Chairman and Members of the NCC Council, Principals, teachers, NCC cadets, ladies and gentlemen.
Good evening. It is a pleasure to join you at the celebration of the 120th Anniversary of the National Cadet Corps, or NCC.
Upholding Honour and Respect
Congratulations on this significant milestone. The theme for today's celebration – "Honour Our Past, Inspire Our Future" – captures the essence of the work that you are doing.
It is truly remarkable that NCC's founding spans more than a century – even before Singapore's independence. Through the years, the cadet corps has developed many generations of leaders in Singapore. In 1927, a young man named Yusof Ishak became the first student cadet to be commissioned as a Cadet Lieutenant. He would later become the first President of the Republic of Singapore. Other distinguished alumni within your ranks include Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean and former Minister Lim Hng Kiang.
But the cadet corps was more than just a school programme. Many of you may not be aware that our cadets had their mettle tested during World War II. Many brave young men joined the Singapore Volunteer Corps to defend their families and our country. Some ultimately sacrificed their lives for our nation.
Singapore is free from war today. But peace must never be taken for granted. We are a tiny city state defying the odds of history. So, we must stand united by a common vision, subscribe to the same founding values, and strive to do right by one another.
In 1966, during our first National Day celebration, then-PM Lee Kuan Yew reiterated his belief that Singapore needed a resilient and robust society. Mr Lee and our pioneer leaders believed that a rugged society and a credible defence force were essential for the survival of Singapore.
We implemented compulsory military conscription in 1967. But our national defence efforts needed to begin before youths enlisted for military service. In January 1969, the NCC was formally established. And the NCC Act of April 1973 underscored its importance as a national institution.
Today, NCC is the largest youth Uniformed Group in Singapore. It has 145 units in schools, and over 11,000 members in total. Its mission is to nurture inspiring leaders and committed citizens.
Staying Relevant and Inspiring
The NCC has played a key role in providing our youths with opportunities for leadership development. On top of adventurous, rugged, military-related activities, you have also taught your cadets to be sensitive to the needs of our community.
Take for instance, Secondary 4 student Lin Chao Wei from Bartley Secondary School. Chao Wei was the Unit Sergeant Major and Freestyle Drills instructor. To improve himself, he often seeks guidance from his teachers and feedback from his peers. Besides juggling his studies and CCA, Chao Wei also volunteers at the Care Community Services Society. He would spend time at different care centres, interacting with children and the elderly. Today, he has earned the rank of Master Sergeant. Well done, Chao Wei!
Aside from character building, today's NCC curriculum also allows cadets to pick up skills for their lives beyond school. Take for example, the Quadcopter Drone Programme. It teaches cadets the principles of flight and the use of drones to solve problems in both civilian and military contexts.
Like many school programmes and activities, NCC was not spared from the impact of COVID-19. The pandemic prevented the mass drills and games that our Uniformed Groups enjoy. But I am heartened that the NCC has found innovative ways to engage the cadets – thanks to the hard work of our teacher officers, staff officers and volunteers. When face-to-face CCA was suspended, they developed online training packages, and conducted virtual CCA sessions, so that our cadets continue to benefit from NCC's programmes.
Many cadets – seeing their teachers' efforts – stepped forward to guide their juniors during Home-Based Learning, while looking out for one another's well-being.
That is why our teachers hold themselves to high standards of behaviour; they are important role models for our students. Some of our teacher officers will be receiving awards later today. One of the awardees is Mr Ganesan Thiruvalluvan from Loyang View Secondary. He has served the NCC for 30 years and was an NCC Sea cadet during his school days. For him, the NCC is an important platform to nurture character in students. He often spends time to coach his cadets and share his personal experiences. He truly embodies the NCC motto: To Serve with Pride and Dedication.
To our teacher officers, thank you for contributing time and energy in support of the NCC and our cadets in school. And to all of you, thank you for serving our community and our nation.
I wish NCC all the best in the journey ahead!