Obedience to rules is one of the cardinal principles of orderly civilian life. In the military, it can mean the difference between life and death, and in wartime, between the survival and the fall of the nation. The investigation into the death of Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee has revealed that lapses and breaches of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) regulations were possible contributory factors in the tragedy. This is intolerable. The SAF must, as promised, stamp out unruly behaviour by taking deterrent action against the offenders in this case. This is a necessary step that the SAF has to take towards becoming a military that trains under realistic conditions while always striving for zero fatalities. Realism and safety are not mutually exclusive.
Those familiar with SAF life or with military life elsewhere may look at the infractions and, at first glance, view them as relatively minor. The day before CFC Lee suffered a heatstroke, he was made to run six laps of 400m at a pace of 10 seconds faster per lap than should have been required of him. He rested 45 seconds less in between laps than stipulated in the lesson plan. That night, because two soldiers violated "lights out" by using their mobile phones, the whole platoon, including CFC Lee, was given physical punishment, including bear crawls, sprints, leopard crawls, push-ups and crunches. They also had water poured over them. These informal punishments were unauthorised, and went unreported.