Beginnings of SAFTI
14 Feb 1966 to 17 Jun 1966
When Singapore gained her independence in 1965, she needed a military institute to train Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) in military knowhow and the art of warfare. The Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute (SAFTI) was therefore set up, in February 1966, to train leaders of men in the SAF. The area chosen for the institute was Pasir Laba, which means "rich soil".
Even as construction was underway at Pasir Laba for SAFTI, a core of 60 Officers and NCOs were selected to attend the first three-month Instructors' Preparatory Course at Jurong Primary School. They were taught by a group of foreign advisors who were keen on rigorous training and advocated the doctrine of leading troops by example.
A recruitment campaign was mounted in May 1966 by the forerunner of the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Interior and Defence. The selection process included written tests, IQ tests, interviews and physical fitness tests so that only the best were selected to qualify for Officer training. Out of 2500 young men, 300 were eventually selected to qualify for Officer training at Pasir Laba Camp on 1 June 1966. These fearless pioneers soon earned a reputation for their fighting spirit and SAFTI quickly grew to become a household name associated with excellence, ruggedness and tough training.
The Road to OCS
18 Jun 1966 to 25 Dec 1974
Dr Goh Keng Swee, then Minister of Defence, graced the official opening on 18 June 1966. The institute was presented with its formation sign of a torch (signifying education) and sword (denoting military training) during the official opening. With the rapid build-up of combat and service elements in the SAF, SAFTI gradually grew to include special-to-arms training schools besides the School of Infantry Section Leaders. These include the schools of Artillery, Engineers, Armor, Signals, Infantry Weapons and Military Medicine. Out of 300 who originally signed up, only 117 successfully went on to commission as officers of the Singapore Armed Forces on 16 July 1967 at SAFTI's parade square. On 16 Jun 1968, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, then Prime Minister, presented SAFTI its Colours in recognition of its progress and excellence in training within a short span of two years since inception.In 1969, six People's Defence Force women were given the opportunity to be trained as service officers in the SAF due to their outstanding performance. They were commissioned together with the fourth batch of Infantry Officer Cadets on 10 Jul 1970. The first batch of soldiers to attend the Officer Cadet Course was commissioned on 11 Nov 1972. As the number of companies to train Officer Cadets expanded further, the School of Infantry Officers was renamed Officer Cadet School (OCS) and the OCS HQ was set up to command and administer the School on 1 Jun 1969.
The Standard Military Course
26 Dec 1974 to 17 Oct 1980
During the 1970s, National Service was shortened to two and a half years from its initial three year period. OCS introduced the nine-month Standard Military Course (SMC) on 26 Dec 1974 to improve Officer training and provide the full-time NS Officer with a longer service period after commissioning. Selection of Officer Cadets for this course was made prior to their enlistment and based primarily on their academic qualifications and extra curricular activities.
The course was divided into two stages each lasting four and a half months. The course trained cadets up to the level of section commanders in the Junior Term and up to the level of platoon commanders in the Senior Term. The "scholars' platoon" was introduced in 1972 to encourage the better-qualified cadets to take up scholarships for further training. This practice is continued today for talented young men and women who aspire for careers in the military.
Another development during the SMC phase was the introduction of overseas training in 1977. Due to the limited land area in Singapore to conduct training, negotiations were made with foreign countries to train our cadets overseas.
The Infantry Officer Cadet Course
1 Sep 1980 - 14 Mar 1990
OCS became OCS-SAFTI on 1 Jun 1980 and the nine-month Infantry Officer Cadet Course (IOCC) was introduced on 1 Sept 1980, emphasising the development of leadership qualities and competencies. SAFTI was linked to OCS, given its origin as the "cradle of commanders", whilst the other schools were collectively referred to as Infantry Schools, Pasir Laba Camp.
The IOCC represented a first and conscious departure away from military traditions to focus on combat skills and operational readiness. Officer Cadets were selected only after Basic Military Training to better gauge their potential for leadership training. It consisted of a Junior Term of twelve weeks aimed at training cadets to fight in open and closed terrain as a section commander, as well as basic leadership skills. The Senior Term consisted of twenty-seven weeks aimed at training Cadets to be infantry platoon commanders capable of leading an infantry platoon in all types of operations. In May 1980, the first Medical Officer Cadet Course (MOCC) was conducted for Officers who aspired for medical or dental professions within the SAF.
The Tri-Service Officer Cadet Course
17 Sep 1990 to Present
With the SAFTI Military Institute Ground-Breaking Ceremony on 9 Jun 1990, OCS entered a new era of excellence in officer training. The new 42-week Tri-Service Officer Cadet Course was formally inaugurated on 17 Sept 1990 by Lieutenant-General Winston W L Choo, then the Chief of Defence Force. The Tri-Service Officer Cadet Course enabled Cadets from the Army, Navy and Air Force to understand more of one another's operations and to provide them with more opportunities to interact. After training in a common environment for nineteen weeks, the cadets from the support Arms, Navy and Air Force would go for further vocational training in their respective schools, leaving the infantry cadets to continue their Professional Term in OCS. All the cadets would then come back to OCS during the last two weeks prior to commission to rehearse for the Commissioning Parade that would be held at the grand SAFTI MI Parade Square.With the implementation of the two-year NSF duration in 2004, the Officer Cadet Course (OCC) was revised and reduced from 42 weeks to 38 weeks. The first 38-week OCC intake on 21 Mar 2005 began with the two-week Common Leadership Module and ended with a three-week Joint Term. The Common Leadership Module is designed to imbue a common set of values, leadership skills and SAF ethos into the cadets, while the Joint Term is designed for networking and joint awareness, positioned at the end to engender more fruitful cross-service discussions.