SAF set for first volunteer corps in March

About 100 to 150 members expected, including women, PRs, new citizens

THE Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will take in its first volunteer corps next March, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday.

It is expected to be made up of about 100 to 150 people, including women, first-generation permanent residents and new citizens.

But Dr Ng insisted that the ministry is "not aiming for mass numbers", and added: "I am confident that these members will provide sterling service, like many here, in due course."

He was speaking at a dinner event at the Marina Mandarin hotel to honour about 300 volunteers who serve on the Ministry of Defence's (Mindef) 41 boards, panels and committees.

The volunteer corps will take part in a four-week basic military course, and serve up to two weeks a year for a minimum of three years.

The volunteer corps was one of 30 recommendations made by the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) which were accepted earlier this year.

Dr Ng said: "Volunteers help us in areas where Mindef and the SAF lack expertise or where we may not be in the best position to perform the task... and they help us maintain support for NS."

He noted how many of these experts, who come from the public and private sectors, play a "significant role" by contributing medical, safety, financial and legal knowledge.

One such volunteer is Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, head and senior consultant of general surgery at Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, who has been serving on the SAF Emergency Medicine Specialist Advisory Board since 2011.

"He gives us professional advice and checks that we have adopted the best medical practices," said Dr Ng.

Dr Mak told reporters that a key measure that the board has worked on is allowing civilian ambulances to enter deeper into certain parts of training areas to extract casualties.

"We wanted to shorten the process by which injured servicemen can get medical attention," said Dr Mak, adding that parts of the system will be implemented over the next few years.

Other volunteers recognised include civil servant Mulyadi Ahmad, 38, who served in a CSNS working group to gather feedback on benefits for national servicemen.

"We spent many nights at meetings and town-hall sessions, met many groups and visited NS units... we saw the need for NS and we wanted to help improve it," he said.

Thanking the volunteers, Dr Ng said: "You act as catalysts for the system. Without you, our reactions would not be as vibrant or vigorous."