New SAF centre taps science to boost soldiers’ performance

LCP Joshua Neo (left) and LCP Muhammad Syahid Bin Saaib using the agility ladder.
LCP Joshua Neo (left) and LCP Muhammad Syahid Bin Saaib using the agility ladder. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

It will bring out the best in each soldier through customised fitness plans and combat equipment

Soldiers can train smarter, and be mentally stronger and better equipped, as well as recover faster from injury, with the opening of a new centre of excellence yesterday.

The centre will collaborate with experts in such fields as sports science, psychology and nutrition to produce customised fitness programmes, appropriate food plans, and even tailor combat equipment to suit what a soldier does.

The comprehensive revamp is to bring out the best in the men in green - a goal that is especially important because the young male population is forecast to decline by almost one-third in the coming decades in a swiftly ageing Singapore.

Called the Centre of Excellence for Soldier Performance (CESP), its establishment is "a key milestone" in the Singapore Armed Force's (SAF) efforts to achieve more targeted and effective training, Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung said yesterday at its opening.

"By putting our soldiers first, we are able to develop each soldier to his full potential and give our soldiers a positive national service experience," he said.

The new centre's headquarters is at Selarang Camp in Loyang.

More than 20 experts in various fields, using a highly scientific approach fuelled by data, will dig deep for the best outcomes in four areas of focus: fitness and nutrition, building mental resilience, injury management and improving soldier systems.

Ultimately, the CESP can help to develop stronger, fitter and more resilient soldiers, Mr Ong said.

This, in turn, "makes Singapore a safer place by allowing our army to better deploy our NS resources to deal with the complex security challenge we will face in the future," he added, without elaborating.

The number of full-time national servicemen is expected to shrink by about 30 per cent by 2030 - a trend that is the military's "greatest challenge", Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had said in 2015.

The centre's head, Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Yee Kok Meng, 42, said that initially, the focus is on delivering results for the army where most of the conscripts serve.

Ultimately, "the value proposition of the centre is really to unlock every soldier's potential using science,'' he said.

"We also want to leverage technology to achieve training outcomes and enhance the soldier's performance in the field," he added.

This includes using a body scanner to collect data on a soldier's body dimension, to design and plan the sizing of his personal combat equipment more accurately.

The information contributes to a more customised fit for a new system for carrying personal equipment. This load-bearing system, in its final stages of development, is expected to be rolled out in the first quarter of 2019.

Soldiers can also expect shorter downtime as a result of injuries, as ground commanders will be trained to do certain rehabilitation programmes.

Some of the centre's programmes have been implemented in different units. To improve mental resilience, techniques to focus the soldiers' attention and control their anxiety have been taught by defence psychologists in Basic Military Training since September.

As for fitness programmes, vocation-specific fitness training has been in place in active units since 2015. For instance, exercises to strengthen the arm and back muscles are vital for an artillery gunner, who does a lot of load lifting.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 02, 2017, with the headline 'New SAF centre taps science to boost soldiers'. Print Edition | Subscribe