SINGAPORE - Against the backdrop of the city's skyline, 60 recruits from the Basic Military Training Centre were presented their rifles for the first time at The Float @ Marina Bay on Tuesday morning (Feb 15) as part of this year's Total Defence Day commemoration event.
For the recruits, receiving their weapons marks their transition from civilians to soldiers.
Tuesday also marks the 80th anniversary of the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942 during World War II.
Referencing the event's venue, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong, who was the event's guest of honour, said it is significant to Singapore's wartime past as it was from the city centre that prisoners of war were forced to march to Changi, where they were interned.
"So we stand here remembering our commitment to military defence, the reason behind the institution of national service," he said, noting that 2022 also marks the 55th anniversary of national service.
Recruit (Rec) Fattah Adnan, 22, said: "Since this usually takes place in camp, it's a privilege for us, especially on this significant day."
Mr Tong said the fact that Fort Siloso - a soon-to-be-gazetted 74th national monument - failed to protect Singapore during the war serves as a reminder that more must be done to defend the country from all sides.
"It is also a reminder that there must be defence against all types of threats," he said.
Rec Ashwin Sunil Hathiramani, who was among those receiving their rifles on Tuesday, said that as Singapore recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic, he hopes the country will grow stronger in each of the six pillars of Total Defence - military, civil, economic, social, digital and psychological.
The 19-year-old also said he hoped that Singaporeans would be more resilient post-pandemic, after experiencing the ups and downs of battling the virus.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a Facebook post on Tuesday: "We observe Total Defence Day every year as a sombre reminder that we can depend on no one but ourselves to protect our country."
At Tuesday's event, Mr Tong also launched the GameOn Nila! Total Defence Trail, a collaboration between SportSG and Nexus, the Ministry of Defence's central agency for National Education and Total Defence.
GameOn Nila! is a game within the ActiveSG app.
The game's walking trail features six locations located around the civic district, each representing a pillar of Total Defence.
These are NTUC LearningHub, the Civil Defence Heritage Gallery, the Asian Civilisations Museum, the National Library, the National Museum of Singapore and The Float @ Marina Bay. Players may earn points by scanning QR codes to check in at the locations.
Points may then be used to ballot for prizes.
Other programmes and exhibitions that members of the public may visit to commemorate Total Defence Day include exhibitions at the National Museum and at the National Archives that tell stories from Singapore's war years.