Graduands of the 19th SAF Senior Military Expert Course,
Families and loved ones of our graduands,
Ladies and gentlemen,
A very good day to all of you.
I am honoured to join you on this special occasion to celebrate your graduation from the 19th SAF Senior Military Expert Course. Congratulations on your successful completion of this course.
To the family members and loved ones of the graduands, who are unfortunately only able to join the ceremony today through live video streaming, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your unwavering support and encouragement of our graduands.
To our graduands, today, you will be appointed as Senior Military Experts, and be entrusted with the heavy responsibility of leading our men and women to achieve mission success for MINDEF and the SAF. You will help the SAF stay at the leading edge across many domains, such as engineering, intelligence, medicine, cyber and military music. You must discharge this critical role with dedication, especially so as you assume the mantle of leadership in this challenging period.
ADAPTING TO COVID-19 AND THE NEW NORMAL
We are living in unprecedented times. COVID-19 has significantly impacted global trade and travel, strained healthcare systems around the world, and will potentially result in the one of the worst global economic downturns. Singapore has not been spared. But even as we battle the pandemic, the SAF’s raison d’être remains unchanged – to ensure the peace and security of Singapore. Security threats do not fade away just because there is a pandemic going on. Around the world, we see that border disputes and contestations between countries have continued, and in some cases, intensified. Cyber attacks and malicious disinformation intended to sow fear and spread discord have become commonplace. Terrorism remains a concern.
Against such a backdrop, the SAF had to keep its focus on defending Singapore from external threats, even as it did its part to support our nation’s fight against COVID-19. Stringent measures were taken so that the SAF could remain operationally ready and effective, while ensuring that our servicemen and women remained safe and healthy. Operations and ops-essential activities continued, with strict health precautions and safe distancing measures in place to reduce the risk of infection. Critical operational units were cohorted and duty personnel isolated in their camps, away from their families and loved ones for weeks, to ensure that they were safe and ready for operations.
The commitment and adaptability that I have witnessed from our servicemen and women, especially over the past few months, have really been inspiring. Thousands of servicemen and women, from the SAF and the wider defence community, have answered the call of duty, and in many cases, went above and beyond. Many of our NSFs asked to extend their national service period so they could contribute to the fight for longer, and some our NSmen asked to be called back to help out in COVID-related operations. The SAF took on a leading role in several key national efforts, to take care of our migrant workers and to help orchestrate and coordinate our medical resources to prevent our healthcare system from being overloaded. Our Military Experts corps was at the heart of many of these efforts. The SAF Medical Corps, including our Military Medical Experts, deployed to provide primary healthcare services at dormitories and community care facilities. Engineers in the SAF also worked with the Defence Technology Community to design and deploy technological solutions, such as Mobile Swab Stations, which made it quicker and safer to carry out swabs.
We will continue to face new and unexpected challenges. Like the rest of government, and indeed the rest of Singapore, the SAF must adapt to this new post-COVID normal, and remain effective against emerging threats from non-conventional domains. Senior Military Experts like yourself will be at the forefront of these changes. You will be asked to apply your expertise and professionalism across many different situations and challenges, to exercise leadership and judgment to move the organisation and our people along the correct trajectory, while refining systems and practices to make ground processes more effective and efficient.
A CALL FOR INNOVATION
When the threats are fluid, and the challenges unexpected, what matters more than most is the ability to adapt, to be nimble, and to leverage innovation in pushing operational and technological boundaries. Military Experts like yourself must strive to develop better and sharper solutions in your respective domains, and in so doing, enhance the SAF’s operational effectiveness and capabilities.
Don’t be afraid to start small. Many ideas start out this way, driven by the basic desire to improve things. This was the goal ME4 Leong Hon Keong, from the Naval Diving Unit, and his team had in mind when they redesigned an outboard motor clamp that had been breaking frequently due to the rough sea conditions. They changed the thread screw from cast iron to stainless steel, which could better withstand the elements. The team also introduced a new design that made the clamp easier to operate. As a result, the NDU can now take their boats out to sea for longer periods of time, allowing them to maximise their training periods. Hon Keong’s team also spends significantly less time and money on maintenance. This simple innovation made a big difference, and was even eventually adopted by the original manufacturer of the motor clamp.
If you see something that works elsewhere, ask yourself if it can be adapted to our needs and scaled up. Good ideas and solutions may not be very far away. For example, our Army operates the BELREX, a combat support vehicle which is relatively new to our fleet – it was commissioned only about four years ago. We also have the BRONCO, a much older armoured vehicle. When the BRONCO’s display units were reaching obsolescence, ME4 Desmond Ang from HQ Maintenance and Engineering Support worked with the Defence Technology Community to adapt the BELREX’s electronic control and display unit for the BRONCO. By innovatively adapting components across platform types, they saved close to half a million in costs while maintaining the operational readiness of our Army’s vehicle fleet.
At the same time, our Military Expert corps must keep abreast of technological developments, and leverage new technical solutions. ME4 Chua Kai Chun and his team from 815 Squadron combined technological expertise and 3D printing technology to develop a low cost wingtip proximity sensor to detect obstacles during the towing of F-16 fighter jets – a job that used to take or have to be done by two servicemen, walking alongside and watching out for obstacles as the aircraft was being towed. Kai Chun’s innovation accrued 40% manpower savings for the aircraft towing operations, and the team is looking to adapt it for use on other aircraft types.
These are but some innovative solutions that your peers have developed. The SAF will look to you, our newly minted Senior Military Experts, to foster a culture of innovation in your units and departments. Continue to hone your expertise, and use your experience and expertise to develop cutting-edge solutions for the SAF.
Today, we celebrate your graduation, but also mark the start of a new chapter of your journey with the SAF. You are assuming your appointments at a critical juncture for Singapore. The SAF must face new challenges and adapt to new uncertainties, while at the same time ensuring that the SAF remains ever ready. As you begin your new roles, be deeply professional in your respective domains, lead and inspire men and women under your charge by setting high standards, and continue to innovate and adapt to bring the SAF forward. I wish you all the best in this new phase of your careers.
Once again, my heartfelt congratulations to all graduands of the 19th SAF Senior Military Expert Course.
Thank you and have a pleasant day.