NS55 rounds off celebrations with integrated parade at The FloatThis is also the last parade to be held at The Float @ Marina Bay before redevelopment works to transform the area into NS Square begins next year.
Story by Teo Jing Ting // Photos by Chai Sian Liang
What are the chances of being able to graduate side by side in a military parade with your former teacher?
Recruit (REC) Lim Wee Hong did just that. The 20-year-old graduated alongside his former teacher 3rd Sergeant (3SG) (NS) Suhairi Bin Samsudin in an integrated parade at The Float @ Marina Bay on 26 Nov.
More than 4,300 recruits and NSmen took part
in the integrated Basic Military Training (BMT)
Graduation and MINDEF Reserve Parade, which
also marked the last of the celebrations marking
the 55th anniversary of National Service (NS55).
From one generation to the next
3SG (NS) Suhairi is a section commander from 906th Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (906 SIR); REC Lim, who was from 2nd Company, Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) School 4, just completed his BMT.
"It means a lot to me as I'm handing the flag over to my ex-student and it's also an assurance that the current generation will do their part in serving and protecting the nation," said 3SG (NS) Suhairi. The 37-year-old is a teacher in Orchid Park Secondary School.
"My hope is that the future generation also sees the importance of protecting the country and not take our safety for granted."
Duty to defend
For REC Lim, receiving the flag from his former teacher came with a great sense of responsibility.
"It is our time to shine. We are ready to be entrusted with the responsibility of protecting our nation," said REC Lim, who is considering a military career.
"Going through BMT has allowed me to appreciate the Army more – we should not take Singapore's security for granted as it is our duty to protect Singapore. Singapore's security was built on the sacrifices of our predecessors and it's now our turn to ensure that Singapore continues to be safe."
They were also joined by 350 Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) from 906 SIR, who had just completed their Operationally Ready NS training cycle.
This is the second time an integrated parade is held at The Float – the first was in 2014. It will be the last parade to be held at the area before it is redeveloped into the NS Square next year.
Safeguarding the future
Speaking at the parade, Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How noted: "As we commemorate 55 years of NS this year, we take pride in the national servicemen across generations who have contributed their time, strength, and unflinching dedication to serve and protect what we cherish…
"This is only made possible through the strong and sustained support from their families, friends, employers, colleagues, and the general public so that they are able to balance their NS duties with personal commitments."
Mr Heng also urged the graduands take up their duties with diligence. "What you do today and in the years to come will protect our families, our loved ones and preserve our way of life.
"As long as you remain committed, the SAF will continue to be a strong and reliable guarantor of the security and future of Singapore."
As the first in his family to serve NS, REC Kieran Charles Paul Davies experienced some culture shock when he enlisted. This was despite him living in Singapore since he was born.
"I thought I was pretty well-versed in the Singapore culture because I know a lot of Singaporeans but being in NS gave me a chance to really integrate with the Singaporean community," said the 18-year-old PR, whose parents are from UK and Ireland.
Having gone through three months of BMT in 4th Company, BMTC School 4, REC Kieran is proud to serve his NS and hopes to get into one of the command schools.
"NS is an opportunity to challenge myself and I'm not going to see it as something that I have to go through for two years."
For fellow graduand REC Thieneshkaar Mathiyalagan, his main takeaway from BMT was the bonds forged. He said that he would deeply miss the friends he had made over the past few months.
The 22-year-old from Dragon Company, BMTC School 1 shared that his BMT mates and him have been doing everything together for the past few months – from eating and resting, to helping one another to powder bath when they had to go without showering for days during outfield training.
"I will miss our talks during our free time and all the fun times we shared throughout our BMT journey."
He is also ready to take on the duty of defending and protecting Singapore.
"After going through NS, we feel more responsible about protecting Singapore because we are the new generation and the defence of Singapore lies in our hands."
The committed NSman
They can look to CPT (NS) James Er as a role model when it comes to being committed to NS duties. The 34-year-old has been returning for his In-Camp Training (ICT) call ups without fail even though he is based overseas. It's no easy sacrifice – CPT (NS) Er uses his own leave and pays for his flight to-and-fro Singapore to serve.
The source of his motivation is his men. "I've been with my men for five years before I left for Hong Kong and I want to finish the whole cycle with them."
"They also see a familiar face each time I return so I hope it gives them a sense of comfort and motivation to finish their training," said the Officer Commanding of Alpha Company in 906 SIR. He is currently a banker in HSBC.
"There are some things money cannot buy. The continuous friendship, the memories that I build together with my guys are worth much more that what it costs for me to come back."
Asked what advice he could give to the younger generation of soldiers and he said: "How you determine your NS experience is up to you. If you put in the effort and time, you'll realise that there is a lot that you can take away in areas of both friendships forged and skills gained that can help you in the future."