MINDEF volunteers bring diverse expertise

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24 Aug 2018 | COMMUNITY

MINDEF volunteers bring diverse expertise

// Report by Teo Jing Ting

// Photos by Kenneth Lin

English Melayu

Demystify National Service (NS).
 
That is what Mr Christopher James Edwards has been doing since becoming a member of the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (ACCORD) (Main) and (Educational Institutions). 
 
The 54-year-old Head of College for United World College South East Asia (UWCSEA) often organised gatherings for pre-enlistees and their parents, together with Full-Time National Servicemen (NSFs) as well as Operationally-Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) to talk through some of the fears and concerns that his students may have about NS.
 
"Sometimes, it is as simple as providing factual information about NS. Or addressing concerns of how a new Singapore citizen, who does not speak a word of Mandarin, can fit into NS."
 
Apart from parents and his students, Mr Edwards also made it his mission to educate the international community about NS.
 
"A lot of them don't know anything about NS so we had senior teachers from the major international schools coming together, to give talks and raise the level of awareness about NS."
 
For his commitment and contributions towards Singapore's defence, Mr Edwards was among the 286 volunteers recognised at the annual MINDEF Volunteers' Dinner hosted by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen at the Marina Mandarin Hotel on 24 Aug. 
 
The volunteers, who come from the public and private sectors, serve on 39 boards and committees in the Ministry of Defence. Dr Ng also presented 82 certificates of appointment and re-appointment to volunteers at the event.
 
During the dinner, Dr Ng thanked the volunteers and emphasised their invaluable contributions towards national defence. He said: "The strength of our nation is ultimately only as strong as each citizen's dedication to the vision and idea of Singapore.
 
"As volunteers, you both embody and express those values of nationhood that make our nation strong." 
 
For Ms Joanna Portilla, 47, the idea of the Women's Boot Camp came from the Dads for Life Camp@Army Open House 2017 event where fathers got to bond with their children over a camping experience.
 
The ACCORD (Family and Community) member then decided to organise an event specially for the females to better appreciate NS.
 
To be held at Maju Camp on 1 and 2 Sep, the inaugural boot camp will see women going through NS activities such as a 3km route march, handling the Singapore Assault Rifle 21 and eating combat rations.
 
"Our primary reason (of organising the camp) was for women to get a feel of what their husbands, boyfriends or sons go through. But after talking to them, we realised that some of the younger participants also wanted to experience a slice of military life before signing-on."
 
Since its announcement on 17 Jul, more than 1,000 women have signed up for the camp with the youngest participant being 13 years old and the oldest, 64. However, only 100 spots were available and a ballot had to be held.
 
Given the overwhelming interest, Ms Portilla also intends to organise a one-day experiential tour to a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) camp for those who were not selected.
 
"Times have changed - women are more interested in NS. They feel that NS is a must for our defence. In fact, many mothers are now supporting their daughters (if) they want to go for NS training."

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