SINGAPORE - It is important that Singaporeans continue to show support for national servicemen, given that they form the backbone of national service, said President Halimah Yacob on Tuesday (Jan 23). NS is, in turn, the bedrock of our national defence that allows for the Republic's survival, success and security, she added.
As the mother of two sons who have served national service, President Halimah said that she has seen them grow, and this, along with the effort of other servicemen, has helped to boost the country's defence, as well as society.
The President was speaking at the end of a visit to the Basic Military Training Centre on Pulau Tekong - her first official trip to a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) unit since taking office last September.
"I'm here to underscore the importance of national service, and to rally support for NS, as well as (for) our servicemen," she said.
"We know that our national servicemen form the backbone of our national service, and therefore we must constantly show our support and encouragement for them, and that's very important because they are protecting our interest - they are responsible for our defence."
President Halimah witnessed a company of more than 200 recruits taking part in close combat training. She also interacted with some of them who were doing SAR 21 weapon-handling drills.
She added that she could attest to the fact that national service contributed towards her two sons' growth and development.
She had said at a grassroots event in May last year that her older son, 35 this year, found out he had a hearing impairment after national service, with the doctor citing his NS stint as a probable cause.
She said then that she was very concerned, but that her sons "still need to fulfil their duty to the nation and they cannot let down their colleagues".
On Tuesday, she said: "I'm sure that many parents will also feel the same, seeing how their sons have been transformed, how their sons have grown and have developed, which is not only of benefit to our defence, but also to society as a whole, and also to themselves and their families."
She also toured the National Service Gallery, which opened during the launch of the celebrations marking 50 years of national service last year.
She was accompanied during her visit by Senior Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman; Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Perry Lim; and Chief of Army, Major-General Melvyn Ong.
Commander of Basic Military Training Centre, Colonel Patrick Ong, also gave her a briefing on the centre and its learning and training frameworks.
President Halimah added that the armed forces' use of technology and modern methods has enhanced effectiveness and efficiency of training.
"That's important because we have new generations of recruits coming in, and they learn differently... so... there must be changes to keep up with new needs, evolving styles of learning," she said.