Published: 22 July 2022
Ladies and gentlemen,
1. I am very happy to be here for the NS55 get-together for SCDF National Service (NS) personnel.
2. Just now when I was watching the video, I was very touched and moved. I have been a direct beneficiary of NS and all your contributions, your dedication. I am also a direct beneficiary because I am a mother with children. I look to all of you around here, and I feel assured knowing that you are keeping Singapore safe and secure every day. So, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. NS55 is an important event to recognise and appreciate the contributions of past and present national servicemen, and to commemorate 55 years of NS.
National Servicemen – An Integral Segment of our Life-Saving Force
3. National servicemen (NSmen) are an integral segment of our life saving force. Since the introduction of NS in 1967, generations of national servicemen have served to safeguard our way of life and secure our homes. I still remember when I was young, and I watched adverts on TV of NSmen being called up for duty – they left their wives and children at home in the middle of the night, to go out, put on their boots, and get operationally ready. As a child, I didn’t really understand the concept of NS then, but I remembered how that made me feel – it made me feel safe.
4. We all know that it is not just about what NS and our NSmen do, should there ever be war in Singapore, it is also about what we have here in Singapore – that law, order, safety and security that each and every one of you are part of, that you safeguard for us every day. We know that SCDF responds to all sorts of emergencies, big and small. From fires to disaster rescues around the region, to even saving cats, our SCDF officers and NSmen have always risen to the occasion, and many of us in Singapore are extremely grateful to you, to your contributions and services.
5. SCDF had enlisted its first intake of full-time national servicemen (NSFs) in 1981, and you continue to play an essential role in SCDF’s day-to-day operations and contribute to SCDF’s mission of protecting and saving lives and property.
6. SCDF has consistently maintained one of the world’s lowest fire fatality rates and has also earned the public’s trust. In a survey we conducted in 2021, more than 90% of responders approved of SCDF’s management of fire and medical emergencies. SCDF’s success is due in no small measure to the contributions of our NSmen on duty in fire stations and NS units. You really are our everyday heroes.
7. As recent as the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, our SCDF NSmen had made sacrifices and were deeply involved in the management of the crisis. For example, we have Mr Aveek Goswami, an NSF Rota Commander from the Special Rescue Unit, he had led a team conducting temperature screening operations at Changi Airport during the early stages of the pandemic. I think you would recall that in the early stages of the pandemic, many things were very uncertain. No one knew how dangerous and infectious COVID-19 was, but we needed frontliners to keep us safe. So, our frontliners, including yourselves, stood up to the challenge. You were there doing temperature screening, putting yourself at risk, so that you could keep all of us at home safe. So, thank you very much, Mr Aveek Goswami. Our SCDF emergency medical personnel, including NSF paramedics and medics, have also been working tirelessly despite the long hours and personal risk. We thank them for their dedication and sacrifices to keep our country safe and to protect our people.
Important to Sustain Public Trust in SCDF
8. The trust in SCDF to perform its duty well is very hard-earned, and we must continue to sustain the high confidence of the public in the SCDF. SCDF has continually transformed itself to be operationally effective, and well-prepared to manage the challenges ahead.
9. First, SCDF has been a leader in enhancing capabilities through technology. The recently introduced 6th generation Light Fire Attack Vehicle, or Red Rhino, will be equipped with a 2nd generation Red Rhino Robot. It can be used to fight fires, or perform other tasks such as carrying equipment. This allows the Red Rhino crew size to be reduced from four to three, with one NSF firefighter being redeployed to man another firefighting vehicle. We can reduce the risk faced by our officers, and at the same time, put our resources to more effective use.
10. Second, NSmen have been fully integrated into the fire stations’ routine operations. This improves SCDF’s deployment of limited manpower resources. NSmen serve as firefighters or medics on SCDF’s emergency vehicles – no different from their full-time teammates. Their experience and perspective are valuable contributions to the team.
11. Third, very importantly, we will continue to partner the community to develop a “A Nation of Lifesavers”. This campaign has gone really well on the ground, and many people recognise the branding. I think this is important because each and every one has a sense of ownership towards our society. So, I would like to congratulate and thank SCDF for running this campaign and having it imbibed in the public consciousness – how we can all be part of “A Nation of Lifesavers”. Studies have shown that a cardiac arrest victim’s chance of survival decreases by about 7-10% for every minute without CPR and the use of an AED. SCDF has been committed to empowering the public to develop skills as Community First Responders. This includes off-duty national servicemen who are trained, and can play a part in saving lives.
12. We have often read in the papers about how off-duty NSmen have been first responders coming to the rescue of these out of hospital cardiac arrest cases that we see. We had a very healthy enrolment rate to our mobile applications as the public want to be a part of it. I think we can be assured that more and more members of the public are learning CPR, AED skills and this is due largely to the efforts of SCDF in promoting “A Nation of Lifesavers”.
13. I would like to share some examples. On September 2019, SGT Daniel Wong, then an NSF from 1st SCDF Division, was alerted to a cardiac arrest incident through the SCDF myResponder application. SGT Daniel responded without hesitation, and he worked together with other Community First Responders. He managed to save the life of a member of the public. Another example. CPL Muhammad Khair Bin Mohd Kirwan, an NSman from 2nd SCDF Division has also exemplified the selfless spirit of a Community First Responder. He has responded to over 50 cases of minor fires and medical emergencies while off-duty. There are many NSmen like SGT Daniel Wong and CPL Muhammad Khair, who can contribute to saving lives as Community First Responders.
Enabling a More Meaningful NS Experience
14. We value the contributions of our NSmen and will continue to work towards providing a more meaningful NS experience. SCDF has restructured our NS engagement platforms, and we will continue to see how we can improve, to further empower NS commanders to exercise leadership at a tactical and strategic level. This includes the creation of a Unit Tactical Forum for NS Matters, which is chaired by NS Deputy Division Commanders. This platform allows NS commanders to oversee unit-level issues, from in-camp training to personnel matters. The SCDF Strategic Forum on NS Matters was also created for NS commanders to engage SCDF’s senior management and weigh in on strategic and policy matters. It is co-chaired by SCDF’s Deputy Commissioners.
15. SCDF is also enhancing the capability of our NS units. We have been working with the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group (INSARAG), a United Nations (UN) body that sets urban search and rescue (USAR) standards, to certify our national accreditation process. This would empower SCDF to conduct self-certification of NS unit USAR capability under a UN framework.
16. The 21 Rescue and Medical Unit, a unit comprising solely of NSmen, will participate in this important INSARAG assessment, which will be completed by October 2022. If successful, Singapore would be the first country in the Asian Pacific region to achieve the INSARAG Recognised National Accreditation Process (IRNAP) qualification.
Recognition of Our National Servicemen
17. To recognise the contributions of our NSmen, and to commemorate 55 years of NS, past and present NSmen will receive a NS55 recognition package which comprises $100 worth of credits via the LifeSG mobile application; and a complimentary one-year HomeTeamNS membership. I think the complimentary one-year HomeTeamNS membership is very helpful. I hope many of us will visit the HomeTeamNS Clubhouses, not only for meetings, but to keep fit. It also is a wonderful place for families to come together to bond.
18. We will also be using this opportunity to present tokens of appreciation to 49 NSmen who have made significant contributions to Civil Defence. Many have served beyond the required 10-year NS training cycle, such as Dr Mohan, former Deputy Chief Medical Officer who has served as a key appointment holder for 15 years. During his service with SCDF, he had responded to four overseas operation lionheart missions between 2004 and 2011. Dr Mohan was appointed as the Head of the SCDF Medical Board review committee in 2014, and represented SCDF in the INSARAG Medical Working Group.
19. In addition, among them are three NS Deputy Division Commanders who have provided strong mentorship to you and less experienced NS Commanders. They will be stepping down from this appointment. They are:
• Mr Jonathan Joseph Tan, former Deputy Division Commander, 1st SCDF Division;
• Mr Mohamed Razaleigh, former Deputy Division Commander, 2nd SCDF Division; and
• Mr Jorge Lau, former Deputy Division Commander, 3rd SCDF Division.
20. In conclusion, I thank all SCDF NSmen for your dedication and commitment to serve Singapore. SCDF has indeed come a long way since its first intake of NSmen and your contributions and sacrifices through NS have been crucial to our nationhood.
21. Thank you, COL Alvin Low and your team for making this event possible today and I wish everyone a pleasant evening ahead. Thank you.