More room to improve training safety in SAF

Every Singaporean should play a part in making sure Mindef continues to refine its safety protocols.
Every Singaporean should play a part in making sure Mindef continues to refine its safety protocols.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

It saddened me to read of recent national service-related training ground accidents (Actor Aloysius Pang seriously hurt during SAF exercise in NZ, Jan 21; and NSF dies in vehicle collision during local field exercise, Nov 4, 2018).

While the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) has been proactive in pushing through new safety regulations, more can be done in the areas of training and maintenance.

For instance, training in an armour regiment can involve complex manoeuvres in armoured vehicles.

And even the basic driving of such vehicles can be challenging as they do not steer like regular cars.

Yet our operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) are expected to step into these vehicles every one or two years after long periods away.

More time should be allocated to let armoured vehicle drivers reacquaint themselves with the complexity of driving, while not increasing the total time spent in camp every year.

Currently, in-camp training in armour regiments provides for only a short day and night familiarisation drive.

 
 
 

By giving drivers more time to sharpen their skills, I believe that they will be more confident during the actual mission training, lowering the risk of accidents.

As for maintenance, expecting full-time national servicemen (NSFs) and NSmen to be able to handle and maintain complex machinery, such as tanks and artillery, seems unwise.

Mindef can instead employ a much larger team of full-time maintenance personnel, outside of the NSF population, to reduce the need for young NSFs to handle unfamiliar heavy machinery.

There may be better solutions than the ones I have proposed, given the many challenges Mindef faces.

However, I believe that every Singaporean should play a part in making sure Mindef continues to refine its safety protocols.

One injury or fatality is too many.

Mark Lim Xian Jin

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2019, with the headline 'More room to improve training safety in SAF'. Print Edition | Subscribe