Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan at the 126/21 Officer Cadet Course Commissioning Parade at SAFTI Military Institute

Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan at the 126/21 Officer Cadet Course Commissioning Parade at SAFTI Military Institute

Graduands of the 126/21 Officer Cadet Course

Parents and loved ones of our Graduands

Ladies and Gentlemen


It is an honour to grace this joyous occasion that signifies the start of your journey as Officers of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

After nine months of gruelling training, you have proven yourself ready to be standing on this parade square. Today we recognise Singapore's trust in you to lead the next generation of our soldiers. As leaders of the SAF, you play a key role in defending Singapore and in lending your strength to our nation, as we emerge from the pandemic with multiple other challenges in front of us.


Singapore is a small, multi-racial, and multi-religious country at the heart of Southeast Asia. Our unique geography, our context, make us susceptible to an increasingly volatile, ambiguous, complex, and uncertain external environment. Prime Minister Lee at the recent National Day Rally described our troubled geopolitical landscape. With increased contestation and hostility between the great powers in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, the space for dialogue, for diplomacy, for cooperation has shrunk. Conversely, the risk of miscalculation and misunderstanding has increased.

Because we are a small country, we will always remain highly susceptible to external threats. For Singapore's survival and our well-being, the SAF must always be prepared to protect us from any potential aggressor. It is therefore imperative that we have a strong and credible SAF.

Exercises and training are important to ensure that the SAF remains relevant, nimble, ready and prepared to take on new security challenges. Earlier this year, the SAF successfully conducted an urban counter-terrorism exercise at Star Vista. The Special Operations Task Force, or SOTF in short, showed us how they can respond swiftly and neutralise the threats in a simulated hostage situation. A multi-agency exercise, Exercise Vigilant Shield, saw close cooperation between personnel from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and the Singapore Police Force in responding to a simulated aircraft hijack. The exercise served as a platform to validate our inter-agency linkages and capabilities for a Whole-of-Government approach to detect and respond to air threats.

The SAF is also resuming Exercise Wallaby in Shoalwater Bay Training Area in Queensland, Australia at full scale this year. Overseas training space allows the SAF to carry out large-scale realistic training and exposes our soldiers to new and challenging terrain. We must remember to never take our peace and stability for granted. An operationally ready SAF is absolutely critical to ensure the continued peace, prosperity and independence of Singapore.

The SAF has played an important role in strengthening defence relations with our partners. Amidst the current geopolitical uncertainties, it is especially important for militaries to maintain mutual trust and confidence, and to build up practical cooperation. The recent 16th ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting saw the adoption of the Joint Declaration on Defence Cooperation to Strengthen Solidarity for Harmonised Security. This declaration reaffirms countries' commitment to enhance strategic dialogue and practical defence cooperation within ASEAN.

The SAF also regularly participates in bilateral and multilateral exercises with other countries. For instance, earlier this year, the Army participated in Exercise Semangat Bersatu and Exercise Tiger Balm. The RSAF participated in Exercise Red Flag – Nellis and Exercise Red Flag – Alaska, and both the Army and Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) participated in Exercise Super Garuda Shield. The RSN also participated in the Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC Exercise in short. These bilateral and multilateral exercises continue to provide valuable opportunities for the SAF to benchmark ourselves, to collaborate, and share tactics, techniques and procedures with our international counterparts to strengthen long-standing ties and interoperability.


This year marks an important milestone as we commemorate 55 years of National Service and we honour the contributions of successive generations of NSmen. In fact, for many of us here, including those in the audience, you would have seen two - and sometimes even three - generations of family members and loved ones who have completed National Service. This milestone would not have been possible without the commitment of generations of Singaporeans who have proudly stood up to fulfil our duty.

The continued support and dedication from family, friends and loved ones during National Service plays a very important role in ensuring a strong SAF and keeping Singapore safe and secure. Singapore would not be where we are today without the collective support and commitment of every Singaporean to National Service. And we must build on this collective will, to look ahead, and ensure that NS is well-positioned to safeguard our precious way of life.


To the families and loved ones gathered here today, I thank you for your unwavering support to our graduands. The dedication and commitment shown by the servicemen and women of the SAF is only possible because of the steadfast support of our families and friends. This collective resolve ensures that we are prepared against any potential aggressors to safeguard Singapore's sovereignty.

Let me say as Singapore's Foreign Minister – I sleep much better at night and my day time tasks are much easier because I know we have a credible SAF. But let me also say as a father with three sons – I know how precious this sword and this shield is. So to the graduands, I wish you every success in your journey ahead. As leaders of the SAF, you have been entrusted with influence and responsibility for the lives of the men and women under your charge, and the success of your mission. You must be ready to adapt and lead, to communicate, to motivate your men on the importance of defending Singapore's safety and sovereignty. In these tumultuous times, continue to give your best in everything you do for your country. It is imperative that you never take our peace, sovereignty and independence for granted.

May the Officer's Creed continue to guide you in your future endeavours, as you uphold your duty to Lead, Excel, and Overcome.

Thank you.

Suggested Articles