Recognising NSmen for their commitment to defence
// REPORT by Thrina Tham
// PHOTOS by Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of interviewees
At the Republic of Singapore Navy's (RSN) first International Maritime Review last year, Missile Corvette RSS Vengeance was among the fleet of naval ships from around the world.
Something made it stand out from the rest at sea – it was the only vessel to be fully operated by Operationally-Ready National Servicemen (NSmen).
"It was a proud moment to be deployed and anchored alongside other ships from all over the world," said its Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) (NS) Chiu Eng Tatt. Marking the RSN's 50th year, a total of 46 warships and four aircraft from 21 countries took part in the review.
The 50-year-old's guiding principles for his team was simple. "We do what we need to do safely, properly and we finish it on time," said the ST Electronics' Head of Digital Defence Business Unit.
With this philosophy, LTC (NS) Chiu led his crew to win the Best Naval NS Unit title for the last two years in 2016 and 2017.
For his contributions towards National Service (NS), LTC (NS) Chiu was among 224 Key Appointment Holders, ROVERS and Volunteers who were recognised at an appreciation dinner held at Temasek Club on 18 May.
ROVERS are NSmen who serve beyond their NS training cycle, which they have completed, but have not reached the statutory age. Volunteers are NSmen who serve beyond their statutory age (40 years old for NS Warrant Officers and Specialists, 50 years old for NS Officers).
Speaking at the ceremony, Chief of Army Brigadier-General (BG) Goh Si Hou thanked the recipients for serving the nation over and beyond their call of duty.
"The strength of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is drawn from your commitment to defence and NS…and your strong commitment has ensured Singapore's security and success for the past 50 years."
BG Goh also highlighted NSmen who have contributed with their civilian expertise. He cited Major (MAJ) (Dr) (NS) Mathew Cheng who volunteered for an SAF deployment to Afghanistan in 2010 – the first time an NSman had participated in such a mission. "Stories like this show that there are many ways to make a difference and contribute to the nation," noted BG Goh.
MAJ (Dr) (NS) Cheng, 50, said that volunteering for the 3-month long deployment was an easy decision.
"The job we needed to do was real, there's a war zone out there and we had to treat casualties in a professional manner…The SAF (needed) someone who was experienced enough to handle the various kinds of injuries, especially blast injuries," said the orthopaedic surgeon who has been in practice for more than 20 years.
For another NSman, Staff Sergeant (SSG) (NS) Toh Hong Seng, volunteering meant that he could help his unit ease into a new sensor system.
"I voiced out concerns for the NSmen who are still using the old system during their ICT (In-Camp Training) and shared that they should remain in their units yet go for training on the new system," said the 48-year-old Head of Department in a secondary school. He is a Flight Warrant Officer in the Republic of Singapore Air Force's 160 Squadron, which is a Ground Based Air Defence unit.
When asked what advice that he would give to NSmen who are thinking of volunteering, LTC (NS) Devendran Selvarajoo Thevar said: "As we volunteer, we must be prepared to embrace changes too.
"Change is a constant and the SAF must continue to evolve," said the Deputy Head Planner, Liaison Cell in GS(Ops).
The 55-year-old Chief Executive Officer of charitable organisation Sree Narayana Mission added that he enjoyed serving because of the life-long bonds and camaraderie forged from his time in the SAF.