Singapore

Shorter training and reservist stints, after safety focus

Servicemen welcome greater emphasis on safety

The latest batch of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) army recruits, some who had enlisted in January, graduated on Saturday after completing a shorter 12km route march.

Unlike previous batches, the cohort of about 3,500 recruits from the Basic Military Training Centre did not undertake the usual 24km graduation march before their parade at the Marina Bay floating platform.

In a Facebook post the same day, the Singapore Army said the recruits were unable to complete the required build-up training in time.

As part of their Basic Military Training, recruits go on route marches that progressively become longer, starting at less than 5km before culminating in the 24km march.

However, a two-week timeout was called after the death in January of actor and operationally ready national serviceman (NSman) Aloysius Pang, who had sustained serious injuries during an overseas military exercise.

It was the fourth training- and operations-related fatality in the SAF reported since September 2017.

The timeout was from Jan 23 to Feb 6. Although it was progressively lifted from Feb 7, training for national servicemen was affected.

This also included in-camp training (ICT) sessions that were either shortened or cancelled.

In the same Facebook post, the Singapore Army said it cancelled ICT for three national service units as the sessions fell within or immediately after the timeout.

It added that the cancellation will not affect the fulfilment of their operationally ready national service training cycle.

There has been no other cancellation of ICT for national service units, and the Individual Physical Proficiency Test for NSmen has also resumed.

But on Saturday, the army announced the cancellation of this year's Safra Singapore Bay Run and Army Half Marathon to allow it to better manage the year's tempo, it said.

An NSman, who declined to be named, received news that his high-key training session last month was cancelled just days before it was due to start.

"I think they did not want us to go to camp and not be able to do anything because of the reviews. It's understandable because it shows them making the safety of soldiers a priority," he added.

Others who have continued with their training after the timeout said there was a greater emphasis on adherence to safety protocols.

For instance, the work-rest cycle based on ambient temperature readings was more strictly adhered to. This was to allow soldiers to have enough rest and hydration, said an NSman from the combat engineers formation, who completed his two-week high-key training late last month.

Businessman John Koh, 37, completed his last ICT with an armour unit last Thursday.

His two-week training, consisting of brigade-level war-gaming and planning with no actual deployment of troops, was cut short by a day. A one-day "technical break" was also added on March 3.

On the recent safety focus, he said: "It is important to remind NSmen on training safety and update (them) on previous training incidents because NSmen return only once a year for training."

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