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 and Mandai from 08:00am on Mon, 31 Aug 2015 to 08:00am on Mon, 7 Sep 2015.
MINDEF PRIDE Day/Exhibition is an annual event to exhibit and celebrate MINDEF/SAF's commitment and achievements in PRIDE (PRoductivity and Innovation in Daily Efforts). The exhibition will be held from 2 to 4 Sep 2015 at the Singapore University of Technology & Design from 9am to 5pm.
PIONEER alumnus, lawyer and best-selling author Adrian Tan writes about how the magazine has evolved over the years.
PIONEER exists as the voice and memory of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). The evergreen magazine was born on Singapore's fourth birthday as the National Pioneer, a tabloid newsletter. In launching it, then-Minister for Defence Lim Kim San said in his foreword: There are now a few thousand young men and women in our Armed Forces. There is, therefore, a need for a medium through which our men and women in the Armed Forces can be enlightened and entertained.
Over the next five decades, month by month, the magazine has grown and transformed, in pursuit of that original mission.
The original National Pioneer was heavy on editorial and light on its black-and-white pictures. The tone was serious and the language, formal. The 1960s' editions featured articles befitting of a young nation, discussing the big issues of the day, such as the need for National Service (NS), or our geopolitical environment. Over the years, that style gave way to a full-colour glossy magazine, friendlier and more casual, with an increased emphasis on pictures and graphics.
In the early days, national austerity demands meant that one copy of the magazine would have to be shared among 10 servicemen. Today, the magazine is sent to the homes of Full-Time National Servicemen, Operationally Ready National Servicemen and Regulars.
n the 1970s, PIONEER offered subscription at 20 cents a copy. Today, it is a princely 40 cents.
For a time, advertisements were found in the pages of PIONEER for consumer electronics, computer courses, mosquito repellent and many varieties of beer. All advertising has ceased.
PIONEER has always been among the first to adopt new technology. In 1996, it launched cyberpioneer, its internet edition. In 2010, it was one of the first Singapore publications to be offered on a newfangled contraption called an iPad. Today, cyberpioneer stories, pictures and videos are widely viewed, shared and commented on Facebook, Flickr and Youtube. Its content often sparks off discussions about NS experiences. It continues to be recognised internationally as one of the best magazines in its field.
What has also not changed is PIONEER's dedication to its prime directive - to be the voice of the SAF. For five decades, it has documented our collective achievements and common experiences. It has faithfully recorded our journey as we march in uniform. It continues to narrate the grand adventure that is our SAF.
Many famous Singaporeans underwent their NS in PIONEER. Actor, director and playwright Ivan Heng was a PIONEER writer. Of his PIONEER days, he said: One week, I would be on board a ship, or on some jetty ready to go somewhere, another week I'd be sitting in a helicopter taking aerial pictures with my photographer. And we were interviewing ministers, and we got quite a big bite of the journalistic cherry. It was a great opportunity for a young man; I don't think many people get to experience these things at 20.
Celebrity photographer Russel Wong was a PIONEER photographer. He is famed for his pictures of stars such as Jackie Chan, Richard Gere and Tom Cruise. Aptly, his first PIONEER assignment was a portrait of Lieutenant-General (Ret) Winston Choo, then-Chief of General Staff. Russel said that his PIONEER experience was an eye-opener, and that it sharpened his senses. Doing photo-journalism, I had to be more alert, as there was only one chance to take my shot. Most of the time, I didn't quite know what to expect, and I had to get it right the first time. I also learnt to work with people to get the pictures I wanted. In PIONEER, I met all kinds of people, from privates to generals.
Award-winning musician, songwriter and poet Dr Liang Wern Fook was another PIONEER writer. He wrote for the Chinese edition of the magazine. He said: My writing was about self-expression. But at PIONEER, I realised I needed another kind of writing skill. It was no longer about personal feelings, but about being objective.
It's important to have an opinion, but self-expression must be within your setting and environment. And then, in my second year, I realised that even if no personal feelings are expressed, the story can still have a personal angle: how you write the story, whom you interview and what you highlight about them.
Former Attorney-General Professor Walter Woon, food critic K F Seetoh, and former NMP Associate Professor Simon Tay are just some others who served their NS in PIONEER.
Today editor Walter Fernandez, The Straits Times editor Warren Fernandez and former The New Paper Editor Ivan Fernandez have something less obvious in common. All cut their teeth as PIONEER writers.
Warren Fernandez said of his time in PIONEER: What I had to learn was how to fit into the production cycle: conceptualising stories, working with the artists and photographers, designing the pages. That taught me a lot about the visual aspect of journalism - it's not just about words, you've got to be able to connect with your readers through images, pictures and design. Recalling the publication of his first story in PIONEER, he said: It was great to see my byline. There's always a buzz, a sense of achievement for your first story. I think that was what got me thinking about journalism. I wasn't born wanting to be a journalist. PIONEER showed me that this was something I could do in the long term.
Ivan Fernandez said of his PIONEER stint, where he was also resident cartoonist: We felt our task was to go behind the scenes and make the activities on the ground, the people behind the units and the operating culture come alive. We wanted to show that there was more to the Armed Forces than the steely, highly-disciplined and perfectly-timed performances seen at the National Day Parade.
Songs and cheers rang out in the early morning of 21 Aug as more than a thousand soldiers from the Infantry formation took part in the second annual Infantry March.
With participants hailing from all Infantry units across the island, this year's march, themed The March Home, aimed to rally all Infanteers and strengthen the identity of the Infantry Tribe as they marched to Selarang Camp - home of the Infantry.
Consisting of three different groups, each marching from a different start point - Selarang Camp, Pasir Ris Park, or the Singapore Armed Forces Ferry Terminal - they marched a distance of between 4.4km and 5.5km before converging at their end-point at Selarang Camp.
How do we know that the 'Infantry Tribe' is strong? Brigadier-General (BG) Chiang Hock Woon, Commander 9th Singapore Division and Chief Infantry Officer asked the some 1,600 Infanteers after the march. We came to one conclusion - what is most important for the 'Infantry Tribe' is the trust between us… To build this trust, we decided that every year, we would decide on a time and a place, and we would meet… and this is how the idea of the Infantry March was mooted.
He added: When we did our march last year, every unit turned up, and this year, we continue with this tradition - every unit will turn up when we do our march.
Agreeing with him was Colonel (COL) Lim Teck Keong, Commander of the Motorised Infantry Training Institute, who led 200 of his men in the Infantry March. He said the march was significant in building camaraderie within the formation, the largest in the Army.
To strengthen the identity of the 'Infantry Tribe', BG Chiang unveiled and presented the new Infantry Combat Knife to commanders and commanding officers of the various Infantry units.
COL Lim, who was among those receiving the knife, found it to be a meaningful presentation. Recalling the days before the Singapore Assault Rifle (SAR) 21, where bayonets were still attached to the M16s, COL Lim said: The symbol of the Infantry is two crossed bayonets …When the SAR 21 was introduced into service, we stopped using the bayonets… and after a few years, the significance of the bayonets decreased.
Hence, I think that it is quite apt now that the Infantry formation has introduced this Infantry Combat Knife. When all else fails, we still have the infantry knife to fight with our bare hands, and achieve mission success.
Also taking place after the Infantry March was the presentation of berets to newly-trained Infanteers from the 1st and 8th Battalions, Singapore Infantry Regiment (1 SIR, 8 SIR).
This year's National Day Parade (NDP) was a grand affair befitting of celebrating Singapore's Golden Jubilee and a key factor for its success was the people who contributed one way or another behind the scenes. Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen hosted the key appointment holders of the NDP 2015 organising committee, participating organisations and sponsors to an appreciation dinner on 24 Aug.
Speaking at the function, Dr Ng highlighted that the successful parade was the result of the hard work, support, and commitment of many. He said: I know that there were many participants and many people who put in many hours and sacrifices. Many of you who are seated here played a big part in it, without which, the NDP would not have been a success.
The many pictures that we took in NDP will stand as a historical record of how unique and how spectacular NDP 2015 was.
To emphasise his point, Dr Ng used the example of the 1.2 million funpacks that had been distributed to every single Singaporean household as part of the NDP 2015 celebrations. It was very heartwarming as they (Combat Service Support Command) brought together people, including children with Down Syndrome to come help pack, he said.
They penned special notes in the funpacks that they packed and it showed the spirit which made NDP 2015 possible.
In an example to exhibit the dedication of those who made NDP a reality, Dr Ng said: As rehearsals were during the Ramadan period, our Muslim brothers and sisters were rehearsing without eating or drinking - they were observing their fast.
Commenting on the dedication and the sacrifices of the NDP 2015 participants, Brigadier-General (BG) Melvyn Ong, Chairman of the Executive Committee and the newly appointed Chief of Army, said: Organising our country's Golden Jubilee celebrations was an honour for my team, and also challenging due to the many moving parts.
Citing the examples of the many challenges posed during NDP such as the 1.2 million funpacks, satellite sites, and large aerial display to name a few, BG Ong added: We needed months of rehearsals, and tight and effective coordination on the ground. We couldn't have done it without the capable and committed servicemen and volunteers, working together to give Singaporeans an awesome SG50 NDP to remember.
Dr Ng presented Gold awards to 165 recipients who attended the dinner at Resorts World Sentosa. There were 201 Gold award recipients this year.
Chief of Defence Force Major-General (MG) Perry Lim will present the 612 Silver awards to participating organisations and sponsors at a separate dinner held later this week.
Future generations of defence ministers should continue to forge strong public support for defence, and to maintain good defence relations with other countries, in order to secure peace for Singapore over the next 50 years and beyond.
This was the answer given by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen when asked by an undergraduate what advice he would give to today's youths if they were the future defence ministers.
Dr Ng was fielding questions from some 160 undergraduates, mostly from the National University of Singapore (NUS), at the Kent Ridge Ministerial Forum on 20 Aug, after his keynote presentation on Singapore's nation-building journey.
The discussion was centred on Singapore's future challenge in areas such as economy, population, and security.
Noting that 97 percent of Singaporeans had expressed confidence in the country's defence, according to a recent survey by MediaCorp, Dr Ng said: Certainly, I am gratified that there is such a strong belief… You've got to continue to work at it to maintain that support.
We are only as strong as Singaporeans are willing to support defence. Our boys going for two years (of National Service) is a significant commitment, explained Dr Ng, adding that the Republic also spent a large proportion of the government budget on defence.
On forging strong defence ties, Dr Ng said Singapore had been taking part in defence dialogues, and partnering with countries to foster mutual trust.
He cited how Singapore had offered assistance to Brunei in hosting over 3,000 troops from 18 countries for a large-scale Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) exercise in 2013.
For the first time, you had Chinese, Japanese, American soldiers conducting exercises in a humanitarian setting. And that's what we should be doing more of, said Dr Ng.
At the same time, you can never be certain you are safe; you must be fully (prepared with a) capable deterrence force, he added.
In response to a question about Singapore's position on the on-going territorial dispute in the South China Sea, Dr Ng said the Republic was not a claimant state, but was concerned about possible disruption to the vital international waterway.
He said: It shows you that our external environment can be unpredictable, and that we are wise to have a strong SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) that can help pacify things, help to ease tension.
Threats from hybrid warfare
When asked by another student if cyber warfare would become a reality in the near future, Dr Ng said it had already taken place when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine last year.
He described Russia's strategy as hybrid warfare: The use of propaganda and disinformation to break the population's will to fight for their country, before launching an invasion.
Singapore is not immune to such threats, Dr Ng said.
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been conducting a facet of hybrid warfare through the use of social media to radicalise people worldwide.
The way to respond is through Total Defence where every citizen plays a part, Dr Ng said. Adopted by Singapore, it is a comprehensive strategy consisting ofmilitary, civil, economic, social and psychological defence.
Dr Ng gave the example of 19-year-old Arifil Azim Putra Norja'I, a self-radicalised Singaporean who harboured the intention to conduct attacks in the country. His arrest was made possible because his friend noticed the change in him, and alerted the authorities.
This is something which is occurring here and now, something that has changed the battlefield. So it's a battle over mind, it's a battle over ideology, said Dr Ng.
Militarily, we also have to respond, (and) that's why we have our cyber defence, and information defence, he added.
Females to do NS?
Asked if females would be enlisted for National Service (NS) in the foreseeable future, in view of the declining birth rate in Singapore, Dr Ng said there was no need to do so, as technology had enabled the SAF to provide the same kind of firepower with less manpower.
For example, it used to take 12 men to operate an artillery gun, but today, only three men are needed to run the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.
The SAF had also planned for its manpower need, factoring in declining birth rates, till 2050, Dr Ng added.
While there have been calls for females to do NS as nurses or teachers, Dr Ng said there was no strong justification for it.
He explained: There are very few circumstances where you can say to anybody, whether male or female, that I want you to give up two years of your life to do something.
And that critical need is (the) defence of Singapore. I can't bring you in to be a nurse or to be teacher. It is a social good, but (an) inadequate justification.
Even if there is a need to conscript females for defence needs, it has to be done carefully because it changes the whole complexion of your military force, he added.
Held at the University Town, the forum was organised by the NUS Students' Political Association.
Understanding the needs of disaster victims whom you are helping; a strong military-to-military relationship; good information-sharing among countries offering assistance - they are all crucial to effective relief efforts.
These were some of the lessons that Colonel (COL) Lim Kwang Tang took away as the Singapore Contingent Commander of the Nepal disaster relief operations in April this year.
COL Lim, who is Director of Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Coordination Centre (RHCC), was one of three speakers invited to share his experience at an event organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, called RSIS Celebrates World Humanitarian Day: Voices From The Field, held at the National Library on 19 Aug.
The other two speakers were Mr Johann Annuar, Founder and Trainer of Humanity Assist, and Mr Hassan Ahmad, Technical Adviser of the Corporate Citizen Foundation.
Attending the talk were more than 100 students and representatives from agencies which had participated in HADR efforts in the region.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) had sent a 38-man team, with 22 personnel from the medical team and 16 from Changi RHCC to help in HADR efforts after the Nepalese earthquake.
During the 12-day deployment, the SAF medical team treated more than 3,000 patients, working alongside their counterparts from Singapore's Ministry of Health as well as the Royal Brunei Armed Forces. In addition, the Republic of Singapore Air Force's C-130 aircraft evacuated 95 Singaporeans and foreigners, and made a total of 11 flights into Nepal to bring personnel, equipment and relief supplies.
During the question-and-answer session, COL Lim reiterated that one of the key challenges in an HADR operation was information sharing, and that a strong military-to military-relationship was important for an effective disaster relief effort.
He said: In our region, the military plays a significant role. We have to establish linkages within this region as well as with other players such as the US, Australia and India.
COL Lim added that the RHCC also had to establish a strong international liaison officers' network, so that they could practise peacetime disaster preparedness.
We are sharing information and monitoring situations day to day. In the event of an impending (disaster such as a) typhoon, we will have early warning and share the information so that our military partners will be prepared and on standby, and if necessary, we go in together.
In response to a question on when the military should step in to help and when it should pull out of the disaster-hit area, COL Lim explained that the military will typically stay up to 14 days, and that was exactly what the Nepalese Army had requested.
The military will go in during the emergency relief phase. The first three days are the most critical, followed by the combined search-and-rescue phase the next four days. After a week, the chances of survival are reduced drastically, so we will go into the stabilisation phase, where we start to treat people and stabilise their emotions. After that, we will pull out.
He added that, for other militaries to go in, the local military and government had to invest resources to provide transport and liaison, to sustain the foreign militaries in their relief operations. Staying too long might hinder the local military in getting back to their own duties.
COL Lim revealed that the RHCC hosted the United Nations World Humanitarian Forum in Singapore earlier this year, which provided the opportunity for international networks to share information among practitioners from different countries.
In closing, he reiterated the importance of a strong information-sharing network, and urged for such practices to continue so that it would be easier for foreign and local militaries to work together on the ground.
They may not don the uniform or carry the SAR 21, but for these women, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is no less an intricate part of their lives. PIONEER celebrates the women whose unyielding support enables our soldiers to carry out their duties with peace of mind.