SAF men up in arms over swimmers' use of 'Red Lions'

SAF officers unhappy S'pore Swimming Association using same name as skydiving team's

Military men past and present are seeing red over a move to give Singapore's national aquatic athletes the same name as the country's elite skydiving team.

The Singapore Swimming Association has adopted the name the "Red Lions", which is also used by the Singapore Armed Forces for its freefall troops, who have been a favourite at every National Day Parade since 1996.

Members of the public have also dived into the debate, lambasting the swimming body for failing to come up with an original name - and even accusing it of "stealing" the name of the iconic parachute team.

There have also been calls for the SAF to trademark the Red Lions name, which it coined in 1995.

It is not known if the SSA had approached the SAF or the Commandos Formation, which the Red Lions parachuting team belongs to, to adopt the same name.

But sources told The Straits Times that some quarters in the military were caught unawares.

A Defence Ministry spokesman said that representatives from Mindef and the swimming body will be meeting soon to discuss the matter.

News of the SSA's move broke last Saturday.

Asked whether there would be a clash of identities, SSA president Lee Kok Choy was quoted in media reports as saying that the airborne Red Lions and their water-based cousins are in "two different territories" and will not "run into each other's level of performance".

However, commandos are not pleased.

"It's not just a name," said Mr Pach Ang, the man behind the Red Lions name and the team's distinctive red and blue insignia with a lion's head.

"It represents an identity of a group of men and women who have dedicated their lives and put themselves through high risks to capture people's imagination."

Besides dazzling spectators at the NDP, the daredevil Red Lions also won the top prize at an international skydiving competition in the United Arab Emirates in 2008.

It is not uncommon for militaries to tighten their copyright infringement policies. The US Pentagon set up a branding and licensing office in 2007.

The ST understands that Mindef does not have a similar set-up.

Mr Lam Shiu Tong, who served as the chief commando officer and commander of the Special Operations Task Force from 2006 to 2011, supports the call to trademark the Red Lions identity.

Mr Lam, who retired from the SAF in 2014, said: "Our preferred position is for SSA to alter its name while still in its infancy.

"If that is not agreeable, we will demand that SSA avoids using the name whenever there is a chance for name clash, regardless how remote it may be."

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