Winning hearts and minds – the way ahead for new specialists

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23 May 2019 | MILESTONES

Winning hearts and minds – the way ahead for new specialists

// Report by Koh Eng Beng

// Photos by Kenneth Lin

English 华文

An ambulance arrived at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, ferrying an unconscious man who had suffered a heart attack. His condition was critical: he had stopped breathing.

As the doctors prepared for treatment, then-specialist cadet Muhammad Thaftazzani swung into action to conduct cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR.

"It was a real situation where I had to treat a real patient, applying what I had learnt in my training," said 3rd Sergeant (3SG) Thaftazzani, a combat medic specialist in the Army.

The Full-time National Serviceman (NSF) was undergoing a five-day attachment at the hospital's Accident and Emergency department as part of his medic training in April this year.

Unfortunately, the patient did not survive.

"It made me realize the fragility of life, and the importance of what I do as a combat medic," he said. His role as a combat medic specialist is to provide treatment for wounded soldiers at the battalion casualty station, a first-aid station at the frontline.

3SG Thaftazzani was among the 1,000 specialist cadets who graduated as specialists on 23 May at a parade held at Pasir Laba Camp.

The parade marked the completion of the 22-week Specialist Cadet Course, in which troops trained under realistic and rigorous conditions to develop vocational, combat and leadership skills.

For his outstanding performance in the course, 3SG Thaftazzani received the Golden Bayonet, given to the top 10 percent of the graduating cohort.

He will soon take on his dream posting – to be an instructor at the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Medical Training Institute.

The 19-year-old, who has a keen interest in medicine, hopes to join the Singapore Civil Defence Force as a paramedic after completing his National Service (NS), and eventually pursue further studies to become a doctor.

Playing an Important role

The graduating cohort comprised 872 specialist cadets from the Army, 72 from the Navy and 56 from the Air Force.

These newly minted specialists have the important role of leading their soldiers to defend the country, said Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General (LG) Melvyn Ong, who reviewed the parade.

In his address to the graduands, he said: "You shoulder the responsibility of leading and inspiring the soldiers under you to safeguard and ensure Singapore's sovereignty. Ensure that they train well, learn their craft and do it safely... And, above all, lead by example."

Winning hearts

LG Ong's message strongly resonated with 3SG Hari Haran s/o Jayakumar, 24, who signed on during his basic military training.

As a supply specialist, he ensures that his unit has all the necessary supplies like ammunition, rations as well as communication and medical equipment before moving out for a mission.

The amount of supplies to be transported is massive, and he has to rely on the help and cooperation of the storemen as well as the troops.

"For supply supervisors, our men are important because we can't complete the tasks on our own," said 3SG Hari, who has a diploma in supply chain management from Republic Polytechnic.

He gained valuable leadership experience when he was tasked to lead a company of fellow trainees. It was challenging as it was only the first week of the training and he had hardly got to know them.

On how he would motivate his men, the Golden Bayonet holder said: "We have to always empathise with them and look out for their welfare."

Enriching NS

For 3SG Lim Tao Wen, who will be deployed to a Landing Ship Tank as a weapons specialist, he is looking forward to sailing to other countries for ports of call.

So far, most of his training has been done on shore or on board ships docked at the naval base.

"Life on board a ship (for an extended period) will be a whole new experience, and there's a lot of new things for me to learn," said the 21-year-old NSF.

He is looking forward to the live firing of the powerful OTO Melara 76mm Gun. As a weapons specialist, he operates a variety of weapons such as this naval gun. 

Before he enlisted for NS, 3SG Lim did not know much about the Navy. But the training so far has helped him to understand its importance and the higher purpose of his role.

"Singapore is surrounded by water; the Navy is our first line of defence against any intrusion and we have to be (on watch) for possible threats." 

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