SAF must continue to evolve capabilities: President Tan

President Tony Tan Keng Yam taking a tour of the observation tower in Jurong Island yesterday. He visited operationally ready national servicemen from the 823rd Battalion of the Singapore Infantry Regiment on Jurong Island.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam taking a tour of the observation tower in Jurong Island yesterday. He visited operationally ready national servicemen from the 823rd Battalion of the Singapore Infantry Regiment on Jurong Island. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Terror attacks abroad highlight importance of task force to protect key installations

With at least four terrorist attacks across the world in the past month alone, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) must continue to evolve its capabilities to ensure the Republic's continued peace and economic success.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam had this reminder yesterday, while visiting operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) from the 823rd Battalion of the Singapore Infantry Regiment (823 SIR) on Jurong Island.

The unit is part of the Island Defence Task Force.

Under the task force, national servicemen work closely with Home Team agencies to protect key installations such as Changi Airport, Jurong Island and Sembawang Wharves.

"What the SAF has developed (in terms of its capabilities) is very necessary because it reflects the ongoing nature of our security... particularly in this day and age where the security threat is evolving and changing, and terrorism and extremism are unfortunately things you read about every day," Dr Tan told reporters after the visit.

DEDICATED SERVICEMEN

I know that it involves commitment, dedication and sacrifice not just on their part, but also on (the part of) their families and loved ones.

PRESIDENT TONY TAN, on the demanding duties of the NSmen.

He noted that the terror attacks this month in Egypt, Sweden, Russia and France had taken place in the heart of cities, and highlighted the importance of the role of the task force for Singapore.

"This is a very demanding operation, because it involves people manning the various points seven days a week, 24 hours a day. There's no respite, but it is necessary."

While the technological capabilities of the SAF he saw yesterday was "very encouraging", Dr Tan said they have to continue to evolve as Singapore's security cannot simply rely on a larger armed forces.

The operation of 823 SIR yesterday was fully manned by NSmen.

They are expected to maintain their fitness levels in order to respond to potential security threats - and that takes a lot of commitment, said commanding officer Lieutenant Colonel (NS) Darren Tan.

"You never stop being an NSman. Being a combat unit, we have to keep up our fitness standards... This is done outside the in-camp period, which takes time away from friends, family and career," he said.

And in light of the 50th anniversary of national service this year, Dr Tan said he was heartened by the dedication of the NSmen in carrying out their duties.

"I know that it involves commitment, dedication and sacrifice not just on their part, but also on (the part of) their families and loved ones," he said. "So long as we have that spirit, and people are willing to come up and do their part, supported by the community, Singapore will continue to be safe."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 27, 2017, with the headline 'SAF must continue to evolve capabilities: President Tan'. Print Edition | Subscribe