SINGAPORE - "Join the navy? You must be crazy," a father tells his daughter and flings her duffel bag - presumably packed for her first day of enlistment - into a swimming pool.
This is the opening scene of a video posted by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) on Monday (Jan 11) and sets the theme for its latest recruitment campaign: The way friends and family often react to news of a loved one signing on with the maritime force.
"We really wanted to tell people that it's not crazy to join the navy, if you understand our mission, our ideas and all the things that we do to ensure the safety, security and sovereignty of this country," said Colonel Ho Jee Kien, who heads the RSN's personnel department.
The action-packed, cinematic advertisement can be viewed on the RSN's social media channels. It will be complemented by shorter clips on different navy vocations that will be progressively rolled out over the course of the year.
They form part of a new recruitment campaign seeking to appeal to Generation Z, or those born from the mid-1990s.
But the RSN also aims to attract applications across the board, from Singaporeans who are either students, pre-enlistees to national service, full-time national servicemen or mid-career workers.
This comes as Singapore braces for a one-third decline in the pool of national servicemen by 2030, due to falling birth rates. In 2019, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen called this the "greatest internal challenge" faced by the Singapore Armed Forces.
Still, the RSN has not set a recruitment target for its latest campaign. "What is important to the navy is not mass applications, but quality applications," said Major Eileen Sow, head of the Navy Recruitment Centre.
The hatch is also wide open for women, as suggested by the casting of a woman to kick off the 2.5-minute recruitment video.
This also reflects what Maj Sow described as an "observable" increase in local women interested in a naval career.
"During my time in midshipmen school in the early 2000s, we had only four to five females per batch," she said. "Today, we are seeing between 10 and 20 females per batch."
Maj Sow, 35, also told The Straits Times that despite the navy's reputation for paying well, the topic of remuneration is not often brought up by applicants.
An RSN lieutenant's monthly salary can reach $5,520 - $5,870 for those in the elite diving unit - while the same rank in the air force and army pays up to $5,170. These figures exclude bonuses.
But Maj Sow and Col Ho said that going by conversations with applicants in recent times, the younger generation appear to place more value on organisational purpose and how they can serve the greater good.
These traits, along with a spirit of resilience and dedication, are what the RSN is looking out for, said Maj Sow.
The recruitment video attempts to convey as much. In its first half, real-life navy personnel are depicted going about their regular training and tasks, while a narrator expresses how these might seem "crazy" to anyone else - for instance, the act of swimming "more laps in the open ocean than any elite athlete".
The ad then takes on a more sombre, poignant note as it presents alternative scenarios to not having a navy, including the notion of "leaving the world's most improbable island nation defenceless in the water".
Col Ho, 46, said the reality of Singapore as a maritime country - that counts on food and essentials also arriving by sea routes - has been brought into sharper focus over the past year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions.
"We wanted our audience to ponder the idea of protecting our lifeline and our livelihood," he concluded. "We believe that it is crazier to leave your country undefended… (so) it's not crazy, it's the navy."