New SAF commanders say they are aware that when it comes to training, safety comes first

3SG Mohamed Iqbal Abdul Hamid (right) and 3SG Edwin Sim were among 1,038 soldiers from the Singapore Army, Republic of Singapore Navy, and the Republic of Singapore Air Force who graduated as specialists of the Singapore Armed Forces at a parade held at Pasir Laba camp. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - "Mission accomplished" should not be the only goal of a commander.

The safety and morale of soldiers are also equally important, said Third Sergeant (3SG) Mohamed Iqbal Abdul Hamid, a newly minted commander of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

3SG Mohamed Iqbal, 21, on Thursday (May 24) graduated from the 22-week Specialist Cadet Course. He said: "I learnt the importance of being empathetic and recognised that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses. It helped me realise that when I lead a section, I should not expect everyone to be like me."

Empathy is a trait that leaders and specialists of the SAF should exemplify, Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How said during the Specialist Cadet Graduation Parade at Pasir Laba camp on Thursday evening.

"You must lead by example through your character and competence, empathise with the needs of your soldiers and inspire commitment through engagement," urged Mr Heng, who was reviewing officer at the parade.

"As our soldiers train hard and realistically to defend Singapore, remember to take care of your soldiers - your men will respect you if they see that you really care for them," he said.

While the expectations placed on commanders are significant, Mr Heng told the new commanders to "trust the training that you have been given".

"Always be guided by the SAF's core values," Mr Heng said.

His reminder to the 1,038 specialists of the SAF comes after the recent deaths of two men who died while serving their national service.

On May 13, Corporal Kok Yuen Chin, 22, a Singapore Civil Defence Force full-time national serviceman, died after he was found unconscious inside a pump well at Tuas View Fire Station. And on April 30, Corporal First Class Dave Lee, 19, died after he displayed signs of heat injury.

3SG Mohamed Iqbal, who will lead six men at his new posting as a section commander in the First Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment, said: "The recent events have made me aware that as a section commander, the safety of my men is important. It also made me understand why we have safety protocols like ensuring soldiers have enough rest, and why we should follow them."

3SG Mohamed Iqbal was among the soldiers from the Singapore Army, Republic of Singapore Navy, and the Republic of Singapore Air Force who graduated as specialists of the SAF at Thursday's parade.

In his speech, Mr Heng also reminded the specialists about the role the SAF plays in ensuring Singapore's security in an increasingly complex and challenging environment. Terrorism is a growing threat in the region, he said, citing the recent bomb attacks in Surabaya, Indonesia, as an example.

He also highlighted the need for SAF to be able to respond any time, highlighting the bomb threat made by a passenger on board a Scoot aircraft en route to Hat Yai, Thailand, last month. Within minutes of getting the call, the Republic of Singapore Air Force scrambled two F-15SG fighter jets, which flew out to the South China Sea to meet the Scoot airplane before escorting it back to Singapore safely, said Mr Heng.

He added: "What is evident from this incident is the level of professionalism, dedication and competence that our servicemen embody. This can only be achieved with committed people, strong teams, and good leaders who develop and nurture their teams."

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