Commanders' mindset key to safety: Ong Ye Kung

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Safety is still paramount even as soldiers are put through tough and realistic training, Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung said during his first visit to Exercise Wallaby, which recently saw the death of a full-time national serviceman.

Adding that commanders and their units have been grappling with this "constant trade-off" for years, Mr Ong said yesterday that risks are always present in difficult exercises.

"But with the right mitigation measures and the right training, we can reduce these risks and even eliminate them. That has to be our objective all the time," he added.

Third Sergeant Gavin Chan, 21, died on Sept 15 in an incident during an earlier phase of Exercise Wallaby, which is Singapore's biggest overseas deployment of military personnel.

The oldest of four siblings had been guiding a Bionix Infantry Fighting Vehicle out of difficult terrain that day when it landed on its side.


3SG Chan, who was the vehicle commander, was found unconscious next to the vehicle, while the driver and the other two passengers were unhurt.

The death was the first fatal incident involving a Singapore Armed Forces serviceman during training and operations in the past four years.

Compared with his days in national service, when safety drills and measures were emphasised, Mr Ong said what makes a difference today is the mindset of commanders to prioritise safety.

Said Mr Ong: "The biggest difference between then and now is (while) you could have all the drills and measures, the most important factor is the commanders' mindset. Their mindset decides the safety culture of the organisation."


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