NSmen could have more time to get fit

Members of the Committee to Strengthen National Service, which includes Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing (in light blue shirt), having lunch with NSFs and NSmen from the various Singapore Civil
Members of the Committee to Strengthen National Service, which includes Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing (in light blue shirt), having lunch with NSFs and NSmen from the various Singapore Civil Defence Force frontline and support units. -- PHOTO: MINDEF

Possible change among ideas being explored to boost national service

Citizen soldiers could be given more time to improve their fitness so they can pass their annual Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT).

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said the high-level Committee to Strengthen National Service is looking at ways to extend the voluntary IPPT Preparatory Training (IPT) scheme for less-fit operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen).

Under the current IPT scheme introduced in 2010, NSmen preparing for the annual test have to attend 10 training sessions spread out over nine months or less.

Although Dr Ng did not give details on the possible changes, he said the move will give NSmen "more time to become more fit".

Dr Ng disclosed this after meeting members of the panel yesterday. It was the sixth time he has met the committee since it was set up last May.

He also announced that the year-long review on how to shore up support for NS is coming to an end, and added that the committee will submit its "substantive" final recommendations to the Government next month or in May.

The committee has canvassed nearly 40,000 people in 35 focus group discussions for suggestions on how to improve NS.

Yesterday, the committee also discussed plans for the Singapore army to beef up NS training by hiring 1,100 full-time trainers to teach fledgling soldiers.

They are to take over the training which is currently conducted by second-year full-time national servicemen (NSFs).

Noting the tight labour market, Dr Ng said the army could offer short-term contracts to national servicemen who have completed their two-year full-time stints and are waiting to start work or studies.

It could also bring back retired Singapore Armed Forces personnel.

Dr Ng said the committee backed the move because it will strengthen training, while it also agreed that any time savings will be passed on to the NSFs.

Last week, during a debate on his ministry's budget, Dr Ng told Parliament that hiring seasoned soldiers as trainers could shorten NS training by several weeks.

One recommendation likely to be made by the committee is the formation of a Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps, which would allow women and first-generation permanent residents to do their part for defence.

The committee also discussed the possibility of shortening the interval between when a student finishes his studies and starts NS.

jermync@sph.com.sg

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