Younger soldiers now have to give up more: Colonel

Chief Commando Officer Kenny Tay feels today's soldiers give up more comforts than their predecessors did when they enlist.
Chief Commando Officer Kenny Tay feels today's soldiers give up more comforts than their predecessors did when they enlist.

The young are sometimes dismissed as the "strawberry generation" but Chief Commando Officer, Colonel Kenny Tay, does not do so.

The young soldiers under him wear heavier body armour, walk longer distances and carry weapons with higher firepower than their counterparts in the past.

They complete back-to-back missions with none falling out, he said.

"With the correct purpose instilled in them, you can get the commitment to defend from them. The fact that our training is tough draws them closer together, so that they will fight for one another."

Col Tay, who is also commander of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Special Operations Task Force, was speaking to reporters on Monday, ahead of the commando formation's 50th anniversary parade yesterday.

He said members of the younger generation have had to give up more when they enlist. When he was young, he lived in a shophouse, with a folding bed.

"Anything more that I owned, beyond my shoes and clothes, could be contained within one shoe box," said the 47-year-old.

When he entered the army in 1990, he had a mattress and a metal cupboard, which, although small, was more than what he had before.

His two children, aged 16 and 13, have creature comforts such as their own game consoles.

 
 
 
 

He said: "When the young enlist today, I think the change is quite great for them, it's not easy for them to adapt, so we walk with them on this journey along the way."

Famed for their red berets - the near universal symbol of an elite airborne trooper - the commandos are trained to undertake special operations such as raids and reconnaissance deep in enemy territory. To do so, they can operate on land, in the air and in water.

The commando unit was formed as the Singapore Armed Forces Regular Battalion on Dec 1, 1969, with a pioneer batch of 30 men.

Col Tay was commander of the Officer Cadet School, the Commando Training Institute, and the Special Operations Force before assuming his current role in May last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2019, with the headline 'Younger soldiers now have to give up more: Colonel'. Print Edition | Subscribe