The SAF Adjusts Outdoor Activities According to Haze Situation
We refer to the letter Protecting SAF recruits from haze by Ms June Hoo which was published on 24 October 2015. Since then, we have spoken to Ms Hoo to understand and address...
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will conduct military exercises in Seletar, Marsiling, Jalan Bahar, Neo Tiew, Lim Chu Kang, Jalan Kwok Min, Tuas, Upper Jurong, Hong Kah, Ama Keng, Bedok Jetty, Kranji, Lentor, Simpang, Sembawang, Mandai from 08:00am on Mon, 4 Jul 2016 to 08:00am on Mon, 11 Jul 2016.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will conduct military exercises in Seletar, Marsiling, Jalan Bahar, Neo Tiew, Lim Chu Kang, Jalan Kwok Min, Tuas, Upper Jurong, Hong Kah, Ama Keng, Bedok Jetty, Kranji, Lentor, Simpang, Sembawang, Mandai from 08:00am on Mon, 27 Jun 2016 to 08:00am on Mon, 4 Jul 2016.
If a Paris-style attack happens in Singapore and multiple sites are targeted, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) must be ready to respond.
Chief of Army Major-General (MG) Melvyn Ong emphasised this point at a media interview on 29 Jun, ahead of SAF Day on 1 Jul.
Tackling terror on multiple fronts
To counter such attacks, the SAF has introduced the Army Deployment Force (ADF), a high-readiness force that will work together with the Special Operations Task Force (SOTF), Island Defence Task Force (IDTF) and Home Team agencies, in an expanded range of tasks. The ADF will be inaugurated on 12 Jul.
In the event of a terrorist attack, the SAF will be activated in three areas - the inner ring, cordon and confidence patrols, said MG Ong.
While the SOTF will form the inner ring to take on the terrorists, the ADF will form a cordon around the affected area, setting up check points and identifying entry and exit points. They must also be prepared to engage in direct action with the terrorists.
A day or two after the attacks, Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) and Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) will be activated to conduct patrols across Singapore to maintain homeland security and restore public confidence.
The NSF today has been trained in urban operations, so we are building on that (by adding) skills like civil-military relations (and emphasising) rules of engagement and judgmental firing, said MG Ong.
To prepare the servicemen for such processes, the SAF will be setting up the Island Defence Training Institute (IDTI), a centre that will provide peacetime contingency training for NSFs and NSmen.
The training syllabus includes lessons on how to cordon a building, making sure that the cordon is secure, and how to patrol a certain area. These will be slowly introduced into the NS training curriculum to enable NSFs and NSmen to take on a wider range of security tasks.
While the SAF is stepping up security measures, it will also have to work seamlessly with the Home Team, which is the leading agency when it comes to counter-terrorism.
MG Ong added that during last year's National Day Parade, a joint command centre was set up for the Singapore Police Force (SPF), IDTF and the SAF. This facilitated clearer and faster communication, and it gave all parties a more comprehensive situational picture.
If need be, some of us will need to sit in the same location so that we can quickly exchange views during a time-sensitive scenario. If something happens, we (will) know who is there, and which is a better force to send there, said MG Ong.
Building a stronger fighting force
In view of the impending manpower crunch in Singapore, the Army is looking to redesign itself to become a leaner, more mobile and capable force.
One solution is to leverage a manned-unmanned teaming. For example, instead of just having boots on the ground patrolling SAF camps, remote cameras fitted around the area give soldiers at the guard posts a sense of what is happening. Autonomous vehicles for ground patrols are also in the works, noted MG Ong.
The Army is also looking into redesigning their training syllabus to make it more effective and efficient. Said MG Ong: We value every NSF and NSman who comes to us. And we want to produce soldiers who (have a) strong body, strong mind and strong heart.
The Centre of Excellence for Soldier Performance (CESP), for instance, is a planning facility specially set up to look into the redesign of training curriculum. This includes the current fitness programme, equipment design to suit the individual soldier and each vocation, and even the nutrition provided in cookhouses.
Conducted with the 4th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment, a trial on vocation fitness training under the CESP showed high success rates in terms of injury prevention for the soldiers.
In time to come, this one-month training will be conducted after Basic Military Training (BMT). Soldiers will go through training tailored to build their agility, strength, fitness and muscle groups based on their vocation requirements.
MG Ong also revealed plans to introduce resilience training packages for recruits to help them adapt better and faster to BMT life. In addition, the Army is exploring ways to strengthen how they conduct National Education.
Maximising training space
To boost soldiers' mobility and protection, the Army is gearing up with more motorised and mechanised vehicles. Among them is the new generation Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV), which will provide the SAF's armoured forces with enhanced firepower, protection, mobility and situational awareness.
However, this means the SAF will require a larger local training area. To overcome the space constraints in Singapore, some training facilities in the west will be integrated to maximise the training land space and make training more efficient, revealed MG Ong.
We want to build a battle circuit…where our soldiers can do training for tactical issues. We want to improve training realism of the whole plot (of land) with battlefield effects and the way we provide feedback to NSFs and NSmen who train there.
Other plans include building an urban training facility to simulate urban and counter-terrorism scenarios.
The Army will also leverage simulation and overseas training, said MG Ong.
For example, the United States and Singapore will conduct an exercise using the latter's Army wargame simulation system. This allows a small force to simulate battles and test their tactics and manoeuvres against a larger enemy force in the virtual world.
The recent signing of the Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) in May will also provide opportunities for the Army and the SAF to train with motorised and mechanised vehicles in the vast Australian landscape.
Every soldier counts
The duty of the SAF is to protect Singaporeans, which is why time, resources and manpower have been heavily invested in the area of defence, said MG Ng.
Beyond that, he wants to make sure that every serviceman has a meaningful experience when he goes through NS. His firm belief is that every soldier counts.
We need to ensure that from the time they step into the Army to when they leave, they are stronger physically, as well as in mind and in heart.
A strong soldier leads to a strong army, which leads to a strong Singapore.
Every year on 1 Jul, Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) and their employers from many companies mark Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day with combined rededication ceremonies, to reaffirm their commitment to Singapore's defence.
On this SAF Day, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen officiated at the ceremony held at the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI), where he delivered the SAF Day message and spoke to some 190 NSmen.
Dr Ng said: On this day, the men and women of the SAF will reaffirm our individual pledges to perform our duties to the best of our abilities and to faithfully and diligently protect Singapore with our lives.
He added: I ask all Singaporeans in turn to support the SAF…what we inherited from our founding generation - this home, our Singapore - is precious and our way of life, worth defending together.
Among the NSmen present at the rededication ceremony was Lance Corporal (LCP) (NS) Gunasekaran, a transport operator with Changi Air Base. Said the tax officer from Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore: With terror attacks happening all over the world, it is very important for NSmen to constantly hone our skills through ICT (in-camp training) so that we remain operationally ready at all times.
Also in attendance was an employer-employee pair, Mr Roland Ng and Major (MAJ) (NS) Jason Kwek Siew Chuan, from Tat Hong Holdings Ltd, which supplies cranes and heavy machinery.
Mr Ng, who is Managing Director of Tat Hong Holdings Ltd, said: (National Service) is something individuals, businesses and the community at large should support, as a strong and credible SAF is one of the key reasons for the peace and stability we enjoy today.
Sharing on how his company assists him in fulfilling his NS duties, MAJ (NS) Kwek, who is the company's Chief Operating Officer, said: The company discourages deferment from NS duties and goes out of its way to accommodate employees’ NS commitments when planning work schedules.
Citing an example, Commanding Officer of an NS unit in 192/193 Squadron recounted the time when his company had a very important business meeting, scheduled at the beginning of the year, which later coincided with his one-day call-up at his unit. He said: My Chief Executive Officer promptly rescheduled the meeting so that I didn't have to miss either the business meeting or my call-up.
The SAF Day Combined Rededication Ceremonies were held in four locations around Singapore, and attended by more than 680 NSmen from 303 companies.
Officiating at the other three ceremonies were Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong, at Matrix @ Biopolis; Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong, at SAFRA Punggol; and Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu, at the Singapore Institute of Technology @ Dover.
In the evening, President Tony Tan Keng Yam will officiate at the SAF Day Parade at SAFTI Military Institute, where he will present the State Colours to 1st Commando Battalion which has clinched the Best Combat Unit award for the 30th time.
The phrase growing with your job is usually used as a figure of speech. But to Military Expert 5 (ME5) Narayanan Prakash, Head of Submarine Maintenance Safety Programme in the Naval Logistics Department, the phrase takes on a literal meaning.
Not only has the 50-year-old spent 20 of his 29 years in the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) working with submarines, he also almost shares a birthday with the RSN's first submarines.
Our first few submarines were made almost the same year I was born, in 1966 or 1967, so in a way, we are almost as old, said the Naval Warfare System Engineer.
One of these submarines, the RSS Chieftain, was my own ship. I was (then) the Marine Engineering Officer of the ship when I brought it back to Singapore (from Sweden), he added.
His work with the submarines has also become a family affair. As part of the pioneer batch of submariners to be trained overseas, he was a newly-wed when he travelled to train in Sweden, where both his daughters were born. His family was with him again when he returned to Sweden 15 years later for a second training stint.
Thus, it was only fitting that his wife of 20 years was present to witness his promotion to ME6.
As a Navy wife, she has stuck with me all these years and gone through thick and thin with me. It's a chance for her to see that I've been recognised, he said happily.
ME5 Prakash was one of over 500 personnel from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to receive their promotion certificates at a promotion ceremony on 30 Jun, held at the Ministry of Defence.
At the event graced by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen, the certificates were presented to Regulars and Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) promoted to the next higher rank; the promotion taking effect on 1 Jul.
On being promoted, ME5 Prakash was grateful to have been given the opportunity to take on different roles and gain more experience. He said: I'm delighted to be promoted (as) it is an affirmation of all my (years of) service. The fact that I was able to move around (in the Navy) gave me better exposure (so that I could take on) greater responsibilities.
Like ME5 Prakash, Commander Air Defence Group Senior Lieutenant Colonel (SLTC) Koh Ee Wen, 38, also credited the opportunity to take on various postings for helping her to come into her own as a leader.
Because I've been able to work my way up the ranks and experience command at the various levels, it has given me the opportunity to develop a toolbox of leadership styles. I am able to adapt my style to different situations, she said, citing examples such as taking the lead and being decisive in operations, and taking a step back to allow her men to bring their knowledge to the table in solving complex problems.
As one of three female SLTCs promoted to the rank of Colonel this year, SLTC Koh believed that it was important for them to mentor other women in the SAF.
She said: I was very fortunate that Brigadier-General (BG) Gan (Siow Huang) came before me. She played a very strong mentoring role to many of us. She took us under her wing and befriended us. So I feel that we should pay it forward to others. BG Gan, Head Joint Manpower Department, was the first servicewoman to become a one-star general in last year's promotion ceremony.
For NSman Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) (Dr) (NS) Mohamad Rosman bin Othman, the promotion came as a pleasant surprise.
I'm happy because (it shows that) the SAF acknowledges and recognises my contributions in NS. As long as you do your part, work hard and do well in NS, you will be recognised by the SAF, said the Medical Officer, who is Head of Planning Section, General Staff Operations (Army).
As a Senior Consultant and Head of Refractive Surgery Department at the Singapore National Eye Centre, the surgeon has had to juggle his heavy workload with his NS responsibilities. Nonetheless, he believes in making time for both. He said: It's about prioritising and determining when you need to do which activity. For example, if there's an ICT (in-camp training) coming up, I will (re)schedule my (patients') appointments and operations to make sure I'm free for that particular (ICT) period.
All of us have a part to play in Total Defence… we cannot take our defence for granted. Otherwise, who is going to defend Singapore? he added resolutely.
First RSN Chief Warrant Officer (CWO)
The RSN also welcomed its first CWO. Senior Warrant Officer (SWO) Ong Siang Thai, Commanding Officer of the Naval Diving Unit's Frogman Group, will become the RSN's highest-ranking warrant officer, come 1 Jul.
I feel very fortunate that I'm able to reach this pinnacle rank. I'm very thankful to the SAF and RSN for giving me this recognition. I (also) owe it to a very good team of naval divers in my unit, and of course, the strong support of my family. said the 49-year-old, who has been in the service for 30 years.
Like SLTC Koh, he also felt a sense of duty to become a good role model for the younger Warrant Officers and Specialists (WOSpecs): I would strongly encourage them to give their best in what they do, particularly in training, because WOSpecs are well developed as trainers on the ground. He urged WOSpecs to continue to find meaning in their jobs and inculcate the SAF's core values in soldiers during training and outside of training.
This year, a total of 434 officers, 67 MEs and 40 warrant officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force are promoted to the next highest rank.
Leading the promotions are Chief of Defence Force Major-General (MG) Perry Lim, who is promoted to Lieutenant-General; and Chief of Army Brigadier-General (BG) Melvyn Ong and Chief of Air Force BG Mervyn Tan, who are both promoted to the rank of MG.
The promotion exercise is part of an ongoing effort to recognise, reward and groom SAF leaders who have performed well and demonstrated potential to contribute further to the SAF.
With an increasingly uncertain security environment and the rise of transnational challenges such as terrorism, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) are stepping up their efforts in the areas of force readiness as well as defence capabilities and technologies.
This was the point that Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen brought across during a media interview on 28 Jun, ahead of SAF Day on 1 Jul.
Restructured and ready to meet new challenges
Highlighting that no country is immune to the effects of home-grown terrorism, Dr Ng said that even if the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was weakened in Iraq and Syria, it could lead to the return of thousands who had left ASEAN countries to join the terror group. This is a problem that is likely to plague countries in the next two decades.
In response, the SAF has set up the Army Deployment Force (ADF) - a high readiness force that will sharpen the SAF's ability to respond to terrorism and other challenges.
The basic task for the ADF is (to act as a) rapid response element, as speed is important in counter-terrorism... It's a battalion-sized force and will comprise highly-trained soldiers with niche capabilities and (the ability) to respond to terrorist threats in an urban setting, said Dr Ng.
The ADF will be working with the Island Defence Task Force (IDTF), Special Operations Task Force (SOTF) and Home Team agencies, in an expanded range of tasks.
For instance, if multiple attacks occur in Singapore, the SOTF and ADF will be activated to support the Home Team. In this scenario, the ADF can be employed with assault weapons and the Peacekeeper Protected Response Vehicles to surround an affected area and contain the armed attackers, while the SOTF closes in to neutralise them and rescue hostages.
Other areas in which the ADF could be activated include civil contingencies, regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief missions and Peace Support Operations.
Greater international cooperation
Working with other countries for information-sharing and to build trust is also crucial in guarding against terror attacks, said Dr Ng.
He cited the example of the proposed joint patrols between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines in the Sulu Sea. Singapore will be joining the patrols, and Dr Ng said he had also offered the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN's) Information Fusion Centre (IFC) as a resource for the Sulu Sea patrols. The IFC is a regional maritime security information-sharing centre with linkages to more than 60 agencies in over 30 countries.
Dr Ng also announced that Singapore would be facilitating some proposals raised by Chinese Minister of National Defence General Chang Wanquan at the recent ASEAN-China Defence Minister's Informal Meeting. These include enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation, having more exchanges and holding a maritime exercise between ASEAN and the Chinese military.
In light of the recent South China Sea disputes, Dr Ng added that the more ASEAN engaged with China, the better for all.
New military platforms
To boost the SAF's capabilities, a new Armoured Fighting Vehicle (AFV) will be replacing the ULTRA M113 AFV, which has been in service since the early 70s. The new platform will provide the SAF's armoured forces with enhanced firepower, protection, mobility and situational awareness.
Developed by the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) and local defence industry, this next generation AFV is equipped with systems not found in its predecessor, such as a laser rangefinder and automated firing control systems.
Those operating the next generation AFV will also enjoy greater ease of communication with their fellow soldiers.
Major (MAJ) Chee Hong Yi, a staff officer involved in the next generation AFV project, explained that the new vehicle is equipped with networked communication systems, allowing operators to communicate with one another through voice and data. A dismounted soldier from the M113, on the other hand, has to rely on hand signals to communicate with his counterparts in the vehicle.
Previously a company commander for a unit operating the M113, MAJ Chee spoke about how he had to bear the brunt of high wind chill during overseas exercises as the commander is positioned at the open hatch of the vehicle.
(The closed-hatch design of the new AFV) will allow the commander to operate in a controlled environment (and no longer be exposed) to external elements, said MAJ Chee.
The SAF will also see the addition of a new platform - the Protected Combat Support Vehicle (PCSV).
This suite of vehicles will provide improved firepower, protection and situational awareness for motorised infantry combat support and combat service support forces.
Military Expert (ME) 3 Gunasekaran, an assistant engineer from 9th Singapore Division/Headquarters Infantry, noted that the PCSV is versatile as it can carry a payload of up to 4,000kg for different operational needs. It also has a mounted remote-controlled weapon system.
The body of the vehicle is armoured and can withstand small arms or landmines. We (also) have enhanced networking through the battlefield management system, which allows rapid information exchange on the battlefield, explained the 39-year-old.
Both the PCSV and the locally-developed AFV will be rolled out by 2017 and 2019 respectively.
More automated systems
For the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), its Super Pumas will be replaced with new helicopters, while the CH-47 Chinook helicopters will have a new variant.
Paya Lebar Air Base (PLAB) will also be relocated by 2030. Beyond the expansion of Changi and Tengah Air Base, the relocation will allow the SAF to build a modern, smart airbase from scratch, said Dr Ng. Greater automation and unmanned systems could be used in areas such as security and in the launch and recovery of aircraft.
There are opportunities to design from inception so that the end result is a smart, 21st-century military airbase that is…more protected (and) has greater (airpower) projecting capabilities, said Dr Ng.
He added that there were also plans for an Enhanced Island Air Defence System to provide a comprehensive shield that protects Singapore against airborne threats.
Noting the good progress in the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN's) Littoral Mission Vessel (LMV) programme, Dr Ng revealed that a third LMV, Unity, will be launched later this year. So far, two LMVs - Independence and Sovereignty - have been launched. All eight LMVs are expected to be operational by 2020.
Other future additions in the RSN include two new Type 218SG submarines, which are slated to arrive post-2020, and replacements for the Landing Ships Tank. In line with the move towards greater automation, the RSN is planning for a fully unmanned fleet to replace its Mine-Counter Measure Vessels.
Stronger defence technology community
A national security centre will be set up by DSTA to coordinate counter-terrorism efforts, using data analytics and Command and Control systems, said Dr Ng. This will help to integrate responses by MINDEF and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) so that the SAF and Home Team can work more closely to combat terrorism.
He added that MINDEF will have a Cyber Security Operations Centre 2.0, containing advanced content scanning engines, data analytics and security assessment tools that will allow them to investigate and recover from possible cyber attacks.
To meet the greater need for defence technology, MINDEF will be launching a scholarship to attract the best minds in science and engineering to lead DSO National Laboratories and DSTA.
Dr Ng said: (The MINDEF Defence Science Scholarship) will be for a selected few, but there will be a great responsibility, (the same) as we put on the SAF scholars who rise to become leaders.
Enhanced training opportunities
With the recent signing of the Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) in May, the SAF will be able to tap on the vast Australian land space - 10 times the size of Singapore - for training over 25 years.
Noting that this was a good training opportunity for national servicemen, Dr Ng said that that the SAF's training plans there include a combined arms live-firing range for the artillery, the armoured infantry and the RSAF's Apache helicopters, as well as an urban live-firing area much bigger than the Murai Urban Live-Firing Facility in Singapore.
Dr Ng also gave updates on the Committee to Strengthen National Service (NS) recommendations such as the NS Vocation Matching initiative and the NS Mark.
The former will allow pre-enlistees who are enlisting next year to indicate their interest for vocations across the SAF, Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Civil Defence Force.
Dr Ng noted that the organisations would try to better match the aptitude of NSFs with vocations of their interest, but emphasised that operational requirements came first.
The NS Mark accreditation scheme will seek to recognise more pro-NS employers through two tiers - NS Mark and NS Mark (Gold) - as a form of appreciation for their support. It will be launched in August.
While the SAF has done well in the last 50 years, Dr Ng assured that it would continue to vigorously and robustly defend Singapore, build friendships with other countries, and protect Singapore's interests.
All this, however, would not be possible without the support of Singaporeans, he added.
What I've shared are measures to continually improve the SAF as our predecessors have done, so that we are always prepared and ready to meet today's challenges, as well as adapt to new challenges on the horizons, even unseen ones, said Dr Ng.
We have to continually to do this: invest in resources (and) call upon Singaporeans to do their NS duties so that the SAF can protect Singaporeans and defend our nation.
Every year, the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF's) Best Unit Competition honours the top-performing units in areas such as combat readiness, operational proficiency and administrative excellence.
For the Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) of 3rd Combat Support Hospital (3rd CSH), this year's win was probably the best way to mark the end of their 10th and final In-Camp Training (ICT) cycle.
The unit provides surgical support to stabilise casualties so that they can receive definitive or full treatment after being transferred to a hospital.
Having been in the unit since his full-time NS, Commanding Officer (CO) Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) (Dr) (NS) David Ng was proud that they clinched the Best NS (National Service) Combat Service Support Unit for the second time.
Over the years, I've grown with this unit, and the friendship and bonds forged here are truly amazing. It's helped us tide over difficult times, and I think that was one of the key reasons we were able to clinch the award.
Medical Officer Captain (CPT) (Dr) (NS) Mohd Mizan Marican agreed, adding: I think it (the win) is a great reflection of…the fantastic performance by the commanders and the men - everyone came in with a good sense of spirit, camaraderie and kinship, and we know what we're here for.
Giving an example of an NSman who went out of his way to help his unit, Company Sergeant Major Staff Sergeant (SSG) (NS) Benjamin Ma Yue Leong said: One of our men is a film producer by profession and he volunteered to make a video for us so that we could impart our knowledge more easily to the next batch of recruits.
He even volunteered his time past working hours. When we were sleeping, he was still up editing the video!
He concluded: When the men believe in what they are doing, they will take the extra mile to contribute to the unit's cause.
Open communication culture
Another unit dedicated to their cause is 807 Squadron (SQN). The men work tirelessly around the clock to ensure that the Republic of Singapore Air Force's (RSAF's) fighter aircraft are ready for flight to meet operational demands.
The squadron took home the Best Air Engineering Unit award for the third consecutive time since its inception in 2014. CO Military Expert (ME) 6 Sreekanth Shankar said of the win: It's a testament to the hard work we've have put in… Our ability to extend our winning streak shows the high standards that we have set for ourselves and the strong fundamentals that we have.
Air Force Engineer ME2 Priscilla Lee Huiying highlighted the importance of good communication in working well as a team. We want to make sure everyone knows that, regardless of their ranks, they are all important to the squadron.
For example, a quarterly dialogue session is held for crew members to bring up any issues or concerns to their commanders' attention. Said Command Chief ME4 Benedict Goh Han Meng: We (the command team) always take every issue seriously and do our best to address their problems… Our squadron is very closely-bonded as we trust one another.
Staying in top form
It may not come as a surprise that 1st Commando Battalion (1 CDO) has emerged as this year's Best Combat Unit. Specialising in operations such as reconnaissance, airborne and raid missions, they have proven themselves to be a cut above the rest, sweeping the award a record 30 times since its inception in 1969.
When asked about the challenges faced in claiming their 13th consecutive victory, CO LTC Alvin Tjioe Jin Kiat noted that as the unit comprises mostly Full-time National Servicemen (NSFs), the unit has to start practically from scratch every year as a new batch enters.
The challenge is for the good practices to be retained and passed onto subsequent batches of recruits. We constantly engage our soldiers to help them understand the purpose of serving the nation and the purpose of the Commando formation.
This ensures that they are closely-knitted and have a strong sense of belonging which provides them with the motivation to work together as one cohesive unit and accomplish any challenges thrown their way.
Reminiscing about an interesting experience during an exercise, Commando Leader 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Harie Hadi Khairuddin Bin Joe Harie said: I'll never forget the mission as it occurred on my birthday. We were asked to climb a mountain multiple times and eventually had to spend an entire night at the top. We were freezing and kept close for warmth. I think that exercise really made us more united and bonded.
A united family
Sharing the same strong sense of camaraderie is 140 SQN, which operates the F-16C/D aircraft. Established in 1970 as Singapore's first Fighter Squadron, it has been dutifully protecting the nation's skies since.
We're like family - we take care and look after one another, said flying instructor CPT Kenneth Cheng Yao Jie.
Everybody is encouraged to speak up. A senior pilot can be debriefed by a junior pilot as we believe that there are lessons to be learnt for everyone across the ranks.
Adding to CPT Cheng's point, CO LTC Tan Hwee Roy said: In order for the entire crew to work together, there needs to be a very strong integration between the ground and the air crew.
He cited the example of how the two must coordinate seamlessly in the Precision Marshalling segment of Hotshot Challenge, the RSAF's inter-squadron air weaponry competition. In this component, the ground crew must guide the pilot to stop the aircraft on a specific spot on the ground.
Since the air crew is unable to see the landing gear, the ground crew becomes the pilot's eyes. Hence, the integration between the air and ground crew was really tested during the competition.
In fact, 140 SQN did so well, they won top honours for the Hotshot Challenge earlier in February.
The NS spirit
In the past, few people would imagine an Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) ship fully operated by NSmen.
Today, the Navy boasts two Missile Corvettes (MCVs) manned entirely by a crew of NSmen - RSS Vengeance Team 1, RSS Vengeance Team 2, and RSS Vigilance.
Snagging the Best NS Naval Unit award this year is RSS Vengeance Team 1.
At first, my officers and I had our reservations when we learnt about the concept of an NSmen-operated ship, admitted CO LTC (NS) Chiu Eng Tatt.
I got to work with my officers and strategised how to bring the best out of everyone. After the first ICT, the morale was very good and everyone was asking me eagerly when they will be called back again.
In his maiden speech to his crew, he told them: We'll do whatever we need to do safely and properly, and we'll get to go home early.
I guess this struck a chord with the guys! said LTC (NS) Chiu with a laugh.
On the dedication of his NSmen crew, he fondly recalled: In our last sailing, one of our men's car broke down on the way to the camp. He called me and said: 'Don't slip off without me! I called the Coxswain and he's coming down to fetch me so don't go off without me!'
An open communication culture
Celebrating their silver jubilee this year with a bang is RSS Vigour, which won the Best Fleet Unit award. Over the past year, the MCV crew has taken part in numerous exercises, such as the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training exercise with the United States last July and a Fleet Exercise in the South China Sea last March.
Barak (missile) live firing, answered Corporal (CPL) Chong Xing Yuan without hesitation, when asked which exercise that he participated in was the toughest.
The Weapons System Operator added: The actual firing was in last March when we conducted our Fleet Exercise, but we started training from December 2014. Each day, we would train about two to three times with each session lasting about three to four hours.
Despite (all the hard work), we felt proud of what we managed to achieve with the firing and the other exercises. We always put our hearts into everything we do and I think that's what allowed us to win this award.
Touching on his future plans for the unit, CO LTC Wong Chng Tong said: We would like the ship to remain as a happy family, stay committed, and excel at everything that we do. We want our people to feel at home, be willing to contribute, and perform to the best of their abilities.
Captain (CPT) Jonathan Lau and Major (MAJ) (Dr) Magdalene Lee both agree that their official how we began dating story started with coffee. More specifically, sympathy coffee, as CPT Lau called it.
Rolling her eyes in mock annoyance, MAJ (Dr) Lee said: He was just being very persistent in asking me for coffee lah, so difficult to decline.
These days, the couple juggle their time between wedding preparations and their jobs in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).
CPT Lau sees to the capability development of the RSAF's counter-air operations. What's interesting is that, as a fighter pilot, I get to fly what I develop -- training manuals for ACC. It's a very rare chance to see the full cycle.
Meanwhile, MAJ (Dr) Lee works on policies governing medical operations at medical centres in peacetime and war. Last October, she flew with the Singapore contingent to Sumatra, Indonesia, to assist in multinational firefighting efforts. We were quite anxious for the crew because they flew over fires and into the smoke. And when they came back, they were all ashen-faced. But no one complained; they all pressed on and took care of one another.
Come 11 Jun, the couple will be tying the knot. Last May, MAJ (Dr) Lee said yes to CPT Lau a second time, when he asked her to marry him on a yacht in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
And to think it all started with a cup of coffee.