Never take Total Defence for granted

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21 Nov 2023 | PEOPLE

Never take Total Defence for granted

//Story by Donahue Foo & Teo Jing Ting / Photos by Chai Sian Liang & courtesy of interviewees

English 华文

From sharing stories of living in a war-torn country to joining the SAFVC and giving NSmen time off for ICT – these are what former actor Ix Shen and company CEO SV2 Varun Ramdas do to advocate the importance of NS and Total Defence.

Mr Shen (left) and SV2 Ramdas strongly believe in the importance of NS and Total Defence.

A familiar face to Singaporeans back in the 2000s, former actor Ix Shen has been in the limelight recently for a much more sombre reason: witnessing and sharing his experiences of the Russia-Ukraine war.

The 51-year-old had moved to Ukraine in October 2021, and was there during the invasion in February 2022.

Three weeks after the war started, he evacuated to Poland with his Ukrainian wife. He then later returned to the war-torn country on various occasions to help with humanitarian aid as part of a volunteer group.

Taken by his wife in February 2022, this is a photo of Mr Shen and his cat finding solace in each other amid the war. [Photo: N Borodina]

Sharing his experience in the Ukraine war

Currently back in Singapore, he has been actively sharing his experience during the war as well as his takeaways with various community groups and the public service.

Since then, more than 1,400 people have benefitted from his sharing. Mr Shen has had students asking him many questions – from what happened during the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war to what happens during a food shortage, and how to protect themselves from those situations.

Taken along the siege of Kyiv, this photo shows a war-torn scenario Mr Shen encountered during his journey delivering humanitarian supplies to a village in April 2022. [Photo: Mr Shen]

Sharing his key takeaway from his time in Ukraine, Mr Shen said: "It's very easy to take Total Defence for granted and slip into the mentality that it is always someone's problem.

"Because if you think someone else is going to solve it for you, another person will have the same thought."

Asked if he had any words of advice for Singaporeans to take Total Defence seriously, the former guardsman said that it could be as simple as taking an interest in regional or international geopolitics, and getting the right information from credible sources.

Mr Shen (left) receiving his NS Advocate Award for Individuals from Minister of State for Home Affairs and Social and Family Development Sun Xueling.

Never take peace for granted

Mr Shen is also thankful that Singapore's founding generation had the foresight to set up Total Defence.

"Having lived through war, I really marveled at the foresight of our founding generation to set up Total Defence because they knew that, after decades of peace and prosperity, it is easy (for Singaporeans) to lose orientation.

"Total Defence is important and we should never take it for granted."

Appreciating advocates of NS

Mr Shen was among the 218 award recipients who received the National Service (NS) Advocate Awards at the annual Total Defence Awards Ceremony, held at Raffles City Convention Centre on 20 Nov.

The NS Advocate Award is the highest accolade conferred on businesses, organisations and individuals in recognition of their exemplary support toward Total Defence and NS.

The awards were presented to 113 small and medium enterprises (SMEs), 40 large companies, 46 organisations and 19 individuals at the ceremony this year.

SV2 Ramdas (left) receiving the NS Advocate Award (Small and Medium Enterprise) from Senior Minister of State for Defence Zaqy Mohammad at the ceremony.

The importance of defence is something that SAFVC Volunteer (SV) 2 Varun Ramdas strongly believes in.

For example, he gives his NSman (operationally ready national serviceman) employees days off before and after their In-Camp Trainings (ICTs).

This is so that they can get ample rest before their annual call-ups, and return to work or go for ICTs with peace of mind. These days off are not part of the employees' annual leave.

"We want to give them enough rest because they have to plan things with their families before going for ICTs and get themselves reoriented before they come back to work," said the 41-year-old Chief Executive Officer of Fisk Tech Pte Ltd, a Singapore-based commercial diving company.

SV2 Ramdas' (right) father affixing the SAFVC formation patch on him at Maju Camp in June 2019.

Answering the call of duty

Born in Mumbai, India, SV2 Ramdas came to Singapore in 2008 and was granted Permanent Resident (PR) status three years later.

In June 2019, he answered the call of duty by joining the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC) as he wanted to do his part for the nation by contributing to Singapore's defence.

SV2 Ramdas (second row, second from left) undergoing the weapons presentation ceremony at Kranji War Memorial in June 2019.

"I've spent most of my adult life here and all my friends are Singaporeans who have done NS," explained SV2 Ramdas, who serves as an auxiliary security trooper.

"If I can, even in some small way, contribute towards Singapore's military defence, (it would be great)… SAFVC is the best way for me (to do so)."

SV2 Ramdas (second from left) completing his auxiliary security trooper course with his fellow SAFVC mates at Mowbray Camp in November 2019.

Even though the three weeks of basic training in the SAFVC were tough, he never once regretted his decision.

"In those three weeks, we had to do everything that the NSFs (full time national servicemen) did in their Basic Military Training! (Although it was) quite challenging, it was also fun as I got to bond with my fellow course mates."

SV2 Ramdas often encourages his NSman employees to extend their NS cycle.

Leading by example

Apart from building camaraderie, SV2 Ramdas also learnt to become more resilient. This, in turn, has made him appreciate NS even more.

"I'm always very excited to go back every year and give back. In fact, I always extend my call-ups from 14 days to about 28 days."

His enthusiasm about NS has rubbed off on his employees. In fact, some of them even extended their NS cycle under his encouragement!

SV2 Ramdas said: "NS is a fundamental duty that we need to do to protect and defend Singapore, so that we'll always have that safety net.

"If we don't do it, who will? It's about being part of something bigger, giving back, and ensuring the safety and stability of this country we call home."

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