82 SAF personnel receive medals for transporting Afghan evacuees, counterterrorism

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen presenting the Overseas Service Medal to a recipient during a ceremony. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - Eighty-two Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel were awarded the Overseas Service Medal on Thursday (April 7) for their contributions in transporting Afghan evacuees from Qatar to Germany last year and countering the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the Middle East.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen presented the medals to the recipients in a ceremony at the Ministry of Defence.

The first group of awardees comprised 76 pilots, aircrew, engineers and Singapore Army security personnel.

They assisted in the transportation of evacuees after Afghanistan fell to the Taliban following the withdrawal of United States forces from that country in August last year.

One Multi-Role Tanker Transport from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and the SAF soldiers made their way to Qatar within 48 hours of US acceptance of Singapore's assistance.

The SAF personnel transported more than 2,000 evacuees in the tanker aircraft from Qatar to Germany over two weeks.

In a speech at the ceremony, Dr Ng said: "I met with them at Changi Air Base prior to their departure and told them that I was deeply impressed with the SAF's readiness to depart for this mission at such short notice."

Dr Ng said that international partners such as the United States had shown appreciation for SAF's significant contributions and professionalism.

"The SAF has proved itself a steadfast and reliable friend in times of need," he said.

The second group of medal recipients comprised six SAF personnel who contributed in counterterrorism operations to defeat ISIS in the Middle East.

The SAF made significant contributions since Singapore joined the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in 2007, said Dr Ng at the ceremony.

Since 2014, the SAF has contributed assets and deployed liaison officers, intelligence fusion officers, imagery analysts, RSAF KC-135 tanker aircraft and SAF medical teams in support of efforts to defeat ISIS.

But Singapore has to remain vigilant as threats of terrorism against the Republic may increase.

The Defence Minister said that self-radicalised individuals who are influenced by extremist materials online are the main threat of terrorism here.

"At home, the SAF must continue to hone its ability to respond to such attacks such as the recent exercise held at the Star Vista to simulate a hostage situation in an urban setting."

The SAF conducted a counterterrorism exercise at Star Vista in February this year, in which deployed forces responded to a hostage scenario and swiftly neutralised threats.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.