Minister of State for Defence Associate Professor Koo Tsai Kee identified the three major milestones that National Servicemen must reach before they qualify for the three tranches of the National Service Recognition Award (NSRA), on 31 Aug at the SAFRA Jurong Clubhouse.
"The NSRA celebrates three significant milestones during a National Serviceman's NS journey: first, when he completes full-time NS; second, when he is midway through his Operationally Ready NS or ORNS training cycle; and finally, when he completes his ORNS training cycle," said Assoc Prof Koo of the award.
First announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the 2010 National Day Rally on 29 Aug, the NSRA is the latest initiative by the Government to provide sustained recognition and appreciation to citizens who serve NS.
Assoc Prof Koo also revealed that the award for NS commanders - servicemen who hold the rank of 3rd Sergeant and above for those serving in the Singapore Armed Forces, and Sergeant and above for those serving in the Home Team - would be slightly higher at $10,500, compared to the $9,000 for the other NSmen. This is to recognise them for their heavier responsibilities.
According to the Ministry of Defence Director Manpower, Mr Tan Kok Yam, Full-time National Servicemen and Operationally Ready National Servicemen must have reached the milestones on or after 29 Aug this year to be eligible for the award.
The second milestone is pegged to the mid-point of the ORNS training cycle and this is determined by the completion of either three High-Key In-Camp Training (ICT) or five ICT of which two are High-Key. For citizens, the third NSRA disbursement will replace the existing ORNS Completion Award of $300 given to every eligible serviceman.
The first tranche of the NSRA will be credited into the serviceman's Post-Secondary Education Account while the other two tranches will go into his Central Provident Fund. Servicemen will be able to use the first disbursement to pursue further studies or training in full-time subsidised courses at approved educational institutions, while the the other two disbursements can be used for housing, health-care and retirement needs.
According to Mr Tan, the NSRA will be disbursed in three equal amounts, with each disbursement made two months after the NSman attains each of the milestones. The disbursements will begin from February 2011 onwards, to allow time for the administrative changes to take place.
For 27-year-old Captain (CPT) (NS) Mohamed Najib Mashuni, the NSRA has arrived at an opportune moment. "As I'll be getting married next year, the award is quite timely as it will help me in getting my house," said the Officer Commanding from the 731st Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment, who has to complete one more High-Key ICT before he reaches the mid-point of his ORNS training cycle and is eligible for the second disbursement of the NSRA.
However, beyond the monetary gains, CPT (NS) Mohamed Najib appreciates the recognition that comes with the award. "I'm pleased that the government is recognising our efforts and sacrifices that we make as citizens who take time off for one to two weeks a year from our families and our careers to serve our ICT," he added.
Sharing his sentiments was 34-year-old Corporal (NS) Ang Kim Heong, a medic with the Military Police who believes that the award is "a step in the right direction as it recognises the contributions of NSmen".
NSF 3rd Sergeant Prasatt s/o Arumugam, who will be heading to the National University of Singapore to study philosophy next year, is glad that he will benefit from the first disbursement of the award very soon. "It's something that is beneficial for me since I'll be completing my NS soon and the money in the Post-Secondary Education Account is relevant to me as it will help me with my university tuition fees," he said.