SINGAPORE - Starting November, full-time national servicemen (NSFs) will get to indicate which vocations they would like to serve their national service.
They will be allowed to choose from among 33 vocations which will span the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF). Pre-enlistees may also indicate that they have no specific interest.
The Commandos and the Naval Diving Unit (NDU) are not included, as there are especially stringent operational requirements for these two vocations, and so their selection criteria are unique.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had first mentioned the initiative in July, in which the interests of new enlistees will, for the first time, be considered, alongside other factors such as physical fitness, suitability to perform tasks and operational requirements.
The indication will be done in the same sitting as the computerised aptitude test during their pre-enlistment medical screening at Central Manpower Base (CMPB).
To help them make informed decisions, 19 videos and a handbook comprising detailed write-ups on all the vocations will be launched on the CMPB website on Sunday (Sept 11).
CMPB takes in more than 20,000 enlistees each year. These are spread out over four intakes - in November, February, May and August. The first batch for this initiative will go for their medical screening in November this year and are slotted to be enlisted in November next year.
Assistant chief of general staff (personnel) of the army, Colonel Yew Chee Leung, said the expressing of vocation interest is one of the recommendations from the Committee to Strengthen NS (CSNS), which was set up in March 2013.
"The whole intent of this initiative is to encourage greater ownership by our servicemen in the roles they will play during NS," he said.
However, he emphasised that operational needs of the vocations still takes priority as the key consideration in the deployment of NSFs.
This initiative is being jointly carried out by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).
Mr Rupert Gwee, director of National Service Affairs Directorate at MHA, said that Home Team national servicemen are an "integral part" of the SPF and SCDF.
"They serve alongside our regulars to keep our homes, schools, neighbourhoods, workplaces, public transport networks and communities safe and secure. This initiative... will further encourage our Home Team national servicemen to take greater ownership of their contributions in ensuring Singapore's safety and security."
Colonel Koh Chia Chee, commander of CMPB, said parents are encouraged to go through the informative materials together with their sons, to find out more about each vocation.
"The vocations that they know from their time may be quite different from what they have now," he said.
As the initiative is still being fine-tuned, there is no definitive figure yet on the successful matching rate targeted. Interests in certain vocations is also expected to regularly change over time.
Should an enlistee not get his preferred vocations and chooses to appeal, appeals will be looked at on a case-by-case basis. However, there is a low chance he will be redeployed from the originally assigned vocation.
Colonel Yew said: "We do believe that every vocation plays a role in national service, and our servicemen will learn valuable skills regardless of the vocations they are deployed to, and can contribute in a meaningful way to the defence of Singapore."