Individuals now stand to win Total Defence Awards

Recipients of the revamped Total Defence Awards (from left): Mrs Carol Lim, principal of Evergreen Secondary School; Mr Mohamed Ismail Gafoor, CEO, PropNex Realty; Mrs Grace Chong-Tan, managing director of Smile Inc Dental Surgeons; Mr Patrick Koh, N
Recipients of the revamped Total Defence Awards (from left): Mrs Carol Lim, principal of Evergreen Secondary School; Mr Mohamed Ismail Gafoor, CEO, PropNex Realty; Mrs Grace Chong-Tan, managing director of Smile Inc Dental Surgeons; Mr Patrick Koh, NS Advocate Award (Individual); and Madam Nur Aini MD Yat, NS Advocate Award (Individual).PHOTO: MINDEF

Revamp of award acknowledges the wider pool of people who support citizen soldiers

A national award that honours employers who support national service has been revamped, in a nod to a wider pool of people who have gone the extra mile to support the efforts of Singapore's citizen soldiers.

The new-look Total Defence Awards pay tribute to company bosses from small businesses, community organisations and individuals.

For instance, it could be given to a school principal who ensures male teachers attend their in-camp training or a spouse who urges her husband to take on heavier responsibilities in his NS unit.

From this year, the Total Defence Awards - first introduced in 1986 - will be handed out by the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in a combined ceremony. Previously, separate award ceremonies were held.

The revamp of the awards is a result of proposals by the Committee to Strengthen National Service and the Advisory Council for Community Relations in Defence (Accord) to get more buy-in for defence and NS.

This year, 10 individuals were honoured for their support of the rite of passage, which was introduced in 1967. They are among 122 to receive the revamped award last night. Others include small and medium-sized firms, large companies and community organisations like schools.

Second Defence Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who handed out the awards at a gala dinner at the Marina Mandarin hotel, said it is critical to get the strong backing of the entire population for NS. "This is the spirit that we wish to celebrate and honour tonight," he said.

Mr Rupert Gwee, who heads the MHA NS Affairs Directorate and Human Resource Transformation Office, described the revamp as a "paradigm shift" to acknowledge the way companies and individuals show their support for NS, so more will do so and it becomes "second nature".

"And if you are not supporting, people will ask what is wrong with you," said Mr Gwee.

On why there is a need to also recognise individuals, Mindef's National Service Affairs director Tung Yui Fai said that while most organisations already back NS, it is the "immediate person who is dealing with our NSman (that) plays a very important role in shaping the (kind of) support he gets".

Madam Nur Aini MD Yat was among the individuals honoured last night for persuading her husband, Mr Mulyadi Ahmad, a public servant, to do more during his NS stint. For instance, she coaxed him to take up the appointment of NS Deputy Commander in the Airport Police Division in 2013.

This is despite his initial reservations and her having to juggle work as an admissions officer at Temasek Polytechnic with taking care of their four children.

"I realise how important it is for him to do his duty... The fact that we have been living in a safe and secure environment doesn't come without any effort," said Madam Nur Aini, 37, who is expecting her fifth child.

Mrs Grace Chong-Tan, managing director of Smile Inc Dental Surgeons, was honoured as well.

She ensures patient appointments do not disrupt the ICT of the five male dentists under her employ, by scheduling appointments on weekends or after office hours after their training.

"It is part and parcel of our service... While our patients' needs are important, it is essential for us to fulfil our duty to the country," said Mrs Chong-Tan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2015, with the headline 'Individuals now stand to win Total Defence Awards'. Print Edition | Subscribe