"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).
The 21-year-old yesterday 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 at the Specialist Cadet Graduation Parade at Pasir Laba camp yesterday.
"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."
While the expectations placed on commanders are significant, Mr Heng told them to "trust the training that you have been given".
His reminder to the 1,038 specialists of SAF comes after the recent deaths of two men who were doing 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. 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 in his new posting as 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."
He was among the soldiers from the Singapore Army, Republic of Singapore Navy and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) who graduated as specialists of the SAF during yesterday's parade.
In his speech, Mr Heng reminded them about the role SAF plays in ensuring Singapore's security. Terrorism is a growing threat in the region, he said, citing the bomb attacks in Surabaya, Indonesia, as an example.
He also highlighted the need for SAF to be able to respond at any time, highlighting the bomb threat on board a Scoot aircraft en route to Hat Yai, Thailand, last month. Within minutes of the call, the RSAF scrambled two F-15SG fighter jets, which flew out to the Scoot airplane, before escorting it back to Singapore safely, he said.
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."