2020: SAF Year in ReviewWhile many may be glad to say goodbye to 2020, there has been some bright spots in this rollercoaster of a year. PIONEER takes a look back at positive and uplifting MINDEF/SAF stories as Singapore soldiers trudge on through the COVID-19 pandemic.
// Story Sherlyn Quek
// Photos PIONEER photographers
United in the COVID-19 fight
Thousands of personnel from the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) answered the call of duty in joining national efforts to combat the virus.
From contact tracing and mask distribution to setting up facilities and providing testing and medical care, the defence community took up critical roles behind the scenes as well as on the front-lines to curb the COVID-19 outbreak and save lives.
Selected SAF camps – such as Jurong, Bedok, Amoy Quee, Guillemard, Tanjong Gul and Lim Chu Kang – were converted into Community Recovery Facilities to provide accommodation and care for COVID-19 patients.
Full-time National Servicemen from all three Services stepped up and volunteered to contribute to COVID-19 operations, some even going the extra mile to extend their National Service (NS).
Heartwarming appreciation: Mr Naresh Palla, a migrant worker from India, expressed his gratitude in a letter of thanks to the medical and management teams at the Changi Exhibition Centre Community Care Facility for providing accommodation and medical care.
Adapting to the new normal
Even as servicemen and women stepped up to contribute in COVID-19 operations, the SAF did not compromise on security operations.
In the midst of the pandemic, units continued to perform critical operations – such as island defence, maritime security, air defence and counter-terrorism – to safeguard Singapore.
Both local and overseas training have also gradually resumed, with strict safety measures in place, as Singapore and countries across the globe adapted to the new normal.
This year, special arrangements were also made for a one-of-a-kind National Day Parade, bringing the celebrations closer to home for all Singaporeans
Since the resumption of Basic Military Training on 26 May after a seven-week suspension, recruits have kept up high training standards while adhering to safety measures such training in smaller groups.
Overseas training resumed gradually, with the Republic of Singapore Navy taking part in the multilateral Rim of the Pacific exercise off the coast of Hawaii, US in August, which was held entirely at sea with no physical contact among the various navies’ crews. (Next photo) In October, the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) deployed aircraft and personnel to Darwin, Australia for a two-month detachment.
This year's NDP forged ahead by bringing celebrations closer to home – from the mobile column (next photo) to an F-15SG flypast paying tribute to front-line workers (third photo), to firework displays (last photo) across the heartlands.
Reaching new heights
These inspirational servicemen and women showed that you can achieve your dreams through tenacity and a can-do spirit.
Even when rejected from medical school twice, Corporal (NS) Tan Ying Li never gave up. After honing his life-saving and emergency treatment skills during NS, the commando medic landed a spot in NUS to study medicine on his third application attempt. "I took the two years in NS to improve myself and gain more experience. It's very important to not take failure as a setback, but as an opportunity for self-improvement."
She's the first female medical officer to complete the gruelling Guards Conversion Course. For Captain (Dr) Ng Chen Hui, battalion medical officer of the Army Deployment Force, it's all about mind over matter. "Physical fitness can always be trained. For those who want to sign on (with the SAF), you just need to be clear about what your goal is. Are you here to serve? If you are, then a lot of these concerns are secondary. You must have faith in yourself and believe that you can do it."
Trailblazer: Lieutenant Christabel Chai did Singapore proud when she graduated among the top of her cohort in the United States Air Force Academy in April. The Air Warfare Officer in the RSAF created history by being the first female from Southeast Asia and the SAF to be selected for the highly competitive programme, which has an acceptance rate of only 10 per cent. "It has been four years of blood, sweat, and tears leading up to that very moment when I could honour Singapore...on the world stage, and show...what our little red dot is capable of."