Thursday, 9 February 2017

NS50 celebrations to commemorate 50 years of National Service launched

$100 vouchers for NSmen to mark 50 years of NS
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 8 Feb 2017

All men who have served national service (NS) and those who are enlisting this year are set to get $100 of vouchers to commemorate the 50th anniversary of this key Singapore institution.

In total, more than a million national servicemen will receive the vouchers, which can be used at selected retail and food and beverage outlets.

Those who have completed their full-time national service will also get a year's free membership in either the SAFRA or HomeTeamNS network of clubhouses.

The benefits were announced by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday, as he launched a series of events to mark the jubilee year of NS. Speaking at a ceremony on Pulau Tekong, where 100 enlistees were sworn in as recruits, he noted that Singapore built its armed forces from scratch through NS. "Together with the nation on the 50th anniversary of NS, young and old, parent or child, new recruit or old soldier, we want to reaffirm our collective and unwavering support for NS," he said.

A new HomeTeamNS Clubhouse at the Tampines Hub will also open next Monday, Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said yesterday. In a letter sent through various platforms, including e-mail to all Home Team national servicemen thanking them for their contributions, he wrote: "The Home Team salutes you for all that you have done to keep Singapore safe and secure."















Goodies a token of recognition for priceless sacrifice: MINDEF
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 8 Feb 2017

More than one million men who have performed their national service (NS) and those who will do so this year will each get $100 in vouchers, which they can use at retail and food and beverage outlets.

The vouchers are part of a recognition package to mark 50 years of NS.

The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), which announced the goodies yesterday, said the token of recognition can never repay servicemen for sacrifices made in serving the nation.

MINDEF's director of manpower Lee Chung Wei said focusing on the dollar value of the vouchers and other initiatives rolled out this year to celebrate NS "cheapens" the institution. He said: "NS is priceless - you can't put a dollar value to it... If you focus on a dollar value, you are actually cheapening NS."

He was speaking to reporters at a media briefing last Thursday, ahead of yesterday's announcement.



The NS50 vouchers are funded by MINDEF and the Ministry of Home Affairs, and not retailers and merchants, said MINDEF.

Besides the Singapore Armed Forces, national servicemen are also enlisted into the Home Team, where they serve in the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force.

Mr Lee said: "What we want to achieve this year is for the community to step forward to show their appreciation, through their own events."

Aug 1 to 10 has been designated NS50 Week, during which there will be activities like an NS50-themed picnic in partnership with Families for Life, a non-profit organisation that promotes resilient families.

The Singapore Discovery Centre will run bus tours to sites of NS significance, such as Pasir Laba Camp, where the first batch of officer cadets were commissioned. Organisations and businesses have also planned pledge ceremonies to publicly declare their support for NS.

Retailers that offer NSmen discounts and promotions as part of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day on July 1 will also extend them all the way until NS50 Week ends.

Colonel Clifford Keong, MINDEF's head of the National Service Affairs Department, said he was heartened that many initiatives planned are ground-up efforts, with organisations coming forward with ideas. Col Keong said about 250 retailers participated in SAF Day last year, and he is confident more will join this time.

An NS50 portal (NS50.sg) will provide more details. It will also list the participating merchants where the $100 vouchers can be used.

Mr Lee said: "We should not take it lightly that we have achieved 50 years of NS. It is no easy feat and is something to be proud of.

"And it is not just MINDEF, but every NSman, their families, their employers... It has required sacrifice and support from all these stakeholders."






















Ng Eng Hen: Much more to protect now than before
50-year NS milestone also a reminder that a strong defence is always needed, even in times of peace
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 8 Feb 2017

Singapore's success means today's national servicemen have much more to protect than when national service (NS) was first instituted 50 years ago, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday as he launched a year-long series of events to commemorate 50 years of national service.

Painting Singapore as a modern metropolis in which a majority of citizens own homes and enjoy world-class education, healthcare and transport systems, Dr Ng told 100 recruits on Pulau Tekong moments before they were sworn in to begin their basic military training: "Your generation inherits a better Singapore, a stronger SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) and greater support for NS than the one the older generation started with."

But the milestone is also a reminder that a strong defence is always needed, even in times of peace, Dr Ng said.

For instance, Lithuania abolished NS in the belief that it was one of the fruits of the "peace dividend" derived from the end of the Cold War.

Barely 20 years later, Russia's annexation of Crimea and troubles in neighbouring Ukraine have undermined stability in the region.

"Today, Lithuania wants to reinstate NS in the face of bold aggression, but finds it almost impossible to raise a strong military when they need it most," he said.

Closer to home, the recent seizure of Singapore's armoured vehicles in Hong Kong has led some to question whether this would have happened if Singapore were a big country, said Dr Ng.

"We can never change the fact that we are a small country, but today, after 50 years of NS, we have built an SAF capable of defending Singapore," he said at the oath-taking ceremony, which was also attended by some of the first citizen soldiers to don the uniform of the country's nascent military.

These pioneers had to build up the SAF from scratch to meet the threat of Konfrontasi, the communist insurgency in the region, and a possible fallout from the Vietnam War.



Today, Dr Ng noted, SAF troops combat terrorism in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, participate in anti- piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden and regularly conduct humanitarian relief efforts in the wake of natural disasters.

The evolution of NS as an institution is featured in the newly opened NS Gallery, a permanent exhibition that was also launched by Dr Ng at the Basic Military Training Centre.

The event on Pulau Tekong kicks off a year of activities to commemorate the golden jubilee of NS, including an NS50 Week in August, the same month during which the first batch of full-time national servicemen enlisted in 1967.

Since then, more than a million people have gone through what is now a rite of passage for Singaporean men, with about one in four serving in the police and civil defence forces.

"Indeed, over the past 50 years, NS has become an institution through which Singaporean males define themselves in their formative years, a crucial period where close friends are made for life; where values and character are deeply forged; where they begin to understand why and how they protect those that they love and what they cherish on this island home," Dr Ng said.

Recruit Jeremy Lee, 24, who was one of those sworn in yesterday, said he was excited to enter the military. His father also served NS and helped to prepare him mentally for his new life as a soldier. "I hope to do my father and family proud," he said.




















Celebrating NS50: Thrown in at the deep end, NS first batch built up camaraderie
By Adrian Lim, The Straits Times, 8 Feb 2017

Some did not have formal education, and others were fluent only in their own languages and dialects.

The pioneer batch of national service (NS) trainees - who were enlisted on Aug 17, 1967 - were not an easy bunch to train, recounted one of the instructors, retired senior warrant officer Ong Hui Pheng, 79.

"We went to the extent of forming a 'Hokkien platoon'," he added.

But they bonded as they worked towards the common purpose of defending Singapore: the start of an NS institution that has lasted 50 years.

Mr Ong, then a regimental sergeant major with the 3rd Singapore Infantry Regiment, said it was not easy to get the trainees to accept the concept of NS. Laws passed in March 1967 to make NS compulsory were initially met with resistance.

"Not every citizen accepted that (NS) concept... to serve for two years with an allowance of $60 every month," Mr Ong said yesterday.

Mr Ong was one of the 98 NS pioneers and their trainers invited yesterday to the Basic Military Training Centre on Pulau Tekong to witness the launch of NS50, a year- long celebration to commemorate 50 years of NS.

Despite the initial resistance, Mr Ong found a way to motivate his recruits. "If I tell them to run, I will run first. If I tell them to eat, I will eat last. That was leadership by example," he said.

Retired lieutenant-colonel Albel Singh, 68, one of Mr Ong's trainees, said the enlistees built up a camaraderie because they were thrown in at the deep end.

Mr Singh, who later signed on, remembers being deployed as an officer cadet to conduct vehicle patrols in Tai Seng, in the Paya Lebar area, during the May 1969 racial riots.

Mr Singh, who was first in line to register for NS on March 28, 1967, said: "Foreign influences can affect the stability of the country and at any time cause problems."

















Going the extra mile to serve in Home Team
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 8 Feb 2017

They may have long completed their full-time national service (NS) commitments, but Colonel Syed Abdul Malik Aljunied, 49, and Deputy Assistant Commissioner Darric Teo, 44, have chosen to go the extra mile.

The duo are among a group of NSmen who have taken on additional responsibilities in the Home Team.

Col Malik, for one, signed up to be involved in overseas missions with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) in 2004, and still continues to be rotated on standby.

"Having been trained as a rescuer all these years, you have achieved competence... The next thing is the willingness to come forward to serve," said the father of two sons and two daughters.

In 2005, he was among the third batch of NSmen deployed for Operation Lionheart, SCDF's overseas contingent which mostly consists of regulars and helps disaster-hit countries. He was sent to Muzaffarabad for a search-and-rescue operation after an earthquake in Pakistan. Around 80,000 people were killed and many children were hurt.

Hearing how his father rescued schoolchildren inspired special constable Syed Isa Aljunied, 20, Col Malik's younger son. He joined the National Civil Defence Cadet Corps in secondary school, and is now doing NS with the police force. His elder brother, aged 22, served with the SCDF's marine command.

Like Col Malik, fellow NSman DAC Teo considers NS a meaningful journey. He recalled spending 14-hour days for more than two weeks as part of a team at Bedok police division helping to lead security operations during the 2009 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation economic leaders meeting.

But there was some personal cost. "Income at my logistics company was down by half at the time and my family life was non-existent," said the father of one. "But my family has grown used to it. NS has been a very big part of my life. After all, this is our country."

DAC Teo now prepares NSmen for duties under the police's Protective Security Command unit, which handles location and events security.

Yesterday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen launched a year-long series of events to mark 50 years of NS. The Singapore Police Force started full-time NS in 1975, while the SCDF, then the Singapore Fire Brigade, started it a year later.

In a letter, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam thanked Home Team NSmen for their contributions. In a media statement, he said NS "has been and will continue to be an important pillar in the Home Team's mission", adding that police and SCDF NSmen are deployed at the front line every day to ensure a safe and secure Singapore.


















Millions of reasons to honour NS50
Editorial, The Straits Times, 9 Feb 2017

National service would not have been the backbone of Singapore's defences for 50 years without the sacrifices of more than a million men over the decades who had served in the armed forces, police and civil defence. If they had not taken their tasks seriously and built credible resources from scratch, there would have been little assurance that tiny Singapore could stand tall to celebrate 50 years of independence, which it did two years ago. Now, it's the turn of NS to mark this important milestone. In doing so, the nation must also acknowledge the wholehearted support for NS shown by family members, employers and others in the community. They also deserve to be saluted, although for practical reasons, an NS50 Recognition Package of $100 in vouchers will go to only past and present national servicemen.

The amount is not important. What matters is the symbolic value of the package. It is a way of showing deep appreciation to those who built security so that a spatial gathering of mostly diasporic people could imagine themselves as a nation with a future, and a city-state could have borders that larger nations would be obliged to respect. Singapore's potent citizen army gave others a reason to give due regard to the small nation.

A large standing army would have been ruinous, not just for the cost involved, but also for the precious manpower it would have diverted from the economy. But anything less than credible deterrence could have made independence short-lived.

In the process of securing Singapore from external threats, NS also built a more secure country within. NS created new ways of coming together for male Singaporeans. It forged the camaraderie of comradeship, not only through the necessary rituals of peacetime - growing up in school together, and making lifelong friends in the community and at work - but also in the heat of preparing for security challenges. Differences of race, religion, education and status mattered less when life itself depended on the friendship, trust and support of others in one's operating unit. The habits of the heart cultivated during NS stayed on after the re-entry to civilian life. They strengthened the bonds that made all - Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians - Singaporeans first and last.

Half a century of that rite of passage for men has turned NS into a fact of Singapore life. An enduring institution, it makes demands of discipline and time from one's teen years to adulthood, while careers are built and new families are formed. It is to the credit of Singaporeans that they have accepted NS as a natural part of life and a challenge that must be met by adhering to the highest standards. It is arduous, but it also evokes much pride and tugs at the heart, especially when one sees many generations bound by the shared experience of NS over half a century.




















Related
NS50
Defence Minister Launches NS50 at BMTC
Factsheet: NS50 Recognition Package
Factsheet: 50 Years of National Service: From My Generation To Yours

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