Call for better, more realistic SAF training

Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing (standing, second from right) listening in on a lively session. Participants included SAF and Home Team NS commanders, civil servants, researchers and members of the Committee to Strengthen National Service.
Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing (standing, second from right) listening in on a lively session. Participants included SAF and Home Team NS commanders, civil servants, researchers and members of the Committee to Strengthen National Service.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

Focus-group discussion throws up many ideas

Nurture better trainers as well as offer more specialised and hands-on training - such were the key suggestions thrown up at a focus-group discussion with Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

Mr Chan had started by highlighting three major shifts that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is grappling with today.

"The way our soldiers learn, the operational demands on them today and the technology that they have to keep pace with. All these have changed," he told the 63 participants, who included SAF and Home Team NS commanders, civil servants, researchers and members of the Committee to Strengthen National Service.

Started last year, the committee led by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen has canvassed the views of more than 10,000 people. Yesterday's discussion followed Dr Ng's announcement at the Committee of Supply debate in Parliament that the SAF will hire more career soldiers as trainers.

Participants at yesterday's session were divided into groups and asked to come up with suggestions to deal with the challenges outlined by Mr Chan.

A group led by Member of Parliament for Chua Chu Kang GRC Alex Yam called for the bulk of a "professional corps of trainers" to be placed into Basic Military Training schools to give young soldiers a strong grounding in the basics.

Some others could be allocated to vocations that required highly specialised training, he added.

Another group suggested that the SAF create a specialised "master trainer" career track.

"These trainers can develop pedagogies specific to military training, and help to better train the NSF commanders," it said.

Safety specialist Su Caizheng, 30, asked if servicemen could have more hands-on training by, for instance, taking part in humanitarian aid missions like the one for Typhoon Haiyan.

"This could further enhance the level of realism in our training," said Captain (NS) Su of the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

Mr Chan told reporters he was heartened by the suggestions.

One point raised that struck him was the need for SAF trainers to teach not just technical skills, but also the SAF's core values.

He added that some had called for more enhanced training.

"We need to go beyond the basics, and train our people to have better judgment and how to cope with scenarios."

But he stressed that even as the SAF plans to recruit more trainers, it would be logistically impossible to deploy them to every unit.

"It's about how we can get the bang for our buck, and how we can invest trainers in areas where we can get the greatest mileage from them."

jianxuan@sph.com.sg

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