Last September, 103 women "booked in" to Maju Camp to take part in the first Women's Boot Camp. The women took on weapon handling, a route march and the tasting of field rations to better understand what their brothers, husbands and sons go through during National Service (NS).
Following the success of the two-day camp, a second edition will be held from 7 to 8 Sep this year.
Operationally Ready National Servicemen, or NSmen, can also look forward to the "We Support NS" campaign that will start on 1 Jul, in which merchants and hawkers offer discounts and promotions to show their appreciation for NSmen's contributions to defence.
These are some of the initiatives that were introduced or built upon by the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence (ACCORD), a council established by the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) to strengthen community support for NS and defence.
Co-chaired by Senior Ministers of State for Defence Heng Chee How and Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman, the ACCORD council engages the community through its three sub-councils: Employer and Business, Family and Community and Educational Institutions.
From student to military life
It is typical for young boys to get nervous before they enter Basic Military Training, the start of their full-time NS.
To prepare students for this transition, ACCORD has worked with polytechnics and ITE colleges to hold alumni-sharing sessions for graduates to share their NS experiences.
"We find that this has been very meaningful in making sure that we prepare our students before their enlistment," said Principal of ITE College East Dr Yek Tiew Ming, member of the ACCORD Educational Institutions council.
"The graduates are around the same age as the students, so they are better able to communicate their experience and share their concerns," said Dr Yek.
The educational institutions have also introduced fitness programmes to prepare their boys for their Individual Physical Proficiency Test and the rigorous training in NS. For example, ITE Colleges had implemented compulsory fitness programmes to prepare their students for IPPT.
My NS, my family and me
Strengthening community support for NS is another area that ACCORD looks into through their Family and Community council.
This has resulted in efforts such as the Dads for Life camp held at the 2017 Army Open House.
"The camp was a good chance for a father-and-child experience; there were activities and story-telling time for the child to understand what the father does when he goes off for NS," said Mr Charles Ng, who helped organise the camp and is serving his second term on the council.
As part of his role in ACCORD, Mr Ng also volunteered as a facilitator at the first Women's Boot Camp held last year, where he saw that many women were interested to find out what the men go through during NS.
"The women asked what they could do to better the experience for their husbands, boyfriends and sons…I got the sense that the level of support from them is very strong," recalled the chief financial officer of luxury chain Club 21, who serves as Deputy Assistant Commissioner of Police in NS.
He added: "Safety was also a key issue raised and through this experiential learning, we wanted to give them the assurance that training safety is the top priority where the SAF is concerned."
Support for NSmen
ACCORD also looks into better ways to engage the business community through its Employer and Business Council. This has resulted in initiatives such as NS Mark accreditation, which encourages companies to pledge support for their NSman employees.
Organisations that have a higher level of support for NS, such as those that have implemented NS-friendly policies and Human Resource practices, may systematically progress to attain the NS Mark (Gold) accreditation and NS Advocate award.
For new ACCORD member Dr Claus Trenner, President of the Singapore – German Chamber of Industry & Commerce, his role in the Employer and Business Council would provide him with insights to better understand NS-related issues and provide networking opportunities for further engagement on NS advocacy.
He added that ACCORD visits to various SAF and Home Team units have helped him to gain a deeper understanding of the role of NSmen in the country's security.
"I was impressed to see how the NSmen complemented the Regulars in their duty and how they take up important roles in the force," he said to PIONEER during an ACCORD visit to Singapore Police Force's (SPF's) Protective Security Command In-situ Reaction Teams on 27 May
ACCORD was established in January 1984 as a channel for the community to provide feedback on issues concerning Singapore's defence. It was restructured in 2014 to focus on deepening engagement through its sub-councils.