09 Nov 2009, 1800 hours (GMT +8:00)

Forging cohesion and commitment through NE

Bigger doesn't always mean better. In fact, when it comes to National Education (NE), it might be better to start small.

Zooming down to the "micro-level" was part of Lieutenant-Colonel (LTC) Lim Teck Keong's recipe for success in establishing a strong NE culture in his unit.

"You can't just paint a big picture about World War II and things like duty, honour and country; you must engage the men and make it relevant to them," said the Commanding Officer of the 4th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (4 SIR).

Speaking to cyberpioneer after his unit clinched the inaugural Chief of Defence Force (CDF) NE Excellence Award, LTC Lim added: "Whatever training or activities that we carry out, we always try to tell them the purpose behind it and relate it back to them on a more personal level."

Amidst busy training schedules, LTC feels that commanders need to "leverage on existing activities and be creative about it". For example, the men's rifle presentation ceremonies were held at Sarimbun, where the Japanese first landed in their invasion of Singapore during the second world war. Servicemen also learnt about Singapore's history at Kranji Dam while making a rest stop during their route march.

By incorporating and explaining the significance of these historic battle sites during important milestones in their training, it helps to give the soldiers a greater insight as to why they are serving NS, said LTC Lim.

Other ways in which 4 SIR infused "NE moments" into the unit's activities included celebrating their battalion anniversary at the Army Museum.

"Instead of doing the routine tour by the museum guides, it was done by our commanders, so they were able to give it that personal touch and make it more meaningful," shared Second Lieutenant (2LT) Shanthakumar Bannirchelvam, a Full-time National Serviceman (NSF) from 4 SIR.

"NE in our unit may not always be about big concepts like nation and state; I think it comes down to the bonds that we're able to create between our men on the ground level, which really makes a difference in our unit," he added.

The CDF NE Excellence Award is the highest accolade given to units in recognition of their outstanding NE efforts. The award presentation ceremony was held at the SAF NE Event - which also combined the annual SAF NE Forum and NE Facilitator (NEF) Appointment ceremony - on 20 Oct .

Delivering the keynote address to some 250 participants at the event, Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General (LG) Desmond Kuek reminded commanders that the responsibility of engaging pre-enlistees and national servicemen lies with "all of us as leaders in the SAF".

"I hope that you will continue to think, act and feel the NE messages - translate them into a positive experience that lends towards our main effort of strengthening engagement in the SAF, and engendering commitment to defence in every current and future generation of Singaporeans," he exhorted.



This view was shared by Major (MAJ) Tony Ong, Branch Head, Air Intelligence Department, one of 114 SAF officers from the various Services who were appointed as NEFs during the event.

"Sophisticated weapon systems and systems are not enough; the heart-ware is also very important. It's only when you can secure that commitment from the soldiers, be they national servicemen or regulars, and suit them up with the best equipment, will we be able to build a truly effective armed forces to defend Singapore," he said.

As to why he volunteered as an NEF, MAJ Tony told cyberpioneer: "I joined the SAF because I see the value in the work that we are doing, and I hope to be able to inspire the younger generation that they have a stake and role to play in the nation's defence."


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