No training- and operation-related deaths in SAF in last four years: Ng Eng Hen

Newly minted “soldiers” of the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC) saying the National Pledge at a ceremony held at Maju Camp on June 27, 2015.
Newly minted “soldiers” of the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC) saying the National Pledge at a ceremony held at Maju Camp on June 27, 2015.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - There have been no training- and operations-related fatalities in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in the last four years, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Thursday (Aug 3).

"Safe training raises morale and encourages soldiers to train even harder," said Dr Ng at an appreciation dinner at Marina Mandarin Hotel for volunteers who have contributed to national defence.

Dr Ng was highlighting the impact of an external review panel set up in 2013 to review safety in the SAF as part of the contributions of these volunteers.

Members of the panel who trudged through training grounds as part of the review include Singapore Press Holdings chief executive Alan Chan and Workplace Safety and Health Council chairman Heng Chiang Gnee.

"The contributions of this panel have had the impact of saving lives," Dr Ng said on Thursday.

He also gave an update on the number of people joining the SAF Volunteer Corps - the figure has doubled since the first intake in 2015.

Dr Ng said: "We started the SAF Volunteer Corps as... an experiment. Up till today, we have over 500 permanent residents and citizens who are part of this volunteer corps, who undergo basic training and spend their time playing a part in national defence."

Dr Ng added that "if we continue this, then we would have discharged our duty in our generation and passed on good values and good foundations to the next".

In all, 321 citizen volunteers who serve on 36 Ministry of Defence (Mindef) boards and committees were recognised for their efforts at Thursday's appreciation dinner. Dr Ng also presented certificates of appointment and re-appointment to 81 volunteers at the event.

The volunteers who were at the dinner include Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin, Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim from the Workers' Party, and Claire Chiang, the co-founder of Banyan Tree and Resorts.

Dr Ng said it was the SAF's positive experience with its volunteers that gave it the confidence to start the more formal and structured SAF Volunteer Corps.

Dr Kenneth Mak, who is the deputy director of medical services (Health Services Group) at the Health Ministry, has been a volunteer since 2011.

In that time, he has served on the the Emergency Medicine Specialist Advisory Board, and this year, received a certificate of appointment to serve on the SAF Medical Advisory Board.

He said: "If the role that I'm asked to take up involves something positive, that can benefit others, that I can give to the organisation, then that actually drives me and gives me that sense of fulfilment."