Servicemen Reaffirm Commitment to Defence on SAF DayThe SAF celebrates its birthday and commemorates NS55 with combined rededication ceremonies in the morning and the resumption of a full-scale parade in the evening.
// Story by Teo Jing Ting
// Photos by Kenneth Lin
Close to 500 Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) from 460 companies and their employers reaffirmed their commitment to the defence of Singapore, in the morning of 1 Jul on Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day.
The SAF Day combined rededication ceremonies were held across the island at Temasek Polytechnic, Procter and Gamble Singapore Innovation Center, Trade Association Hub and Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre.
In his SAF Day message, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen reminded Singaporeans of the need for a strong SAF to safeguard Singapore’s peace and sovereignty.
This is especially important amid uncertain times as the war in Ukraine continues and the countries become increasingly divided.
"The world at large is at a dangerous point of history, and the SAF must be prepared for all eventualities… We have trained hard for many years to become a modern and capable military," he said.
"Whether for the Army, Navy, Air Force and soon the Digital and Intelligence Service, capabilities have been systematically built up so that we stand ready and able to defend all of Singapore’s borders – on air, land, sea and in cyberspace."
Dr Ng, who delivered his annual message at Temasek Polytechnic, also paid tribute to the contributions of NSmen as the nation marks 55 years of National Service (NS55) this year.
Participating businesses and organisations pledged their support for NS through the NS Mark Accreditation Scheme during the ceremonies.
"We take pride that NSmen are the backbone of national defence – ordinary citizens each performing an extraordinary role to defend those they love and our way of life in our home," said Dr Ng.
He added: "I am confident that every man or woman in the SAF will do his or her utmost to assure their family, friends, and members of the public that the SAF can be depended on to defend Singapore and her interests."
Resumption of full-scale parade
Celebrations for the SAF Day continued into the evening with a full-scale physical parade at SAFTI Military Institute (SAFTI MI).
This is the first time the SAF Day Parade is back in full force since the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago. It was officiated by President Halimah Yacob and attended by more than 2,000 servicemen.
During the parade, President Halimah presented the State Colours to this year's Best Combat Unit – 1st Commando Battalion – while Dr Ng presented 29 Best Unit and Best National Service Unit awards.
Dr Ng also presented NSman of the Year awards to 19 NSmen at a post-parade ceremony in recognition of their contributions.
Among them is LTC (NS) Graham Gerard Ong-Webb, who is receiving his second NSman of the Year award. He first received it during NS50 (50th anniversary of National Service) in 2017.
What the Brigade Chief-of-Staff from Headquarters (HQ) 54th Singapore Armoured Brigade (54 SAB) holds dear is the time spent with his brothers-in-arms.
"For me, the precious moments have never been about any particular training or course, but the people I've been with. It's about my brothers serving NS with me – literally being in trenches, doing field exercises and going through thick and thin together," said LTC (NS) Graham.
The 47-year-old is the Vice President and head of the Future Technology Centre in the Group Technology Office of Singapore Technologies Engineering.
"This is what it means to be a national serviceman, and that brings me a lot of joy and fulfilment."
The resumption of a physical SAF Day Parade has allowed him to catch up with his fellow buddies face to face – an opportunity where he no longer takes for granted.
"There's so many of us and you can't see everyone at the same time. But the SAF Day Parade is one of those moments where you can do that… And that's what we are all looking forward to."
Receiving the award this year during NS55 was especially memorable for MAJ (NS) Muhammad Fazli Bin Zulkifli.
The 35-year-old S3 from 2nd Combat Support Hospital (2 CSH) was among those who were tasked to set up the Community Care Facility at the Singapore Expo when the pandemic first struck in 2020.
Despite becoming a father merely three months ago then, MAJ (NS) Fazli readily answered the call of duty.
The design and aesthetic teacher from Beatty Secondary School even phoned and rallied his fellow NSmen to join him for the two-week In-camp Training (ICT). The team cared for many COVID-19 patients, most of whom were migrant workers.
Even after his soldiers completed their ICT, MAJ (NS) Fazli extended his service for another two weeks to oversee the handover process to his successor from 8 CSH.
While he's appreciative of the award, what matters most to the father-of-two is seeing his soldiers enjoy their ICT.
"Whatever I do, I do it with sincerity and I do it for my men. I want to ensure that I'm answerable for their training and most importantly, for them to enjoy coming into ICT. That is my greatest fulfilment."
For 1st Warrant Officer (1WO) (NS) Surindranath S/O Kaseenthanan, it was a privilege for him to receive the award after 25 years of service.
Of course, even without the award, he would still serve the nation to the best of his abilities, said the 47-year-old Brigade Sergeant Major from HQ 56 SAB.
On top of his work, family and NS commitments, he actively volunteers in his free time by caring for foreign workers. And as the secretary of SAFRA Toa Payoh's Executive Committee, he plans activities that enhance the experience of NSmen and their families.
"Family is an important component of the soldier's life. (Having their) support and well-being is very important for soldiers (so they can) go and have a stress-free training," said the father-of-two.
1WO (NS) Surindranath, who is an administration manager in Kheng Cheng School, also feels that this year of NS55 is especially significant for NSmen.
"When we serve NS, we all come together and go through challenges together… It binds us and forges a lot of bonds," said 1WO (NS) Surindranath.
"NS has essentially become a fabric of our society and it is our story."