President Halimah Yacob hosted over 400 personnel from the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to a reception at the Istana this evening. First held in 1992, the annual reception serves to recognise the commitment of MINDEF and SAF personnel, and their valuable contributions towards the defence of Singapore.
During the reception, President Halimah interacted with Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen), Full-time National Servicemen, Regulars, Defence Executive Officers and SAF Volunteer Corps volunteers. They shared their perspectives on 55 years of National Service (NS55) and the need for a strong defence, based on their various experiences and roles in MINDEF and the SAF. These ranged from participation in bilateral and overseas exercises to balancing National Service (NS) duties with personal commitments.
Senior Lieutenant Colonel (NS) Halmie Bin Hussein Mattar, Commander 24th Singapore Infantry Brigade, said, "NS is about shared experiences and stories – 55 years worth of stories. It is amazing that such NS stories could bond Singaporean sons and can be passed from generation to generation. My late father used to share with me his NS experiences in the Army over 50 years ago. One day, it will be my turn to share the same stories with my son when he undergoes NS. Our pioneers have sacrificed a lot so that we may enjoy the benefits of staying in this country. We should never take the peace and stability in Singapore for granted. I am proud, together with my fellow NSmen, to continue serving and doing our duty in protecting Singapore."
Major (NS) Navin Joseph Lobo, Deputy Cell Head, 3rd Singapore Division, said, "I am deeply honoured to be invited to the Presidential Garden Reception, especially in the year that we commemorate NS55. We are all indebted to those who have faithfully and selflessly contributed to National Service these past 55 years. Our country reaps the benefits of their efforts and my own NS journey has been deeply fulfilling. On this significant milestone year of NS55, I am reminded that we all have a role to play in national defence, so that our loved ones and future generations can enjoy peace and security well into the future."
The MINDEF/SAF personnel also shared their experiences in supporting COVID-19 operations in the past two years. Captain (NS)(Dr) Tan Yeow Boon, Staff Officer Operations, Headquarters Military Medical Institute, said, "I am honoured to be able to contribute and do my part to the nation’s defence – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a challenging period, but with the mentorship and guidance from my commanders, I was able develop and utilise my skill set as a doctor and grow as a leader through my duties. It is important for us to work hard and work together to keep Singaporeans safe and protected."
Guests present at the reception included Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen, Senior Ministers of State for Defence Mr Heng Chee How and Mr Zaqy Mohamad, Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong, Chief of Air Force Major-General (MG) Kelvin Khong, Chief of Army MG David Neo, as well as senior MINDEF and SAF officers. Members of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs (GPC-DFA), the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (ACCORD) and the SAF Veteran League also attended the reception.