75 SAF soldiers lauded for serving in fight against ISIS

They receive Overseas Service Medals for role in multinational force in Qatar, Kuwait

Seventy-five soldiers from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) were awarded medals yesterday for serving in a multinational coalition fighting to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group.

The soldiers, who recently returned from their deployment in Qatar and Kuwait, received Overseas Service Medals from Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at a ceremony at the Ministry of Defence.

Lauding them for their service, Dr Ng said: "Through your efforts, through your deployments there, the world we cherish is safer."

The SAF is regarded as a "valued contributor" to the coalition and has won praise from coalition partners such as the US Central Command and Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF), he added.

"They were very impressed with your professional bearing in carrying out your duties, and we know that they value our contributions in the niche areas," he said.

The SAF has deployed troops to provide intelligence analysis support to the CJTF.

It has also deployed a KC-135R tanker aircraft to support air-to-air refuelling operations for coalition aircraft. The tanker squadron's contributions came during a crucial period leading up to the liberation of Mosul from ISIS in July, Dr Ng said.

He added that these overseas operations have given the SAF an avenue to sharpen its capabilities and gain operational insights.

"We should apply the knowledge to counter-terrorism and peacetime contingency operations back home," said Dr Ng.

The SAF has been involved in counter-terrorism missions for a decade now, he said, beginning with a deployment to Afghanistan against Al-Qaeda in 2007.

While ISIS is losing, other similar terror groups could emerge in future, in failed states such as Libya or Yemen, he said, warning that the fight could continue for a long time.

"Communism without God took 50 years to fight. This one (will be) more troublesome. It has been 10 years. I do not know how long more we will battle it," he said.

He added that the SAF will continue to be part of multinational efforts to tackle such threats.

"Unless the source of terrorism is neutralised at its beginnings, more and more Singaporeans and other residents, whether in Malaysia, Indonesia or other Asean countries, will be radicalised," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2017, with the headline '75 SAF soldiers lauded for serving in fight against ISIS'. Print Edition | Subscribe