SINAGPORE - When Singapore suddenly became independent in 1965, people questioned how quickly the fledgling nation, with hardly any defence assets to speak of, could defend itself.
Fifty years on, no one doubts the ability of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to defend the country, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Thursday, when he launched celebrations to mark the SAF's golden jubilee.
Paying tribute to efforts of the pioneer batch of soldiers, airmen and sailors who have built the military to what it is today, Dr Ng said it was the "Singapore pioneering spirit" that made it possible for the SAF to be what it is today - a "respectable professional modern military" that has been touted to be the most advanced in Southeast Asia.
Citing how these pioneers lived through the Japanese Occupation or defended Singapore during the turbulent times of Konfrontasi, Dr Ng said their experiences taught them that "if Singaporeans will not defend Singapore, no one will".
Acknowledging the efforts of some 740,000 men who have been through national service in the SAF since it was formed, he called on Singaporeans to play their role to support the SAF for it to continue to progress.
Among those present at the opening of the SAF50@Vivo exhibition were the first batches of NS enlistees and officer cadets.
The exhibition at Vivocity mall, which goes on till Sunday, will showcase the past, present and future of the SAF. Visitors will not only get up close to the SAF military assets, but also stand a chance to tour the landing ship tank, RSS Endurance.