SINGAPORE - A professional counsellor of 15 years, Military Expert 4 (NS) Michael Gabriel Pillai is now qualified to train Singapore Armed Forces commanders in basic counselling skills.
The former logistics platoon sergeant, who completed his national service obligations in 2014, joined a scheme for operationally-ready national servicemen to continue serving in their areas of expertise - such as in nursing, engineering and law - three years ago.
ME4 (NS) Pillai, 44, was one of seven senior military experts from the Expertise Conversion Scheme to graduate in a ceremony at Temasek Club in Rifle Range Road on Wednesday (Dec 19).
Under this scheme, which started in 2014, he will serve up to 40 days per year until the age of 50. His job will include teaching commanders how to break bad news and handle agitated soldiers.
The superintendent - who works at the Meranti Home @ Pelangi Village - said: "Mental health is my passion, and is something I'm trained in. That's why I agreed when the opportunity came to use what I'm trained in to build more resilient and effective soldiers."
The home in Buangkok provides shelter and rehabilitation for destitute men requiring psychiatric care.
A total of 89 senior military experts - those ranked ME4 and above - were appointed at the 16th SAF Senior Military Expert Appointment Ceremony, which was officiated by Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How.
The cohort consisted of 12 military experts from the army, 39 from the navy, 20 from the air force, and 18 from the joint service.
The ceremony marked the completion of the Military Domain Experts Course, which trains military experts to assume roles in the SAF which require expertise.
In his speech, Mr Heng said that with increasingly complex security challenges, "the depth of knowledge in various fields including intelligence, engineering and cyber defence is a need, it is no longer a good-to-have".
He said more than 1,000 senior military experts have graduated since 2010, when the Military Experts Scheme was formed, including three defence psychologists, who on Wednesday became the first NSmen psychologists to join the senior military expert ranks, under the Expertise Conversion Scheme.
Highlighting the threat in the online domain, Mr Heng cited the attack on SingHealth's patient records earlier this year, and Singapore being a "top target" during the Trump-Kim summit in June this year according to analysts.
He said the SAF inaugurated the C4 Command and Cyber Defence Group last year and has groomed military experts in this area to bolster its cyber defences.
"It is not hard to imagine that Singapore would be within the sights of terrorists," he said, adding that high-profile events such as the Trump-Kim and Asean summits this year have strengthened Singapore's international standing but also highlights it as a target.
To counter this, the SAF has built up its capabilities, including the use of new technologies in data analytics and artificial intelligence by military intelligence experts to enhance intelligence assessments and updates.
Military Expert 4 William Lim, 26, who graduated with the Sword of Honour, said that one of this aims will be to imbue his soldiers with a sense of purpose.
He is currently a platoon commander at the Central Ammunition Base at Mandai West Camp, with national servicemen under his charge.
He said: "Providing that purpose is important as national servicemen might become fathers of their own households in the future, and might influence their children next time in their outlook in the defence of the country."