The Singapore Armed Forces Music and Drama Company (SAF MDC) put on a dazzling performance over two hours to celebrate its 40th anniversary yesterday.
In the show entitled "40 Stories: Saluting NSmen", home-grown talents such as jazz musician Jeremy Monteiro and Singapore idol winner Sezairi Sezali entertained the 1,600-strong audience with a vibrant repertoire of song and dance items.
Many of the performers were illustrious names of the MDC alumni, such as actor-director Jack Neo, who is best known for hit movies like Ah Boys To Men.
Neo joined the army as a regular serviceman more than 30 years ago and was posted to the MDC, where he honed his performing skills.
"Back then, going overseas was rare. But because of MDC, we got to go to other countries to learn how performing arts groups interacted with the military," said Neo, speaking in Mandarin.
In 1973, then Defence Minister Goh Keng Swee set up the MDC with the aim of entertaining and educating soldiers on the importance of national duty.
Rapper Sheikh Haikel fondly remembers his days in the MDC. Like many talents who graduated from the company, he played multiple roles ranging from show host to dancer.
"I was exposed to a wide array of things that I would not have tried if not for MDC.
"There were things I learnt at MDC - turning up early for a show and changing your costume within five minutes - that I still apply today," he said.
Other well-known names like Gurmit Singh, Najip Ali and JJ Lin also credit the MDC with being a launch pad for their performing careers.
Today, the MDC employs about 100 national servicemen and civilians.
Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen, who was the guest of honour at the event, said the MDC is still a relevant unit of the SAF.
"At the end of the day, it is about supporting our SAF men and women, telling them that what they are doing is important, supporting them psychologically, entertaining them with a simple message that 'we care for you, just as much as you in SAF care for Singapore'," said Dr Ng.