Servicemen mark SAF Day amid COVID-19
// Story Thrina Tham
// Photos Chua Soon Lye, Ong Ji Xuan & Clement Goh
For the first time, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) held a virtual ceremony this morning to commemorate SAF Day.
The event included a ceremony held at SAFTI Military Institute (SAFTI MI) - in place of the usual parade - along with 60 civilian organisations and SAF units joining in over video conference and social media livestreaming. This was in view of the COVID-19 situation this year.
Delivering the SAF Day Message at the ceremony, Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen noted that the SAF plays a "crucial role in our nation's road to recovery" from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Citing the SAF's efforts in mask packing and distribution; contract tracing; health surveillance; and managing quarantine facilities for patients, Dr Ng said that "these were not tasks that SAF soldiers had been trained for, but nonetheless our men and women rose to the occasion and successfully completed every mission assigned".
"Because of their professionalism and dedication, and close collaborations with other contributing agencies, Singapore's public healthcare system has been preserved and many Singaporean lives were saved," he added.
Dr Ng also noted that "in these uncertain times, the SAF must be strong and vigilant to safeguard Singapore's interests and protect Singaporeans against harm".
"Just as we did against COVID-19, the SAF must respond quickly and decisively against new and unexpected threats that will come our way...A strong SAF provides that solid foundation (for Singaporeans) to look forward to a brighter future."
At the ceremony, Dr Ng presented the State Colours to this year's Best Combat Unit - 1st Commando Battalion - while Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General (LG) Melvyn Ong, led SAF personnel in reciting the SAF pledge.
The chairman of the organising committee of the SAF Day ceremony, Brigadier-General (BG) Ho Yung Peng, noted that video conferencing and social media livestreaming allowed servicemen everywhere to participate in the event.
"Even though we are physically separated, may we always be united in our dedication to serve and protect our country," said BG Ho, 47, who is also Commander, Air Power Generation Command.
Over at the Association of Small & Medium Enterprises (ASME), Mr Eric Tan led a small rededication ceremony, which he said was meaningful in instilling the importance of defence among businesses.
"We find this year's broadcast fresh and completely different. But (of course,) we still hope that (the nation) can get through COVID-19 and we can return to our usual ceremony," he said.
The ASME has been organising SAF Combined Rededication Ceremonies since 2008, and saw 400 participants at last year's event.
As the Chief Executive Officer of GSK Global, Mr Tan, 52, said that companies must integrate National Service (NS) as part of their business strategy and culture.
For example, GSK Global allows mothers to take an off-day if their sons are facing issues in NS which require their help. This is part of encouraging both female and male employees to take NS seriously, said Mr Tan.
For Ms Sunitha M, 30, who joined her colleagues in the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for their rededication ceremony for the first time, the event was an enriching experience.
Said the Business Advisory Manager: "I think NS is very important in Singapore."
"We all know why (NS) is very crucial for a small nation like ours; (through) having security and defence, everything else will be in place."