Mindef had released their Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) recommendations on how NS could be improved. The feedback was gathered from 40,000 Singaporeans, and was first announced in the Parliamentary seatings in April by Minister for Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen. Here are some key recommendations and my humble thoughts on them.
More SAF Regulars to Strengthen NS Training
The two quick years for NS meant that new recruits must make full use of their time to absorb as much skill, tactics and values on national defence as soon as possible. The committee recommends employing 1,100 more regular soldiers for the SAF and 230 for the Home Team. Training, like teachers, require special hard and soft skills from the trainers. NSF trainers although will keep a pool of instructor in the SAF, the small age gap would dilute discipline between superiors and trainees. If you have played “Pass the message” you would have know that message, like knowledge will be lost during the Handing over / Taking over process. I was once trained by the Commmandos for a course, and they employ a full Regular instructors. Their wealth of experience educated us on various scenarios that we might encounter and how to react to them, not to mention their eye for detail, safety and speed of carrying out training effectively. Regular trainers share important values and stories which will be easily and positively passed down to the newer soldiers, and with their strong leadership and enthusiasm they make excellent role models for young soldiers. However, NS trainers excel in some areas. Being in a multi faceted unit, we were trained in numerous roles, including operations and paperwork (eg flight planning). We have a group of NSF that we also tasked to assist us in these paperwork, and make excellent instructors. Their sole responsibility of handling flight planning day in day out make them master of the trade, and has meticulous eyes for details, and their contribution to NS training cannot be discounted.
Expand Opportunities for Our National Servicemen
Two key items include increase leadership opportunities for NSFs and a more flexible deployment. By doing so we are moving into a more decentralised and thinking army. More leaders will create smaller flexible fighting squads, especially useful in Fighting In Build Up Area (FIBUA) operations where small combat cells can work itself independently into streets and buildings. More NS commanders can free up SAF regulars for training roles as mentioned above, staff work and doctrine planning. It also crucial that the SAF do not create a top heavy structure where there are too many leaders and too little to lead, making leadership role taken granted. Flexible deployment includes “Skills-to-Vocation Matching” and “Vocation Preference to Match Operational Needs”. I do have to say that this practice is already up and running for quite a while. I have seen soldiers who have aeronautical background being posted to the RSAF, and this must be managed carefully without upsetting these new soldiers, announcing this move will give them high expectations. Fit recruits might opt for less strenuous vocations like Artillery or Signals, and they must be educated that in the end of the day, the operational needs of the SAF sits paramount.
Establish an SAF Volunteer Corps (SAFVC)
Most Singaporean men would agree that NS is one of the many social and racial integration elements here, and a rite of passage for true blue Singaporean boys to men. Current Voluntary Scheme include Voluntary Extension of Service of NS, SAF Volunteers who extend their service after retiremennt and after ORD date. Future SAFVC will allow women, first generation PRs and new citizens to contribute their service to national defence in areas like psychology, medical and maritime, and also front line roles of protecting of key installations. Integrating new citizens into the SAF can ease some anti-foreign talent sentiments amongst the locals, especially in the form of National Service. However, one can only guess how much contribution and difference it make for a one to two weeks commitment from these volunteers? Deployment to guard duties may ease the manpower strains in PDF units, however in staff / office roles like psychology, legal etc, I doubt their level of contribution will be beneficial.
More Rewards and Time for IPPT
IPPT is probably the bane of many during their NS period. CSNS committee recommended that IPPT and Remedial Training periods should be extended to the full year, ie 12 months from their birthday.There are also plans to increase the incentives for doing well in IPPT, the current rewards are $200 for Sliver and $400 for Gold award. The SAF is determined to ensure that most of her reserve troops are fit and ready and is doing its utmost best to make that happen. I feel that there are no excuses to not keeping fit, and earning some extra cash doing so is an attractive incentive.
Mai Tu Liao!