill pet shop. So they spent three months attending a professional pet-grooming course to learn how to groom pets even for competitions.
They even attended courses for pet-sitting - which is peripheral to their core business of grooming - to learn how to take care of different kinds of pets. That took another three months, and included written examinations.
There was a lot to learn and prepare before they could open the shop, but as Ms Lee explained, they had a clear goal in mind: We wanted to provide professional services.
Getting the word out
Their next focus was on publicity. That meant creating a presence on social media and distributing flyers. When the duo did roadshows, Mei Qi helped out by manning the Pet Cove booth.
They had their fair share of ups and downs and learnt the hard way that starting a business was no easy task. Google was our best friend! laughed the two women. At night, Ms Lee would trawl the Web to see how people promoted their businesses.
Both women were acutely aware of the risks. We'd seen how a single bad comment could lead to near ruin for a pet-grooming business, said Ms Lee. Once a business gets a bad reputation and you don’t know how to contain it, that will impact the shop.
To spread out the risks, they looked into diversifying their business by carrying pet-grooming products. Currently, they are the official distributors for two brands. It was something that Ms Ong learnt in the military.
Business requires us to be nimble in our actions and thoughts. Long-term goals are important but there is a need to tweak and change our strategy from time to time.
So we had to make sure that our contingency plans were fast (and nimble) enough to be deployed. That's another thing I learnt in the SAF - adaptability.
Today, Pet Cove is doing well. The shop has been fully booked daily since December last year and they have hired more staff to deal with the increased demand for their grooming services and to man their retail operations.
Sure seems like another season is upon them - boom season.
In the months leading up to the National Day Parade (NDP), participants braved the scorching sun every weekend rehearsing to make the celebrations a resounding success. For others, support came in the form of sponsorships.
In appreciation of their efforts and sacrifices, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen hosted a dinner for 327 participating organisations and sponsors on 25 Aug.
Said Dr Ng: This year's NDP succeeded because it connected with Singaporeans emotionally. Singaporeans re-lived our past watching the show, felt more alive today, and found renewed hope for tomorrow.
I want to thank each of you for the hard work and sacrifice and sponsorships… (Many have) told me that their personal reward is in knowing that they had a part in touching the hearts of many Singaporeans and giving Singapore a wonderful 49th birthday present.
Chairman of NDP 2014 Executive Committee Colonel (COL) Wong Yu Han could not agree more. Explaining that he felt very privileged to work with the passionate and dedicated participants, COL Wong said: (Even at) the first combined rehearsal, it all came together so well that people were already anticipating that it would be a great parade this year.
And indeed it was. We managed to reach out to and connect with a lot of people, young and old alike.
This year's National Day theme - Our People, Our Home - celebrated the can-do attitude and caring spirit that holds Singaporeans together, as well as the resilience and dedication of its pioneer generation.
The parade also marked several firsts: Thousands witnessed the first female Red Lion, 3rd Warrant Officer (3WO) Shirley Ng, in her debut NDP jump. Eight participants from MINDS (Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore), who were taking part in the parade for the first time, drummed up a resounding performance in the military tattoo and marched in the marching contingent.
Other NDP firsts included the largest non-military marching contingent that comprised over 2,000 participants, and the Junior Red Lions initiative, in which 18 Primary 4 and 5 students were invited to train with the Red Lions for a day, soar with them in iFly Singapore (an indoor skydiving simulator), and greet the crowds together with them at the parade.
With over 40,000 photos and videos of NDP posted on Instagram, it was clear that this year's celebrations had hit all the right notes for Singaporeans.
Happy that Singaporeans had appreciated their efforts, COL Wong noted that it had been a memorable NDP journey: Tonight's event is important to me as well to all of us who have worked on NDP. It's the end (of our NDP journey) where we sit together and enjoy being with each other before...(leaving) with just the memory of a very good parade.
Organise forums for Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) to share their journey with young Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) and their parents.
This is one of the engagement ideas which ACCORD's new Family and Community Council (FC) will be looking at to strengthen family and community support for National Service (NS).
ACCORD refers to the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence, which serves as a channel for the public to share their feedback on defence matters. It has been expanded and restructured into three councils - the other two are the Employer and Business Council (EB) and the Educational Institutions Council (EI).
The restructuring came about after a year-long public consultation effort by the Committee to Strengthen NS which started last May.
This new restructured ACCORD is to really open up more platforms for engagement, and (build greater) awareness that Total Defence is the job and responsibility of everyone, said Ms Claire Chiang, Co-Chair of the FC.
The Senior Vice-President of Banyan Tree Holdings was speaking to the media after the restructured ACCORD held its first meeting at SAFRA Toa Payoh on 25 Aug. She was also one of 52 new ACCORD members appointed in a ceremony following the meeting.
Speaking from the perspective of a wife and mother, Ms Chiang plans to work with various women's groups to help girlfriends and wives better understand what their partners go through in NS.
She also wants to change the mindset of some parents who think of NS as a phase that their sons have to pass over and get over with.
To this end, she believes that NSmen who had gone through NS and went on to excel in life are the best advocates.
We need a strong narrative, we need good champions and I think the NSmen will be our important resource, to come back to tell the stories.
The FC will also focus on engaging new citizens and permanent residents, she added.
Tackling business issues
To help the business community to better support NSmen, the EB will tackle issues faced by small and medium enterprises (SMEs). For example, SMEs, with their smaller workforce, may face a manpower crunch when their NSmen are away for In-Camp Training (ICT).
It will also find ways to help the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) collaborate more closely with the business community, help NSFs to better transit into the workforce, and have companies recognise NSmen's ICT performances.
To gather feedback effectively, the EB is made up of business leaders representing the key trade associations and chambers, as well as SMEs and multinational companies (MNCs).
It's going to be a good representation of the business community, said Mr Tony Chew, Co-chair of EB.
We can contribute inputs and make recommendations that would be useful in improving NS issues, as well as help to garner and encourage greater support from (the) business (community) for NS, added the Executive Chairman of Asia Resource Corporation.
Engaging the youth
Working with educational institutes is another focus of ACCORD as the youth are the NSmen of tomorrow.
Ms Indranee Rajah, Co-Chair of EI and Senior Minister of State for Education, said the EI will enable leaders in the education sector to work more closely with MINDEF (Ministry of Defence) on the engagement of our students, parents and educators.
Ms Elim Chew, an EI member, added that there is a need to communicate the importance of NS to the youth.
This generation of young people need to see a vision; they need to see a purpose, said Ms Chew, the founder of 77th Street. She sits on more than 20 committees in the public service as well as youth and community groups.
Today, we need to work together and show them a bigger vision of why they need to do NS to protect Singapore and also their own future in Singapore, she explained.
ACCORD is chaired by Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing and supported by Deputy Chairman Minister of State for Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman.
Seventeen existing members, along with the 52 new members, were appointed to ACCORD and its councils, while seven current members stepped down.
At the ceremony, Mr Chan thanked all past and present ACCORD members for their contributions.
I really appreciate your effort in coming on board, because joining ACCORD to explore some of these issues to strengthen the support for NS and defence is the best testimony that we can ever have, said Mr Chan.
Learning to do an intravenous insertion (IV) at the Combat Casualty Aid Course is, hands down, one of the most intense experiences of journalist Benita Teo's life…and also the most fun she's ever had.
I sat poised, with a needle in one gloved hand and a throbbing vein held down in the other. Everything was silent, except for the voice in my head screaming, WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?
Learning to do an IV, that's what.
Setting the scene
The training shed resembled the set of a horror flick. Side-stepping the dismembered dummy forearms, I started to question myself. Was this tribute to my combat medic brother necessary, even though his IV scars do look pretty badass? I was effectively signing up to stick a potentially dangerous foreign object into another person.
Too late, I was already in too deep.
Practising on the dummy arm was easy enough; it even bled rose-coloured blood. And then it was show time.
I found you a nice vein, Military Expert (ME) 2-1 Brian Benitez, my instructor, said as he positively beamed. The owner of the vein smiled weakly.
After getting him to lie down on his back and placing the Hartmann solution bag (commonly known as the IV bag) behind his butt, I tied a tourniquet around his left arm in preparation. In an outfield situation, when there is no IV pole to hang the bag from, placing it underneath the casualty creates pressure to force the solution into the tube.
As I got ready to unwrap my venous catheter, it dawned on me that I'd forgotten something important…
This is a bit late, but I ought to ask your name first…
Oh, right. Junhe.
Now that Lieutenant (LTA) (NS) Soh Junhe and I were acquainted, I felt a little better about what I was about to do to him.
A dramatic point
After ME2-1 Benitez helped me to locate a suitable vein (again), I swabbed the area with an alcohol wipe and, finally, we were ready.
As I held the needle to his taut skin, the last thing I remembered was ME2-1 Benitez telling me: Ok, now, I need you to be… He paused, searching for the words.
Ballsy? I offered.
Yes. He looked squarely into my eyes and added: No hesitation, because the needle must go in.
Even though I was terrified, I looked at LTA (NS) Soh, who was staring stoically into the sky, and I thought to myself, If he is being brave for me, then I have to be brave for him too. I took a breath and held it.
And suddenly, the needle was in.
What followed was a blur. I vaguely recalled ME2-1 Benitez guiding my hand to move the needle in deeper. Finally, blood filled the catheter hub, signalling that the catheter was in place. ME2-1 Benitez raised his hands to give me a high-ten, but all I wanted was to pass out into his outstretched arms. I must have been white as a sheet.
Celebrations over, now came the crucial part. Very carefully, I pulled the needle out while holding on to the catheter to keep it in, and attached the Hartmann solution tube. When the fluid began flowing into the catheter, I taped it down, bandaged LTA (NS) Soh's forearm arm to secure it, and we were in business.
A second climax
Now, return the favour. Lie down! ME2-1 Benitez announced with a big grin. Obediently, I took my position.
Lying there, I finally understood how LTA (NS) Soh felt: I was blind to the proceedings and at the mercy of the needle. Furthermore, I knew that my barely-visible veins would be a problem.
I was not wrong. After feeling the initial needle prick, I heard ME2-1 Benitez affirming LTA (NS) Soh. However, as LTA (NS) Soh attempted to move the needle in, the usually amiable ME2-1 Benitez suddenly raised his voice: Look, it's swelling now! Do you know what'll happen when you remove the needle?!
Horrified, I sat up. A small bump had formed. I scrambled to speak: Oh my god, will the blood spurt out onto his face?!
No, ME2-1 Benitez deadpanned anticlimactically. Nothing will come out, because the blood has pooled underneath the skin. He was obviously having fun with us too.
Relieved, I laid back down. Turns out that LTA (NS) Soh had just made another hole in the vein, causing a hematoma (an upsized orh cheh or bruise). He plastered me up and tried again on someone else. He did better the second time around.
Cradling my little bruise, I felt quite proud of myself and the scar that I would soon have. LTA (NS) Soh must have been too, because he revealed that I was the first person to successfully IV him. His buddy back in Basic Military Training tried unsuccessfully on both his arms before giving up.
So, I was actually the best he'd ever had.
This tough-as-nails commando counsels people on the brink of despair to cope with their problems. And he does this of his own volition, charging nothing for his time and effort.
Sometimes even the best of us can do with some help; even the best of us stumble. Sometimes the person who extends that lifeline is an unlikely one.
Meet 1st Warrant Officer (1WO) Alex Quah, the commando who also happens to be a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) paracounsellor. He has helped many people cope with their problems, which range from excessive gambling to relationship issues.
Most people in the SAF who do counselling work do not pursue training beyond the week-long course conducted by the SAF Counselling Centre (SCC). Not 1WO Quah, the Plans Warrant Officer in Headquarters Commando.
He discovered his knack for counselling during the SCC course which he attended in 2007. He was encouraged to go for this course when he returned from an overseas posting. When I was overseas, I realised that there was a limit to how much I could help my soldiers. I could do better if I had more training.
During his three-year overseas appointment as Sergeant-Major, he was the de facto disciplinarian but soldiers often confided in him. My then-Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Adam, told me that I had a gift - I genuinely care for people, and that's why soldiers trusted me.
He felt that he was ready for more, so in 2008, he enrolled in a part-time programme conducted by Swinburne University, Australia for a master's degree in counselling.
The two years which followed were tough for 1WO Quah, who had to juggle duties in camp, family commitments and studies. He graduated in 2010 among the top 15 percent of his cohort.
His efforts were also commended by then-Chief Commando Officer Colonel Lam Shiu Tong, now Brigadier-General (Retired). Back then, very few Warrant Officers and Specialists would pursue Master's studies on their own.
Keeping the faith
Today, 1WO Quah volunteers his time across a few organisations and in his community. He also helps people to quit smoking by giving talks organised by the Health Promotion Board.
His focus is on helping people to recover from addiction-related issues. I don't want to see anyone being condemned just because of past mistakes, said 1WO Quah.
He recalls one case: a 20-year-old who relapsed a few times and returned to gambling.
But 1WO Quah never gave up on the young man. I believe that human beings are born wanting to do good… Sometimes we go astray and just need someone to lead us back, to help us recover.
He says that in severe cases, counselling is not enough, which is where organisations like One Hope Centre for problem gambling come in.
Everyone who attends the sessions help each other by discussing issues openly. For example, how to deal with gambling debts and ways to stay away from gambling, said 1WO Quah.
At the Singapore Anti-Narcotics Agency, he serves as a counsellor and mentor to former convicts who are battling drug addictions. In his community, he serves as a grassroots leader and helps to organise events for his estate in Jurong.
Taking it seriously
Since actively volunteering seven years ago, 1WO Quah has chalked up more than 800 hours of counselling work. He even pays a supervisor to review his case logs.
No one believes that till today, I am paying for supervision! laughed 1WO Quah. I'm still seeing my supervisor, even after graduating with my Masters in 2010. But it's necessary because it helps me to maintain and improve my counselling skills.
It can also be emotionally draining to constantly listen to the problems others face. That's one more reason why it's important to see a supervisor - it's like therapy for a counsellor!
He is a registered counsellor with the Singapore Association for Counselling, a professional body that establishes standards in training and practice. To join the association, a counsellor must have completed at least 600 hours of certified counselling work.
Weekends for 1WO Quah usually means devoting time to his voluntary work. But priority is reserved for his family, if they need him to be around.
I also make it a point for my family to eat together daily before any individual activities, said 1WO Quah, who is married and has a daughter.
At 51 years old, he is due to retire from the SAF in a few years.
People have asked me if I want to leave the Army because of the skills I have as a counsellor - I always say 'I don't think so' because I need to pay back whatever the Army has given me till today.
I don't think so much. I just feel that we need to care for each other, as human beings.
Over 80 fighter jets from two opposing camps lit up the dark skies above the Northern Territory of Australia with trails of orange flames from their jet engines. Among them were F-15SG and F-16C/D fighter jets from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).
These aircraft were taking part in Exercise Pitch Black - the largest and most complex air combat exercise conducted by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). This is a large force employment training which brings a large number of aircraft into the airspace all at once to play out realistic war time scenarios in day and night.
About 100 aircraft and 2,300 personnel are taking part in the ongoing exercise which started on 1 Aug and will conclude on 22 Aug. This year's biennial exercise saw new players France and United Arab Emirates joining Australia, Singapore, Thailand, United States and New Zealand.
During the exercise, the air forces conducted air-to-air combat, and air-to ground attacks against simulated threats, through day and night. They also practised airborne early warning and control, and air-to-air refuelling.
The RSAF deployed about 300 personnel, six F-15SG and eight F-16C/D fighter aircraft, a Gulfstream 550 Airborne Early Warning (G550-AEW) aircraft, and a KC-135R air-to-air refuelling aircraft.
The vast airspace and bombing ranges in Darwin form a realistic training environment for the RSAF servicemen to sharpen their operational capabilities, said RSAF Exercise Director Senior Lieutenant Colonel (SLTC) Linus Tan.
For example, the RSAF's F-16C/D fighters successfully conducted their first live drop of the GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II laser-guided bomb during the exercise.
Having that opportunity to do suchstand-off weapon employment is critical…(it) gives the air crew and the ground crew the confidence in terms of the platform capability, said SLTC Tan.
Stand-off weapons can be launched from a sufficient distance that allows the attacker to evade defensive fire from the target area.
For pilot, Captain (CPT) Adrian Tan, the greatest takeaway was being able to operate with other aircraft such as the RAAF's F/A-18F Super Hornet.
We need to match each other's capabilities, to form up, to come up with the best game plan to achieve the objectives, said 32-year-old F-15SG pilot from 149 Squadron. It's really a good learning experience.
The ground crew also gained valuable experience working under poor visibility during night operations.
Night flying preparations can be dangerous due to poor light conditions, said Military Expert (ME) 2 -1 Bevin Gabriel, a Dedicated Crew Chief of 111 SQN which operates the G550-AEW.
(But) we have a set of crew who are well trained and professional in their job. So there is no need to worry.
This was something which Group Captain Michael Gray, the overall Exercise Director from RAAF would agree with. In an interview with cyberpioneer, he noted that Singapore had been a proven participant in the exercise series since 1990.
He said: Singapore performed very well in a whole range in all areas… They have significant capabilities in their aircraft and in their aircrew from their training. So (we are) always pleased to work with them.