Learn more about Singapore Army at virtual exhibition as it marks 55th anniversary

Screens showing the Army 55 Virtual Exhibition where visitors can play games and watch videos, at Defence Technology Tower B in Depot Road on Nov 27, 2020. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Step into the boots of a soldier and take down your enemies in a forest in Mandai, or solve jigsaw puzzles of pictures related to the army.

These games are part of the activities in the Singapore Army's first virtual exhibition, launched on Tuesday (Dec 1) to commemorate its 55th year since the passing of the Singapore Army Bill on Dec 23, 1965.

Visitors can also learn more about the Army's history, weapons and vehicles at the exhibition, which is accessible on laptops or smartphones online till Dec 13.

Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How, who launched the exhibition, said the Army has come a long way from its modest beginnings, from two infantry battalions when Singapore became independent to the third-generation, networked force of today.

"Over the past 55 years, our Army has given strength and confidence to Singapore and Singaporeans, especially in times of crisis. This enduring commitment was exemplified most recently in our national fight against Covid-19," he said in a pre-recorded message.

Mr Heng said more than 5,000 Army personnel stepped forward to contribute during the pandemic, in areas such as contact tracing, taking care of migrant workers and supporting the healthcare system.

The Army is strong because of the commitment of its soldiers, and the public support for national service and national defence, he said.

The Army 55 theme "Our Army Family" celebrates the strong bonds between servicemen, as well as how the citizen army thrives on public and family support, he said.

"When we enlist a soldier, we enlist his whole family. When our operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) turn up for ICT (in-camp training), they do so with the understanding of their families and employers," he said, adding that the exhibition will honour both the soldiers and those who support them.

The exhibition, set in a virtual environment in the shape of a house, features seven zones.

Visitors can click on the different zones - such as the Marina Bay floating platform, a beret, and Housing Board flats forming the number "55" - to explore the videos, games, and information panels.

For instance, the history zone recounts key Army milestones such as its first overseas humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operation Ops Palm in Bangladesh in 1970 in the wake of Cyclone Bhola, where a 47-man team provided medical care and vaccinations.

Other milestones include the commandos' role in the Laju ferry hijacking incident in 1984, and the start of national service in 1967, when the physical fitness test included a 4.8km run in 30min and a 9.6km run in 70 minutes while wearing basic combat equipment.

There are also videos which will premiere at mostly 3pm (weekends) or 8pm (weekdays), such as a fitness challenge between different formations, workout sessions designed by the Centre of Excellence for Soldier Performance, and "Ask Me Anything" shows featuring soldiers sharing about their experiences.

Specifications and photos of platforms from the armour formation's Leopard 2SG Main Battle Tank to the infantry's Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle can also be viewed.

Servicemen and their families are encouraged to take part in a virtual run and complete 5.5km each, with the aim to clock a total of 55,000km from Dec 1 to 13.

Chairman of the Army 55 Virtual Exhibition organising committee, Colonel Dean Yik, said the exhibition, which was conceptualised about half a year ago, was meant to thank soldiers past and present for their commitment, dedication and sacrifice.

"We also want to take this opportunity to appreciate family members and Singaporeans in general for their support towards our soldiers and our Army," he said during a media preview last Friday (Nov 27).

Asked about the challenges of organising the exhibition, Col Yik cited a lack of experience with such virtual events, as well as having to work through how much of their objectives, such as engaging families and thanking Singaporeans, could be translated to a virtual environment.

Attracting people to the website was another big challenge, which they hope to overcome through a social media campaign.

Acknowledging that families enjoy the physical aspect of past exhibitions where they get to see military vehicles up close, Col Yik said the virtual exhibition has been designed to be as interactive as possible, with elements such as games.

"We know you can't touch and feel the platforms, but the flip side of it is that with this format of the exhibition, you get to experience more platforms, with 44 of them."

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