19 Jul 2015

The 97/14 Officer Cadet Course Commissioning Parade - Speech by Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs

Good evening to our newly commissioning officers,


Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,


1.   48 years ago, on 16 July 1967, the first batch of SAF officers was commissioned on the SAFTI Parade Square in Pasir Laba Camp. That was a time of great uncertainty. The Cold War and the Vietnam War were raging. South East Asia, including Singapore, faced communist insurgencies. Relations with our immediate neighbours remained raw following Separation and Konfrontasi. The presence of British forces was under review. This meant that Singapore would have to depend on ourselves to protect our new-found independence. Building the leadership corps for the SAF was a critical task. 


2.   In spite of the daunting circumstances, our first batch of officers stepped forward, persevered in their mission with courage and steadfastness, and laid the foundation for the SAF that we have today. I am delighted that several members of the first batch of officers and their instructors are here with us this evening. In 2007, the 40th year of their commissioning, I had the honour of launching the first edition of the book "One of a Kind", that recounts the stories of this remarkable first batch of officers. I am honoured to launch the second edition later today. These pioneers were the commanders, instructors, mentors and role models for succeeding generations of officers, including myself, who followed them into the SAF. They shaped the NS experience and made history. We salute you and thank all of you. You are really one of a kind.


3.   As we celebrate 50 years of independence and the establishment of the SAF, we can take pride that we now have a modern and capable armed forces. They earn the respect of the many partners that we work with, helping to maintain peace and stability in our region and beyond. Through these 50 years, the SAF has stood guard, maintaining high readiness to respond to threats, ensuring our sovereignty and territorial integrity.


4.   Rescuing the passengers and crew in the SQ117 hijack in 1991. Peacekeeping operations in Cambodia, Namibia, Kuwait and East Timor. Deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq to help contain terrorism, and to the Gulf of Aden to keep international sea lanes safe. Mounting the SAF's first humanitarian relief operation in Bangladesh in 1970, and subsequent relief operations from Baguio to Nias, from Kathmandu to Christchurch, including the SAF's largest effort after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Helping to contain the SARS outbreak in 2003. Delivering a million masks for Singaporeans during the haze in 2013 in 6 hours. All these bear testament to the professionalism and operational readiness of the SAF.


5.   The next 50 years will be no less challenging. Our geography and our location astride a key sea lane, in the middle of a region swept by the forces of nature, and the influences of major powers and competing ideologies, remain unchanged.


6.   As a small country, we want to help build a cooperative regional and international framework. A framework within which all countries can work together with mutual respect for peace and security, in accordance with international law. But, we also have to prepare for threats to regional stability which can affect us – including rising nationalism, extremist violence, territorial disputes, and maritime piracy. We are also seeing non-traditional security threats such as human trafficking for illegal migration, cyber-attacks, and more frequent and serious natural disasters and pandemics.


7.   Addressing these threats often requires a multi-national response. I am thus happy to see on parade today an Officer each from the New Zealand Army and from the Royal Thai Army. Your presence here reflects the long-standing close ties and warm friendship between our Armed Forces and our nations.


8.   While the SAF is called upon to carry out a range of tasks, never forget the fundamental mission, the reason for the existence of the SAF. Why we as a country have invested significant resources, and called upon generations of Singaporean sons to do their duty for the nation, through National Service: - We ourselves must be able to defend Singapore.  The SAF is the final guarantor of our sovereignty and independence. It must maintain a decisive edge, by leveraging technology, keeping our systems strong, and our people ready and committed.


9.   We count on our SAF officers to build an SAF that is stronger, smarter and more spirited than any adversary. We entrust you to lead the SAF. And to be prepared as leaders to stand by the pledge that you are about to take before us all, your families, your friends, your comrades, to fight for our country, and to make the ultimate sacrifice for our people and our country in the line of duty.


10.  Lead by example, and show the way for your soldiers, sailors and airmen. Look after their safety and welfare and they will follow you, filled with courage and confidence, into battle.  Live up to the OCS motto – to Lead, to Excel and to Overcome.


11.  Let me end with these words: "May the trust which the people of Singapore have placed in you be jealously guarded. May our people's honour and freedom never be in jeopardy in your young but competent hands."


12.  These are the words of our founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew to the first batch of officers 48 years ago. I enjoin you with these same words to do your duty as officers of the Singapore Armed Forces in service to our people and our country. Do your best! Thank you very much.

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