Abuse in SAF must be a thing of the past

As an operationally ready national serviceman and the father of a full-time national serviceman (NSF), I believe that the core value of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is to take good care of its soldiers.

It has made positive strides in breeding a better culture and professional approach to safety during training.

Most commanders are bearing down on risk in training - particularly in the operation of equipment and live ammunition - resulting in almost no trainees dying from shooting, ill-treatment or drowning incidents for more than a decade.

However, I am not sure if instructors in the middle and lower levels abide by legislation in their aggressive and sometimes inhumane treatment of trainees, which they probably feel is no more than "controlled abuse" (Necessary for military training to be tough, by Dr Yik Keng Yeong; July 5).

The recent deaths of trainees show that there is no preventing NSFs from going over the edge of what is humanly possible.

I am still distressed by the memory of how a 19-year-old NSF died after being dunked in a tub of water during training in 2003.

In that case, the training was meant to be realistic to simulate actual conditions that servicemen could face in war.

However, in their zeal, the instructors recklessly compromised the safety and well-being of the trainees under their care.

The Ministry of Defence must ensure that no parent should ever have to endure such hell again.

The rite of passage for every Singaporean boy must be safely navigated.

The rudimentary years of NS, when the safety and welfare of enlisted men were often compromised in the name of realistic training or at the hands of sadistic instructors, must be put firmly behind us.

Edmund Khoo Kim Hock

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2018, with the headline 'Abuse in SAF must be a thing of the past'. Print Edition | Subscribe