SINGAPORE - When he makes his rounds to the dormitories in Woodlands East, Special Constable Corporal (Cpl) Nabel Al Masri, 23, is welcomed by crowds of Bangladeshi workers.
The full-time national serviceman's (NSF) fluency in Bengali has not only made him popular among the workers, it has also helped bridge the communication gap for the workers and law enforcement.
As a result, Woodlands East Neighbourhood Police Centre, where Cpl Nabel works, has seen more of these workers come forward to share their problems and seek help from the police.
"Sometimes, they share problems not related to crime and it is meaningful that I am able to help then," said Cpl Nabel, who cited a case where he helped about 20 workers file a police report when they faced employment-related issues.
The officer from the Community Policing Unit said that as a secondary school student, he did not broadcast the fact that he spoke Bengali though he speaks the national language of Bangladesh at home with his parents and younger brother.
Cpl Nabel came to Singapore from Bangladesh with his parents when he was one year old, and became a citizen in 2005.
"Now I see the language as an asset, and it gives me an advantage in reaching out to others who need help."
Cpl Nabel's story is just one of many in the Home Team NS50 Commemorative Book - Everyday Guardians: 50 Years Of National Service In Singapore's Home Team - launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana on Friday evening (Nov 3).
The book launch was part of the Home Team NS50 celebrations to round off year-long events.
Written by Koh Buck Song, the book traces the history and evolution of NS in the Home Team. It will be distributed to all Home Team NSFs, schools and public libraries.
Over 900 Home Team NSFs, NS pioneers and their families were at the dinner reception held at the Istana Lawn to pay tribute to the generations of servicemen who kept Singapore safe and secure.
PM Lee also presented the NSF of the Year award to 10 NSFs from the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) for outstanding performance and conduct during NS.
Sergeant (Sgt) (NS) Danial Matin Zaini, 21, received the award for his service as a field instructor to the National Civil Defence Cadet Corps (NCDCC) during his time with the SCDF. He taught cadets skills such as fire safety and first aid.
The undergraduate, who reached his Operationally Ready Date (ORD) in March this year, said his experience teaching the secondary school cadets has helped to hone his skills as an educator.
"I was inspired to be a teacher by the good teachers I had in secondary school and my vocation has helped to further inspire that."
Another award recipient, Inspector (NS) Billy Lian, 22, ORD-ed in June after serving as an event security officer with the Central Police Division.
Among other duties, his tasks included planning simulation exercises to test the response of security officers to terror attacks and potential threats.
The executive in a trading firm was also part of the team that planned and executed key events last year such as the funeral of former President S R Nathan and the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix.
"I'm honoured and humbled to have served at such events. I also feel very fortunate because most of my other friends serving NS did not get the opportunity of getting behind the scenes to plan these big events," he said.
Members of the Home Team NS50 Steering Committee were present at Friday's event, including operationally-ready NSmen, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) (NS) Terence Matthew Choo, 38, and Second Warrant Officer (WO2) (NS) Oo Jun Hao, 32.
The committee was formed last year to provide direction and guidance for NS50 activities.
DSP Choo, commanding officer for Division Special Task Force at Ang Mo Kio Police Division, and WO2 Oo, company sergeant major for MRT Shelter Company Headquarters, were among the 28 NSmen who received the NSmen of the Year award at the floating platform on Monday.
DSP Choo, who served NS in 1998 and now runs his own consultancy firm, started a website in June this year sharing tips to help NSmen in their fitness training and Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT).
He also created and launched the free Home Team NS mobile app, which has garnered close to 3,000 downloads, to keep Home Team members informed and updated on the latest activities and promotions.
Said WO2 Oo, a business development executive: "NS50 has been a milestone for all NSmen, and being part of the steering committee has also allowed us to give honest feedback close to the ground on even the smallest matters like parking facilities during the Home Team Festival (in May) and tailoring events for NSmen to bring their family and friends."
Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Manpower Josephine Teo, and Minister for Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli were also present at Friday's reception.
Said Mr Shanmugam: "Our Home Team national servicemen have made many sacrifices to keep Singapore safe and secure. They play an integral role in the Home Team, serving alongside our regular officers... Tonight's reception marks the culmination of our year-long celebrations of NS50, and is a fitting occasion to thank our national servicemen for their dedication and service to the nation."