SINGAPORE - Singapore's first homegrown batch of military leaders were schooled not in a camp but a primary school.
But these officers earned their spurs and went on to train future batches of officers who have today gone on to populate the ranks of both public and private life.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who was also trained in the Safti Military Institute, called on a new batch of officers to continue this tradition at their commissioning parade.
He said that Safti started out in a primary school, but has gone on to become a key institution of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and plays an important role in Singapore's security.
He also lauded it for producing past and present military leaders who have built and transformed the SAF.
In a speech commemorating Safti's 50th anniversary this year, he recalled how then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had said, at the first commissioning parade in 1967, that the SAF can make up for its lack of numbers by "the standards of discipline, training, dedication and leadership".
PM Lee said: "This has become part of the SAF's ethos and spirit, and enabled the SAF to perform its duties to keep Singapore safe and secure."
Around 70 of the pioneer batch of 117 officers were at yesterday's parade.
PM Lee thanked them for volunteering as cadets at a time of great uncertainty, when Singapore had just separated from Malaysia. "The first batch knew what was at stake, and... persevered through blood, sweat and tears, out of a love for... this country."
This has inspired generations of officers, who have together built up the SAF from just two infantry battalions to today's tri-service, third-generation fighting force with the latest equipment, technology and tactics, he said.
Tracing Safti's development, he spoke of how it has improved generation after generation.
The institute, which started out in Jurong Town Primary School, now has a sprawling camp in Jurong. Facilities have been upgraded, food has improved, and training has become more focused but no less tough, added Mr Lee.
He also congratulated the 547 new officers for reaching a milestone, saying he was happy to be at their commissioning parade as it celebrated the values of leadership by example, overcoming adversity with courage and service with pride, honour and integrity.
H added: "You will henceforth be responsible for your soldiers and for defending Singapore. It is your duty to ensure that Singapore will always be secure, so that your families, and all Singaporeans, can always be confident of our future together."