'Air-con' shirts won't toughen our soldiers

I applaud the Singapore Armed Forces' efforts to minimise heat-related injuries during training (SAF can improve heat injury prevention: Panel, and Army combat soldiers get new uniforms that cool faster; both published on June 21).

The uniform introduced recently is designed to absorb perspiration and dry quickly. It also provides better air circulation, making our soldiers feel more comfortable and endure longer in a combat environment.

But isn't the whole point of national service about readying our boys for a state of preparedness in as real an environment as possible?

NS should be a time when our enlisted soldiers train in realistic combat localities and learn to overcome the elements and endure whatever comes with it, rain or shine.

During the Vietnam War, American soldiers succumbed largely due to the lack of experience sweating it out in the tropics.

If the troops had trained in the South-east Asian region, perhaps history would have turned out differently.

NS is not a fun-filled summer camp, and if we continue to mollycoddle our young sons and grandsons with "air-con" shirts and knee and elbow pads (these are now issued to NS men) we can never hope to transform them from boys to men; from boys to wimps is the more likely result, and the fate of the Americans in Vietnam may befall us.

Better training methodology could be the solution, and not necessarily more comfortable clothes because in the hot humid jungle, no clothing of any kind, no matter how high-tech, can make one comfortable.

Michael Loh Toon Seng (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2018, with the headline ''Air-con' shirts won't toughen our soldiers'. Print Edition | Subscribe