25 MAR 1994 AT 1700 HRS
It is an honour to officiate at the Topping-Out Ceremony for the new SAFTI Military Institute, and the unveiling of the new SAFTI MI Insignia. I am happy that construction of the Institute is on schedule, and that SAFTI MI will begin operations in a year's time. It will mark a new phase in the history of the SAF.
All armed forces take the training of their officers extremely seriously. The capability, motivation, and morale of their battalions and squadrons depend heavily on the officers. As a matter of necessity, armed forces therefore invest heavily in the institutions which train and groom the officer corps. West Point, Duntroon and Sandhurst are only the most well known examples.
In Singapore, we have the Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute, or SAFTI for short. SAFTI was founded in 1966 to train officers for the rapid build-up of the SAF. Since then, its role has been enlarged to include training officers for the middle and higher echelons of command.
SAFTI has become a household word in Singapore, and has also established its reputation in the region. The word SAFTI conjures up images of tough training and strict discipline. The new SAFTI MI will inherit this reputation. But it must do more than preserve it. SAFTI MI will have to achieve even more, to break new ground in training officers for the SAF for the year 2000 and beyond.
The grounds and buildings of SAFTI MI should convey this spirit of martial values and professional competence. Visitors entering the Institute should immediately feel its sense of mission and purpose, and realise that it has a crucial role in the defence of the nation. The entire environment should reflect unmistakably the high standards of discipline and performance expected of cadets and trainees. So should the behaviour and bearing of the staff and students.
SAFTI MI must preserve the tough, rigorous training that has become the trademark of SAFTI. Yet it must also provide a broad-base education for our officer corps. We can achieve both. We must instil in our officers commitment, tenacity, and the determination to excel. At the same time, they should learn to analyse problems objectively, to plan ahead, to seek out knowledge and keep themselves up to date. Every cadet and every visitor to SAFTI MI must go away with unmistakable conviction that here ordinary urban youths enter, leave their boyhood behind, and emerged as dedicated, competent and tempered leaders on men.
The spirit of the old SAFTI must flourish in the new SAFTI MI. Those officers lucky enough to have been among the first batch of officer cadets know this spirit well. It was not the architecture - in 1966 SAFTI consisted of no more than a collection of wooden huts. It was the sense of being pioneers in a great adventure, being a vital part of the national defence, when the SAF was in its infancy and Singapore's survival hung in the balance. It was the determination to endure any training, however tough, and to overcome whatever lay in the way, no matter how hopeless the situation appeared.
It was only many years later that we tried to express this spirit in the words of the SAFTI motto, which are now in the SAFTI Insignia : ' To lead, to excel, to overcome'. This ideal should continue to guide and inspire each new generation of SAF Officers.
In establishing SAFTI MI, we have brought together the core officer training schools of the three Services into one. Here we will train three Services to function as one SAF. The Institute will integrate the many subjects which a military officer must master from the time he starts his career as a young junior officer to when he becomes a seasoned senior commander. From practical training to broader military knowledge, from expertise in man management to leadership in combat, an officer will receive at SAFTI MI at each point of his career just that extend and depth of knowledge that he needs. Taking his entire military education as a whole, what he will learn here will be well structured, cohesive and non-repetitive.
This Institute will give Army, Navy and Air Force officers not just pride in and knowledge of their own Services, but also an understanding of how his own Service contributes to the mission of the other two Services and of the SAF as a whole, and what the other Services do that help his Service to succeed. As he grows in his career, each time he revisits SAFTI to attend a more senior course, these lessons will be reinforced.
Finally, may I congratulate all those who have helped reach today's milestone in the development of SAFTI MI. The team of architects, engineers and other professionals on this project have worked closely with the military officers in the SAF to define the requirements, conceptualise the Master plan and execute the works. They have explored many options, in both aesthetics and function, in software and hardware, to find the best solution.
It is satisfying to see the SAFTI MI actually taking shape. SAFTI's physical transformation from a collection of wooden huts in 1966 into a modern military institute reflects the enormous transformation of the SAF's organisation, professionalism, and reputation since its first beginnings. SAF officers and cadets must now make full use of these facilities to prepare themselves for their weighty responsibility, to keep Singapore safe from danger and from harm.
It is my privilege to perform the Topping-Out Ceremony and to unveil the new SAFTI MI Insignia.