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Thursday October 24, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday October 24, 2013 MYT 12:52:06 PM
THE Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is looking to shorten the amount of “down time” that young men face before and after their mandatory national service (NS) stints.
Many face a combined total of seven to eight months’ waiting in the periods between school and NS, as well as NS and university.
Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen also said servicemen can be given more leeway to state their preferred vocations in the SAF, in an effort to match the serviceman’s skills and expertise to his job.
Dr Ng revealed the plans amid ongoing efforts by a high-level panel that he heads to strengthen support for and commitment to NS.
He said he was “gratified and humbled” by a recent poll that found 98% of Singaporeans supported NS.
But he said more can be done.
The Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) is now at a “midpoint” in its efforts to submit recommendations to the Government early next year. Formed in May, it has held focus group discussions and canvassed the views of more than 10,000 people.
The SAF said it is looking to ensure NS training is “efficient and effective” and “makes the best use of their time”. Some citizen soldiers and their parents have complained about the amount of spare time before and after NS stints.
Nearly 80% of full-time national servicemen are A-level graduates or polytechnic diploma holders who will go to university.
Dr Ng said he has asked Second Defence Minister Chan Chun Sing to work with tertiary institutions to explore ways to provide a better transition. But he stressed that defence is a national priority and “we must never cut corners or reduce our capabilities”.
Dr Ng was speaking after a four-day trip to Finland and Switzerland, where he learnt about conscription systems and how women are allowed to volunteer in the military forces there.
In Switzerland, a serviceman’s skills are matched to his military job.
Dr Ng said Singapore is looking at doing the same. Currently, it only allows servicemen to state whether they want to become a commander.
But Dr Ng stressed that servicemen must understand that not everyone gets their first choice.
“The organisation must be responsible for making sure that all elements are strong,” he added. — The Straits Times / Asia News Network
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SAF looks to cut NS 'down time'
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