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 Oct 2014 to 08:00am on Mon, 3 Nov 2014.
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, 20 Oct 2014 to 08:00am on Mon, 27 Oct 2014.
Three men in their mid-30s. 3,500km across India in a tuk-tuk. Sounds nuts? You haven't heard the rest yet.
Guys, I want to do something epic, something to mark where we are in life right now, as single men.
This sentence was what ignited that spark of adventure in three men, taking them 3,500km across India in two weeks with nothing except a rickety tuk-tuk or automatic rickshaw.
In August, the three childhood buddies flew to Shillong, India for the Rickshaw Run. There, they impressed the other teams by sprucing up their rickshaw, affectionately named RSS Lembu (Malay for cow), with speakers, batteries and handphone chargers.
As they set off in high spirits, nothing could have prepared them for the adventure ahead.
What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
The first day really hit us hard, laughed Staff Sergeant (SSG) (NS) Nazeer Hussain, an advisor for an offshore company. It was like we were literally driving on the moon. There wasn’t even a foot of proper tiled road!
The 33-year-old explained that there were potholes all over the roads, and avoiding these craters took keen eyes, fast reflexes and great manoeuvering skills. As the rickshaw was not in tip-top condition, speeding was a definite no-go. Instead of conquering 500km a day as planned, they had to halve their planned journey per day and travel at about 30kmh.
One particularly memorable incident was when they went on a small road in the dead of the night, against the advice of a local policeman, because Google Maps said it was the right direction. This decision brought them face to face with a family of wild elephants, forced them up a very long and unstable 50-degree slope, and caused them to almost fall prey to a pack of wild dogs.
Private (PTE) (NS) Mohammad Muneer Khan recounted that fateful night: There came a point where RSS Lembu wouldn't move at all. So we decided to camp there because it was just one and a half hours to daybreak. It was only at sunrise that we realised we had been sleeping in a cemetery!
Just push on
But to the 33-year-old managing director of a consultancy company, that sunrise was the best he had seen in years and it made the long, terrible night worth it.
This trip made me realise that there were a lot of things I took for granted and it was the discipline and 'push-on' mentality I learnt during NS (National Service) which helped me survive this trip, said PTE (NS) Muneer, who was part of the underslung team in 3rd Battalion, Singapore Guards.
SSG (NS) Nazeer, an ex-Regular from the Singapore Civil Defence Force, agreed. In NS, we are taken out of our daily life and thrown into a regimented environment. It pushes and strengthens you mentally, and this strength of mind (I developed) helped me a lot in the Rickshaw Run.
With perseverance, they managed to reach their destination at Cochin within two weeks, well ahead of many other teams.
Adventurers with a heart
Besides a thirst for adventure, part of their reason for joining the Rickshaw Run was to raise awareness and funds for the Children’s Cancer Foundation (CCF). The trio held a fund-raising event on 27 Jun and, through activities such as performing as a band and auctioning off a painting they did together, managed to raise $2,500.
CCF needs about $5 million yearly. That's why we decided to adopt the charity and help ease the medical expenses for families with kids battling cancer, said 34-year-old Lance Corporal (LCP) (NS) Kamal Mahtani, a sales director who served as a percussionist in the Singapore Armed Forces Band.
We always tell people why we’re doing the Run and point them to the CCF website for them to donate directly.
As of 5 Sep, they have raised over $5,000 through word-of-mouth for CCF.
Plan big, dream bigger
With one item struck off their bucket list, the three friends already have plans to go on their next daredevil escapade - the Mongol Rally. This features travelling 10,000km across mountains and desert in a tiny vehicle and raising at least £1,000 for a charity of their choice.
Closer to home, the trio also has plans to organise a race for Singaporeans, such as a run from Singapore to Laos, and encourage participants to raise funds for a charity of their choice. We want to make Singapore known for its philanthropy, explained PTE (NS) Muneer. Everyone and anyone can make a difference.
Journalist Sherlyn Quek enjoys a fling on the Ejection Seat Trainer (EST) at the Republic of Singapore Air Force Aeromedical Centre.
Ever wished you could instantly exit an awkward conversation? Waiting for my turn on the EST - which launches air crew up at four times the force of gravity (4Gs) - I mused that this catapult-like machine would have come in handy to escape from certain unpleasant situations.
For fighter pilots and weapon systems officers, the situation would obviously be much more dire. If the aircraft has been severely damaged or is suffering from a critical malfunction and the air crew assess that they will not be able to land the aircraft safely, the only option left may be to abandon the aircraft in order to save their lives.
All it takes is a few seconds. Sounds easy? After my hair-raising ride in the Human Training Centrifuge (read the last issue of PIONEER, people!), I thought it would be a breeze.
Well, it's true that the ejection drill is pretty simple. Just pull the ejection handles (at the sides or in the middle of the seat between the legs, depending on the aircraft type) and BAM! The ejection seat is fired and shoots up the rail tower of the EST.
Air crew, however, cannot take these yearly drills lightly. Captain (CPT) (Dr) Magdalene Lee, my guide at the Aeromedical Centre, educated me on the serious injuries that could result from improper ejection techniques.
When the aircraft is in flight, the ejection seat is likely to propel the air crew out at speeds generating 12 to 20Gs. At that spine-crushing force, you could easily snap your neck or back.
Adopting the right posture is thus a must. Not exactly good news for someone like me who used to be scolded for being kiao gu (Hokkien for hunchback).
As I was strapped into the seat, the EST operators advised me to sit up straight, pressing my head firmly against the headrest. Whatever you do, don't look down.
I also had to tuck my elbows in tight and keep them locked against the sides of my body. Air crew are taught to adopt this position to prevent their arms from flailing (which could cause possible fracture or dislocation of the upper limbs from the windblast they would encounter on ejection).
Stomach clenching in anticipation, I pulled the yellow ejection handles.
I resisted the almost overwhelming urge to glance down, recalling that CPT (Dr) Lee had told me about a 0.5-second lag between pulling the handles and the seat actually firing.
A bang, like a pistol shot, suddenly sounded and WHOOSH! My legs were now dangling 10 feet in the air.
Walking away (with a slight ache in my neck), I reflected that perhaps it was time to really improve my posture. Now, if only I could somehow use the EST during long meetings...
Nobody likes going into any situation blind. For example, a military force delivering aid in the aftermath of natural disasters must have the latest information on the lay of the land in order to provide assistance safely and swiftly.
That is one of the key reasons the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has the Imagery Support Group (ISG): To help shine a path where there seems to be none.
This capability was highlighted during Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen's visits to the Formation located in Paya Lebar Air Base on 21 Oct.
During the visit, he toured the SAF Mapping Unit - one of the three units under the ISG - where he was briefed on the tedious process of map-making and imagery reports.
The ISG plays a critical role when the SAF prepares itself for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations. In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan which struck the Philippines in 2013, the unit was tasked to find access areas for SAF aid missions.
For Military Expert (ME) 5-1 Lilian Ong, that meant pulling an all-nighter confirming things like which runways were down and which roads were damaged. Leading a team of about 10, we collected the images and did the analysis (to point out areas which the SAF could access the disaster zone) over one night. The 35-year-old is Head Operations at the SAF Mapping Unit.
Their work eventually led to the Republic of Singapore Air Force deploying C-130 transport utility aircraft, carrying relief supplies, to the hardest-hit Visayas region. The aircraft also helped to evacuate survivors. The SAF was one of the first responders in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.
We have been supporting HADR efforts since 2004. The first was the mission to Meulaboh in Aceh, Indonesia (following the Boxing Day tsunami), said Military Expert (ME) 6-2 See Kim Hong. He heads the SAF Mapping Unit.
The devastating impact of the tsunami meant that many roads were impassable. Other physical infrastructure, such as medical facilities, were also obliterated.
We have provided information for decision makers in the SAF to plan and make informed decisions (as to) what kind of assistance to offer, said ME6-2 See.
The ISG also sent Imagery Analysis Teams (IATs) to support the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan. They provided imagery interpretation and analysis support for the multinational troops operating in Oruzgan, Afghanistan.
One of the IATs helped to discover a cache of weapons hidden by insurgents after surveilling a suspicious compound for five days.
These capabilities fall under the ISG's Imagery Analysis Centre which brings the SAF's imagery analysis capabilities under one roof. It analyses commercial satellite imagery to support the SAF's training, peace support and HADR operations.
Apart from supporting HADR operations, the ISG also provides information to the Changi Regional HADR Coordination Centre. It also looks out for the safety of SAF men and women overseas through the ISG's Open Source Centre (OSC).
The OSC monitors global news and information related to military and security developments. It also keeps an eye on natural disasters in the region using open source information on print, television and online news.
Last week, the OSC team watched Typhoon Hudhud closely as it unfolded over India, because the SAF has a deployment there. It is a 12-hour cycle at the OSC which sends its reports to the highest SAF leadership twice daily, 24/7.
We look out for things that affect the safety and training of our SAF troops. We track news reports for data such as when the typhoon will hit land, whether it is in the area where SAF troops are, so as to gain a more complete picture, said Private (PTE) Josiah Tan, an Operations Assistant at the OSC.
The 19-year-old Full-Time National Serviceman was born deaf and did not have to serve National Service. However, he successfully appealed and ended up at the OSC after his Basic Military Training.
I felt that I could serve and do as good a job as anyone else, explained PTE Tan.
Since the law requires all young men to serve, though I was technically exempted, I thought I should follow the spirit rather than the letter of the law.
I'm glad I did - it's meaningful because I get to see how the work I do affects the SAF and potentially save lives.
Success and survival for a small country like Singapore are two sides of the same coin. In the same way, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) cannot afford to fail because it is the ultimate guarantor of the nation's independence and sovereignty.
This was the point made by Mr Lim Siong Guan, Group President of the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC) at this year's SAF Leadership Dining-In. He was Permanent Secretary (Defence) from 1981 to 1994. The GIC is a sovereign wealth fund which manages most of the Government's financial assets.
At the same time, he said, the challenge for the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the SAF was how to communicate the importance of a strong deterrence force to the continued success of Singapore to the youth of today.
Said Mr Lim: Young people in Singapore (must) understand that they have to support the SAF not because it is fun to have the SAF with all its capabilities, but because it is a critical part of being able to decide the kind of future and environment that we can build for our children, and leave for our children.
The speech, lasting almost an hour, was met with a standing ovation from the 243 military men and women gathered for the formal dining event held at Pasir Laba Camp on 17 Oct.
The SAF Leadership Dining-In, which was re-initiated in 2011, is attended by senior officers, warrant officers and military experts. It is a formal social occasion and a military tradition that builds morale and esprit de corps.
During his speech, Mr Lim shared with candour his past experience in MINDEF. Calling it the most meaningful and enjoyable time in his civil service career, he said: At the time, MINDEF was a place of experimentation... how to build the best SAF we could ever build (for Singapore). Mr Lim was one of the pioneers who mooted the Total Defence concept.
Speaking on a broad range of topics, Mr Lim said that young Singaporeans must get to know the country more intimately. They must realise the limitations which a small country faces, he said.
It's either we succeed and mean something in the world with some standing, and some people will listen to you in the world; or you fail and you're nobody and nobody cares.
Success and survival go together for Singapore in a way which does not apply to large countries.
He cited China and India as examples. They can decide to let the coastal cities succeed first and move on, while the rest of the country can take their turn.
Singapore's small physical size meant that the SAF remains an important part of the country's continued success, he said.
People in the world trust Singapore; we are one of the largest wealth managers.
The SAF is such an important part of giving us the ability to exercise that independence and sovereignty, to assure us that we can maintain the kind of system which other people looking at us feel that they have the confidence (to continue trusting) in Singapore, said Mr Lim.
Also speaking at the dining-in was Chief of Defence Force (CDF) Lieutenant-General Ng Chee Meng. He said: Since the last dining-in held in August 2013, we have made significant achievements and the SAF continues to be in a position of strength.
LG Ng cited the successful conduct of counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, and other missions such as the search for missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 as examples of the SAF's strong capabilities.
Our people have continued to fly our flag high time and time again, said LG Ng, who also presented the CDF Coin to senior SAF officers in recognition of their achievements and contributions to their respective Services and organisations.
At 18, he was not mature enough to understand the importance of national defence. In fact, when 2ndLieutenant (2 LT) Andre Chong enlisted for National Service (NS), he found it hard to see the positive aspects of it. It was only after living abroad that he began to realise its significance.
After studying over four years in the United Kingdom where there is no conscription, I realised that students there were apathetic toward national security, recalled the 24 year-old who disrupted his NS after the first phase of his Officer Cadet training. He was then reading law under an Overseas Merit Scholarship offered by the Public Service Commission.
There isn't the same sort of commitment (to defence)... that we have in Singapore. I can see that my Singaporean friends, who have done NS, are much more concerned and involved about national security, he said.
2LT Chong now wants to do his part as an officer in 2ndBattalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (2 SIR), to ensure younger citizen soldiers know why they need to serve. I want to help them to understand that they are not just a number but valued individuals, and to see themselves as professional citizen soldiers, he said.
2LT Chong was one of 285 officer cadets who were commissioned as officers in a parade held at SAFTI Military Institute on 18 Oct. The parade marked the completion of 38 weeks of rigorous training at the Officer Cadet School (OCS). For being the top graduand in the Infantry Formation, he received the Sword of Honour from reviewing officer, Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin.
At the parade, Mr Tan, who was a Brigadier-General in the Army before joining politics, shared his personal journey as an officer in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). He told the graduands that rank did not make one a leader, and that they had to earn the trust of their men, and inspire them.
He said: We command because we have been given that authority and the weight that comes with that. But we lead because others follow. They follow because they trust us. They trust because of who we are, the values we stand for. They trust us when we are able to put others before self.
The message resonated strongly with 2LT Webster Chia, who was an obese recruit and could not do a single pull up when he enlisted for NS. But he worked hard and obtained a Silver in his Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) during Basic Military Training (BMT). He continued to push himself and obtained a Gold in IPPT at OCS because he wanted to lead by example as a future officer.
I wanted to take charge of my own fitness, he recalled. Back in BMT, I would run with my sergeants and company mates four times a week, during our free evenings.
He also understands that leadership goes beyond proving one's fitness.
It is also about communication. I will have to work with NSF and NSman specialists who are older and more experienced than me. So I will get to know them well first and learn from them, said 2LT Chia who will serve in the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) as a Receive-Only Station Commander. Working with a specialist, he will collate and relay intelligence information transmitted from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).
For 2LT Sanjiven Sondarajan, being commissioned as an officer was a dream come true. He grew up watching war movies like Saving Private Ryan, and wanted to be the heroic soldiers in the films.
It has always been my dream, so why not make it a career, said the 21-year-old who has signed on as a Guards Officer.
One important lesson he learnt in OCS was overcoming his limiting beliefs. There were occasions when he was struggling to complete an intensive field exercise, and his instructor would spring a surprise by extending the exercise. But he and his platoon mates completed it.
I've learnt that whenever I am tired, it is actually not my limit yet. What I feel is my limit is actually not my limit, and I can do much more than I believe I can.
Sometimes, it takes some encouragement from the people around you to push on. Just ask 2LT Mohamed Arshaq whose journey in OCS was an emotional roller coaster. Just two months before commissioning, he lost his beloved grandfather. He was then taking part in an overseas exercise - the last phase of his OCS training - and wanted to quit.
It was an emotional decision rather than a logical one. But my instructors and platoon mates understood what I was going through. They were the ones who kept me going, he said.
The 22-year-old, who will be posted to OCS as an instructor, hopes to pay it forward. I hope to help my future trainees know why they need to serve, follow the principles and always make the right call.
The newly-commissioned officers will go on to assume command, instructional or staff appointments in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).
Present at the parade were Members of Parliament, senior SAF officers, Ministry of Defence officials, and families and friends of the graduands.
Soaring across the skies above France is the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master, the newest acquisition of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).
The A-4SU Super Skyhawks have long been a staple of training for prospective RSAF fighter pilots at Cazaux Air Base in France. However, after 17 years of service, the Skyhawks are making way for the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master, an advanced trainer aircraft manufactured by Italian company, Alenia Aermacchi.
In 1993, initial development of the M-346 began, and a variant, named Yak/AEM-130, went into production in 1996. After many modifications and improvements, the Yak/AEM-130 evolved into the M-346, which was rolled out on 7 Jun 2003 and flew for the first time on 15 Jul 2004.
In July 2010, the RSAF placed an order for the M-346 to fulfil the role of advanced jet training. The RSAF acquired 12 M-346s and a ground-based training system, with delivery completed in February 2014.
Reducing the training gap
One of the main advantages that the M-346 boasts over the old Skyhawks is that it provides a training experience closer to that of operational frontline fighter jets such as the F-16s and F-15.
On the capabilities that the M-346 aircraft brings to the RSAF, Commanding Officer 150 Squadron (SQN), which flies the M-346, Lieutenant Colonel Kelvin Wan said: The M-346 helps to enhance pilot training by introducing advanced combat skills at an earlier stage of training. Skills such as radar employment, Beyond-Visual-Range missile engagements and precision weapons delivery are all possible now, with the M-346.
Major John Sng, one of the first four RSAF flying instructors to be trained on the M-346, also felt that training on the new platform would provide a smoother transition for trainees onto fighter platforms: Compared to the A-4SUs, the M-346 gives me a better field of vision, which is very critical in phases of flight, such as landings, and when I teach combat manoeuvres.
Ushering in the new jet
Bringing a new jet up to Full Operational Capability (FOC) is no easy feat. The squadron put together a team of experienced personnel to facilitate the crossover from the Skyhawk. Flying instructors were trained to operate the M-346. They also drew up an entirely new set of training programmes and doctrines tailored specifically to maximise the enhanced performance capabilities of the M-346.
With this three-step strategy, 150 SQN successfully completed the challenging task and celebrated the FOC milestone in February. In March, Lieutenant Pan Shang Hua became the first pilot trainee in the world to fly solo on the M-346.