Fitness training for soldiers in specific army vocations to be more targeted, says army chief

Chief of Army Major-General Melvyn Ong visiting soldiers at the Murai Urban Training Facility on June 29, 2016.
Chief of Army Major-General Melvyn Ong visiting soldiers at the Murai Urban Training Facility on June 29, 2016. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - Fitness training for soldiers will, in future, be more targeted and tailored to suit the specific army vocation they are in.

Also known as vocation fitness training, it is based on the rationale that soldiers in different vocations perform different tasks, which require the use of different muscle groups.

This is among several developments in the army in the near future, as it navigates challenges such as manpower constraints, said army chief Melvyn Ong on Wednesday (June 29).

The move comes as the army looks into improving injury prevention among its soldiers, as well as rehabilitation of injured servicemen, said Major-General Ong in a media interview ahead of SAF Day on Friday (July 1).

To redesign the fitness training curriculum, the army will set up a Centre of Excellence for Soldier Performance. Its tasks will include reviewing fitness programmes and the design of training equipment to suit a soldier in a particular vocation.

A trial of the vocation fitness training, done with the 4th Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment, has found that it resulted in very high injury prevention among the soldiers, said MG Ong, who took over as army chief last year.  

"There is some success to date on this and we want to continue doing this," the 41-year-old added. "We want to make sure that everybody counts, and our commanders all understand that every soldier is a valuable resource."

To make up for the shrinking manpower pool due to falling birth rates, the army is also tapping on new technology to do more with less people. In future, there may even be unmanned ground vehicles helping with camp patrols.

Going forward, the army will be more motorised and networked allowing it to fight at a higher tempo. MG Ong said: "You get information, you move. This is a very good way of fighting because you are always faster than the enemy."

He added: "What it means is that we need more space to flex."

So, the training areas in the western part of Singapore will be optimised to improve training realism, allowing motorised forces to train on a larger scale.

Besides local training areas, the army also uses simulation and spaces abroad for training.

MG Ong also highlighted the growing threat of terrorism, and said that action is being taken to tackle this. Among them is the establishment of a new unit, the Army Deployment Force, to respond rapidly to terrorist attacks here alongside the special forces and the Home Team.

In addition, an Island Defence Training Institute will be set up to prepare full-time national servicemen (NSFs) and also operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) to take on a wider range of security tasks. These tasks include joint patrols with the police during heightened threat conditions.