SAF to review fitness classification system for NSFs

Move will pave the way for national servicemen to be deployed in more operational roles

More national service (NS) enlistees will soon be able to take on operational roles in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) regardless of medical condition, as the organisation reviews how it classifies fitness for different vocations.

The move comes as the SAF introduces new vocations and redesigns existing ones in response to a changing threat environment, such as having cyber specialists to protect key digital networks and systems, Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How said during the debate on the Ministry of Defence budget yesterday.

"We are redesigning our Medical Classification System (MCS) and the Physical Employment Standard (PES) System to shift away from the binary classification of Combat-Fit versus Non-Combat-Fit deployment," he said.

"Medical exclusions that used to limit deployments may no longer be relevant in today's operational context or with the latest technology."

The current MCS sees full-time national servicemen (NSFs) classified as either combat-fit or non-combat fit, while the PES system categorises NSFs by suitability for combat vocations, ranging from PES A and B1 for combat vocations to PES F, where they are deemed medically unfit for any service.


SAF is looking at using functional assessments to determine NSFs' deployability in specific vocations, said Mr Heng.

This will look at the physical demands needed for daily operations, to better match a serviceman's abilities to a role's demands.

Functional assessments will guide the SAF's selection of transport operators, and if successful, the trial will be extended to other vocations like tank operators.

"The key idea is to deploy every soldier in a meaningful, operational role, without compromising safety or operational effectiveness," said Mr Heng.

This change is among the items on the agenda for the NS review committee, which include expanded opportunities for NSmen with relevant civilian expertise, and a streamlined Health Screening Programme and Work-Study Diploma for NSFs in certain vocations.

The committee, which was set up last year, is also looking at ways to make NS fitness activities more convenient and flexible.

Mr Heng added that an audit by the Inspector-General's Office found notable progress in the strengthening of SAF's safety culture, with the organisation responding positively to safety measures.

"Our units have also made significant adjustments to their training schedule to commit time to safety, including conducting daily safety briefs and catering dedicated training time to obtain feedback from soldiers on safety," he said.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.

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