NS experience enhancements include time-saving tech, increased allowanceA slew of new initiatives will be introduced to improve the National Service (NS) experience for every serviceman.
// Report by Thrina Tham
// Photos by PIONEER Photographers
The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) is enhancing the NS experience, said Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How during the Committee of Supply debate on the defence budget on 2 Mar, where he announced new benefits for pre-enlistees and servicemen.
"The enduring strength of NS ultimately rests on the commitment of our soldiers. This is why we are constantly looking to improve the NS experience for every serviceman," said Mr Heng.
Come 1 Mar, national servicemen across the SAF and Home Team will receive an increase of between $70 and $120 to their monthly NS allowance.
This is in order to recognise the contributions of our NS personnel, said Mr Heng.
The revised NS allowance includes a vocation allowance of at least $50. Those in selected combat vocations will receive up to $100 more for their vocation allowance, which will replace the current combat allowance.
To help pre-enlistees physically prepare for NS, MINDEF had collaborated with SAFRA to launch the Pre-Enlistees Exercise Programme for National Service (PREP4NS) last November.
This programme, which is on trial now, allows pre-enlistees to enjoy a one-year free membership at six SAFRA EnergyOne gyms across Singapore. MINDEF and the SAF is working with SportSG to extend PREP4NS to another 24 ActiveSG gyms.
More than 6,000 young men have signed up for the programme since its launch and 22-year-old Muhammad Nuh was one of them.
"I feel really lucky…(because) I was looking to sign up at a gym," said Mr Nuh, who is completing his Diploma in Green Building & Sustainability at Temasek Polytechnic this May.
"I heard from friends that NS is all about teamwork and I want to be able to keep up with training – to build up my stamina and be able to do push-ups, running and marching well."
Mr Nuh, who started PREP4NS at SAFRA Tampines three weeks ago, added that he is training three times a week at the gym. "I'm in better shape (since starting). It’s also great that the gym is near my house."
To support Full-Time National Servicemen (NSFs) in their learning journey, Electronic Pre-Release Employment Programme or E-PREP courses will now be fully subsidised, up from the current subsidy of 90 per cent of course fees.
These courses, which are under the SkillsFuture@NS scheme, are aimed at helping NSFs transit to studies or work after their NS.
The number of E-PREP courses offered will also be raised from 3,000 to 4,000 from 1 Apr; they range from SkillsFuture courses to courses offered by Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs). In addition, the number of courses that allow NSFs to obtain credit exemptions for future studies has increased from 26 to almost 100.
Two new IHLs – the National University of Singapore and Institute of Technical Education – have also come on board to offer E-PREP courses this year.
Enhancements will also be made to eServices on the NS Portal, where pre-enlistees will be able to complete online transactions more conveniently.
For example, bond and exit permit applications can soon be completed in a single online transaction, instead of separate applications.
These are part of the Smart CMPB (Central Manpower Base) initiative. When the initiative is fully implemented, pre-enlistees will be notified of their pre-enlistment application outcomes (such as for deferment and exit permit) up to 40 per cent more quickly.
Speaking at the Budget debate on 2 Mar, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen also announced the set-up of a high-level committee to look at In-Camp Training and the deployment of manpower for Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen).
Chaired by Deputy Secretary (Administration) Elaine Ng and Chief of Army Major-General Goh Si Hou, the committee will address the challenges of an impending manpower crunch while meeting the needs of a new generation of NSmen.
"The number of ICTs for each NSman will remain the same but we want to improve the outcome and efficiency of each ICT. For manpower…we do need to better match skills and aptitude of NSmen to their vocations, as well as to make training more focused on their operational roles," said Dr Ng.
During the Budget debate, Senior Minister of State for Defence Dr Mohamad Maliki bin Osman also announced the new SAFRA Family Scheme. By signing up for a family package, NSmen can enjoy SAFRA facilities with their dependants for a single subsidised fee.
"I believe that strong family and societal support for our national servicemen will motivate them to give their best when performing their duties," said Dr Maliki.