The Official Opening of the SCDF National Service Gallery at The National Service Training Institute - Speech by Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of National Development

Published: 28 April 2017

Good evening to our SCDF NS Pioneers,


Ladies and Gentlemen,




1. Together with Commissioner SCDF, it is our privilege to host you at the official opening of the SCDF NS Gallery, as part of our NS50 Celebrations.   On behalf of the SCDF and the Home Team, let me extend a warm welcome to everyone, especially our NSmen and NSFs. We are also honoured to have among us, our SCDF Pioneers who have played a crucial role in building the foundation of the SCDF that we know today.


 Launch of SCDF NS Gallery


2. The SCDF NS gallery is designed as "The Home of the Rescuers".  It is a walk-down memory lane for our NSmen. 


3. The gallery traces the evolution of National Service in the SCDF: the first NSFs assigned to the Singapore Fire Brigade in 1976, the formation of the Construction Brigade in 1981, the integration of both services into the Singapore Civil Defence Force in 1989, and further changes in the role of NS from the 1990s to today. 


 Importance of NS


4. National Service is vital to Singapore's sovereignty and security. It has become a source of pride and strength for Singapore. The contributions of generations of NS officers have been crucial to our nation-building. 


5. Our NS officers are an integral part of the Home Team. Their role has evolved over the years. Today, NS officers serve proudly alongside our regular officers. They serve with the same dedication and commitment, and share the common responsibility to keep Singapore safe and secure.


Evolution of the Roles of NS in SCDF


The beginning of NS in SCDF


6. In SCDF, NS started in the Singapore Fire Brigade in January 1976. NSFs were directly enlisted to the fire stations, and served in support functions in the fire stations. They were known as 'hydrant men'. This was because their main roles were to lay hoses to provide water supply lines for the regular firefighters to fight the fire.


7. In October 1981, the Construction Brigade was established to train NSFs in construction skills for emergency civil defence needs. The Construction Brigade was the first NSF vocation of the Civil Defence Command. In 1983, the Civil Defence Command was renamed the Singapore Civil Defence Force.


Hotel New World Collapse


8. The Hotel New World collapse in 1986 was a dark moment in Singapore's history. It was our deadliest civil disaster. 33 lives were lost when the 6-storey building collapsed.  


9. The SCDF was put to the test. Regular officers and NSmen from the Rescue Battalion and Construction Battalion were mobilised for search and rescue operations. Working with jack-hammers, cutters and hand-tools, SCDF rescued 17 people from the rubble. Our officers demonstrated grit, determination, and professionalism in the rescue operations.  


10. The spirit was epitomised by one of our NSmen, SGT Tan Kim Teck from the 1st Rescue Battalion. Even before SCDF could officially mobilise him, he stepped forward to help with the rescue operations. He was actively involved in digging through the rubble to save survivors. For his dedication and bravery, he received a field promotion from the rank of Private to Sergeant. He was later conferred the Public Service Star. I would like once again to acknowledge SGT Tan, who is here with us this evening. Your courage and commitment to Singapore serves as inspiration for our current and future NS officers, and indeed for all Singaporeans. 


A stronger SCDF


11. The Hotel New World Collapse highlighted the need for better search and rescue capabilities and civil emergency preparedness. It prompted the integration of the Singapore Fire Service and the Singapore Civil Defence into one service under the Ministry of Home Affairs.


12. SCDF's capabilities have since grown significantly. The Nicoll Highway Collapse in 2004 saw the deployment of the Special Rescue Battalion (SRB), equipped with modern specialised rescue-equipment.  It was made up primarily of NSFs. Our SCDF NSFs worked professionally and tirelessly alongside their regular officers in the 4-day search and rescue operation.


13. In the SCDF today, our NS officers continue to play a vital role. Two to three out of a four-man crew in a fire engine are NS officers. One out of three officers in an emergency ambulance crew is an NSF. The Special Rescue Unit is staffed mainly by NSFs.


14. Our NSmen also take part in overseas search and rescue missions. For example, they were deployed in the 2004 Asian Tsunami Disaster in Aceh and Phuket and in the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake in China.


15. Our NS officers are taking on more leadership roles. More NSmen are now serving in leadership appointments as Rescue Battalion Commanders and Company Commanders. We also have an increasing number of NSFs serving as Rota Commanders and Section Commanders.


16. The dedication and courage of our SCDF NS officers came through very clearly during February's massive fire at a waste management plant in Tuas. Many of you would have read in the news about how some 200 SCDF personnel were involved in the 4-hour operation. Many of them were NS officers, including five NSmen who were in the midst of serving their In-Camp Training (ICT) at Tuas View Fire Station.


17. As part of SGSecure, the roles of our SCDF NS officers have extended into the community. Our NSmen are going house to house to spread SGSecure messages, and running the revamped Emergency Preparedness Days to equip our people with essential skills to keep themselves safe, and to save lives.


18. Every SCDF NSF and NSman will be trained and kept current in emergency response and become our Community First Responders. We hope they will continue to volunteer after completing their NS obligations - once a life-saver, always a life-saver.




19. On behalf of the Home Team, we thank our SCDF NS officers for your dedication and service. We also want to recognise the sacrifices made by the spouses and family members of our NS officers - your support for NS is just as invaluable.  


20. This year marks an important milestone as we celebrate 50 years of National Service. The Home team will organise a series of events throughout the year to pay tribute to the generations of NS officers, and to commemorate NS50.


21. Just this afternoon, for example, a group of NS officers organised a SCDF heritage walk to Jurong Fire Station and old Basic Training Centre at the old Jalan Bahar Camp. It was a nostalgic walk, to let our officers share and reminisce their days spent at the old SCDF training grounds. We would like to thank COL (NS) Malik and his team of NS officers for making the walk successful.


22. As we remember the contributions of our NS officers, let us also renew and reaffirm our commitment for National Service. Thank you once again for your service to the Nation. 


23. Have a good evening.  


Civil Defence and Emergency Preparedness