Taking part in NDP's Total Defence Display once in a lifetime opportunity, say participants

First Sergeant Kaelynn Hong will be in command of a Hunter armoured fighting vehicle during the segment. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SINGAPORE - First Sergeant Kaelynn Hong, 25, has spent every Saturday in the past few months rehearsing her part in this year's National Day Parade (NDP).

Even though these rehearsal sessions – which last from 7am till 9pm – eat into her weekend, 1SG Hong looks forward to spending the extra hours in camp.

"I said 'yes' immediately, even though I knew it would mean spending time to rehearse, as taking part in the NDP is a dream that I've had since young," she said.

1SG Hong of the 40th Battalion Singapore Armoured Regiment will be in command of a Hunter armoured fighting vehicle – the first time the vehicle will feature during the Total Defence Display segment of the NDP and also the first time the Hunter will be helmed by a woman during the parade.

She said: "I'm nervous, as being the first female vehicle commander (of the Hunter) is a big responsibility."

The display is returning after five years. The parade is being ramped up to full-capacity, featuring ticketed shows open to the public.

Scaled-down versions, with invited guests, were held in the past two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Hunter is just one of at least 50 different assets in the display, which was put together by the Singapore Armed Forces and the Home Team and will involve more than 500 participants.

During this segment, the Republic of Singapore Air Force will also debut its CH-47F heavy-lift helicopter alongside the Singapore Civil Defence Force's Pumper Firefighting Machine and the Singapore Police Force's next-generation fast response car, the latter two having previously made their appearance in the mobile columns of past parades.

Driving the police fast response car is Sergeant Jasmine Poh, 25, a first-year police officer, who is also taking part in the NDP for the first time.

"It's an honour to be driving (the car) during the display and parade; for me, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Sgt Poh said.

She added that her colleagues were supportive and understanding of her decision to take part, helping to cover her shifts when she was rehearsing for the parade.

Cleaning up a simulated chemical spill while controlling an Unmanned Firefighting Machine remotely will be SCDF firefighter Sergeant(3) Muhammad Syahkir Shahar.

"Most people think that we only put out fires, but cleaning up hazardous materials is also an important part of the civil defence pillar (of Total Defence)," he said.

(From left) Sergeant Jasmine Poh, First Sergeant Kaelynn Hong and Sergeant(3) Muhammad Syahkir Shahar. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

SGT3 Syahkir added that, as father to a newborn son, he cherishes the opportunity to be part of the parade even more.

"With what is going on outside Singapore now, I can see how important it is to maintain safety and security. When my son gets older, I'll be able to tell him about the part that I played at the NDP," he said.

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Correction note: This article has been edited for accuracy.

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