Criticism of new SAF hybrid uniforms flawed

I am surprised by the outcry over the Singapore Armed Forces' (SAF's) new hybrid uniforms (Army combat soldiers get new uniforms that cool faster; June 21).

Given Singapore's heat and humidity, the ability of these uniforms to dry and dissipate heat faster should have been recognised as a boon to our troops, who train with the knowledge that heat injuries are always a risk.

Instead, the uniforms are seen as a form of mollycoddling that will turn our soldiers into wimps ('Air-con' shirts won't toughen our soldiers, by Dr Michael Loh Toon Seng; June 22) .

Such criticism is not only flawed, but also an insult to the current generation of national servicemen, who not only have to be combat fit, but also be technically proficient in the face of increasingly sophisticated threats.

Foreign troops in today's war zones are already using such hybrid uniforms, such as the army combat shirt being used by the United States Army.

It is illogical to think that comfortable uniforms will result in weaker soldiers.

Exercises, route marches and obstacle courses will continue to be conducted without any compromise in standards.

Moreover, we should remember that while wearing their hybrid uniforms, our soldiers also have to bear the weight of their integrated load-bearing vests, complete with heavy sheets of bulletproof plating.

It should also be noted that uniforms throughout history have been modified to increase the comfort of the fighting soldier.

During World War II, the Japanese troops who conquered Singapore, and the American troops who defeated them in the Pacific both wore tropical uniforms made of lightweight cloth.

Ensuring that these troops could fight in relative comfort certainly did not impede their combat performance, and I highly doubt that it will be otherwise for the SAF as well.

Becoming a trained soldier is not an easy task, and it should never become so.

However, by doing what we can to reduce any unnecessary discomfort for our troops, we will be enabling them to fight harder and for longer, in the harsh environments they operate in.

While critics may decry the increased comfort given to our troops, they should be reminded that military training is not an exercise in masochistic suffering.

In the light of recent training incidents, the army's new hybrid uniform is not a sign of weakness, but simply common sense.

Goh Swee Yik