Singapore Army to review scope of exercises amid focus on safety

Gunners from the Artillery Formation paying their respects to Corporal First Class (NS) Aloysius Pang as servicemen carried his casket at Paya Lebar Air Base after his body was flown back to Singapore from New Zealand on Jan 25.
Gunners from the Artillery Formation paying their respects to Corporal First Class (NS) Aloysius Pang as servicemen carried his casket at Paya Lebar Air Base after his body was flown back to Singapore from New Zealand on Jan 25.PHOTO: MINDEF
Gunners from the Artillery Formation paying their respects to Corporal First Class (NS) Aloysius Pang as servicemen carried his casket at Paya Lebar Air Base after his body was flown back to Singapore from New Zealand on Jan 25.
MAJOR-GENERAL GOH SI HOU, Chief of Army.

It will redesign programmes and even remove certain courses as part of lowered training pace: Chief of Army

The Singapore Army will be reviewing the scope of its military exercises, redesigning training programmes and even removing certain courses as part of the lowered training pace in the next few months to focus on safety, said Chief of Army Goh Si Hou yesterday.

For instance, some confidence courses from command schools will be removed as the army reviews training activities across units and prioritises the key ones.

It will also be redesigning its training to be more focused on its objectives and to be better able to spread out the intensity of the training, so soldiers can prepare better and training can be conducted effectively.

As part of the lowered tempo, this year's Exercise Wallaby, the largest overseas training exercise for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), could be scaled back, said Major-General Goh.

"We are looking at re-scoping the scale of our exercises, including our overseas exercises... so that we can really free up capacity and allow every unit to focus on their training," he added.

The army chief was speaking to reporters after a meeting of 750 commanders, comprising both active and operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen), at Pasir Laba Camp.

Chief of Defence Force Melvyn Ong had gathered the commanders following the death of actor Aloysius Pang, 28, on Jan 23.

PROGRESSIVE LIFTING OF SAFETY TIMEOUT

For other training activities, we will lift (the timeout) as and when we are satisfied that the reviews are completed. We expect that there will be selective training activities that will require more time, and that will be lifted as and when the reviews are completed.

MAJOR-GENERAL GOH SI HOU, Chief of Army, on how the safety timeout will be lifted progressively from next Friday.

Corporal First Class (NS) Pang died four days after he was seriously injured while doing repair work in a Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer during an exercise in New Zealand.

On Jan 24, Lieutenant-General Ong announced the unprecedented move to reduce training tempo - referring to the duration, frequency and intensity of training activities - across all three services to free up time and space to focus on safety.

All services have been tasked to review how they would lower their training tempo after the army lifts its safety timeout, which has been imposed since Jan 23.

Maj-Gen Goh said yesterday the safety timeout will be lifted progressively from next Friday, with the resumption of classroom training, physical training, small arms live-firing, as well as the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) and IPPT Preparatory Training for NSmen.

"For other training activities, we will lift (the timeout) as and when we are satisfied that the reviews are completed. We expect that there will be selective training activities that will require more time, and that will be lifted as and when the reviews are completed," he added.

 
 
 

Maj-Gen Goh said the army has taken a more structured and inclusive approach to its latest safety timeout, which is reportedly at least the seventh time it has been triggered by the SAF since 2008.

Besides having units conduct their safety reviews, soldiers have also been "actively involved" in giving their feedback and raising suggestions to enhance safety on the ground, said Maj-Gen Goh.

Soldiers have also been encouraged to report unsafe practices to their commanders or to the army safety hotline.

Lieutenant-Colonel Deborah Koh, 37, who commands the 16th Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence Battalion, said that her unit is looking at strengthening the "safety instinct" in every soldier.

"Safety is not just a command responsibility, but everyone's job," she added. "So, it is important to educate them to look out for one another, not to take shortcuts, and to discard this mentality of 'it will not happen to me'."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2019, with the headline 'S'pore Army to review scope of exercises amid focus on safety'. Print Edition | Subscribe