783 SIR is this year's Best NS UnitProfessionalism, commitment and a sense of purpose among their citizen soldiers – these are the qualities that led to 783 SIR's Best NS Unit award win in this year's SAF Best Unit Competition.
// Story by Teo Jing Ting
// Photos courtesy of 783 SIR
Going back for In-Camp Training (ICT) year after year requires commitment.
But the willingness to return even during a pandemic goes beyond just that. It is a combination of trust in the system, a sense of belonging, a desire to contribute and a willingness to serve a greater purpose.
Stepping up to serve
Last October, the Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) of 783rd battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment (783 SIR) turned up in full strength despite battling their own personal challenges in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the battalion's fifth ICT.
"Some of them were changing jobs or had lost their jobs; some were experiencing loss of income; others were starting their own families," recalled Corporal First Class (CFC) (NS) Sanjay S/O Krishnasamy, a section second-in-command from 783 SIR.
"There were also all of the safe distancing measures and restrictions, so everyone came in with lots of questions."
Still, they returned and were reassured by their trainers and the battalion that safe management measures were put in place. This gave the NSmen peace of mind, knowing that they were well-taken care of and were able to focus on their training.
For Major (MAJ) (NS) Fabian Tan, planning an ICT during a pandemic was no easy feat. Plans were changing all the time and multiple contingencies had to be catered for.
Face-to-face communication was disrupted and most of the discussions had to be done virtually. Despite these setbacks, MAJ (NS) Tan was grateful for the Army's support throughout the planning.
"There was constant and open communication, and we were always kept updated of any change in plans. That gave us time to plan ahead. Though it was challenging, the open dialogue made planning much smoother leading up to the ICT," said the Commanding Officer of 783 SIR.
Camaraderie and brotherhood
Apart from a sense of commitment, what kept the NSmen coming back for ICTs were the strong bonds of brotherhood forged over the years.
CFC (NS) Sanjay said: "Whenever we come back, we can share our problems with one another knowing that the person listening to your problems is not going to say anything about it to someone else. It is this confidence and trust knowing that we have each other's backs."
The 27-year-old, who works in the public service, added that some of the NSmen even offered to keep a lookout on available jobs to help those who had lost theirs during the pandemic.
"Times were quite challenging," said MAJ (NS) Tan. "People were worried about their jobs, their livelihood and they still have to deal with a two-week ICT. It's that commitment and professionalism, in spite of all these things, to make an effort to come back."
Doing our part
The 36-year-old lawyer shared that during the last ICT, he saw how the soldiers put in effort to ensure that their personal equipment was ready, even when doing routine activities such as the preparing of stores and vehicles.
They were also working late into the night to get things ready for the training and exercises. Morale was high and there were no complaints.
"The pandemic resulted in the training program becoming more spaced out, and the NSmen were working late and hard into the night just to ensure that the vehicles and equipment were ready at the battalion level," said MAJ (NS) Tan.
"This cohesion, dedication and commitment are the key ingredients to us winning the Best NS Unit award."
For CFC (NS) Sanjay, winning the award was a pleasant surprise. "Whenever we come back for ICT, there's always a sense of belonging and purpose. There was never a time that anybody gave less than 100 per cent, and it was always full commitment – from our active days to our ICTs.
"We are just doing our part for Singapore."