Tuesday, 28 June 2016

SAFTI plays key role in Singapore's security: PM Lee Hsien Loong

SAFTI MI 50th Anniversary
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 27 Jun 2016

The SAFTI Military Institute started out in a primary school, but has gone on to become a key institution of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and plays an important role in Singapore's security, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

PM Lee, who was himself trained in the institute, lauded it for producing past and present military leaders who have built and transformed the SAF.

Speaking at the commissioning parade of a new batch of officers, he recalled how then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had said, at the first commissioning parade in 1967, that the SAF can make up for its lack of numbers by "the standards of discipline, training, dedication and leadership".

PM Lee said: "This has become part of the SAF's ethos and spirit, and enabled the SAF to perform its duties to keep Singapore safe and secure."

SAFTI, which now has a sprawling camp in Jurong, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Around 70 of its pioneer batch of 117 officers were at yesterday's parade.

PM Lee thanked them for volunteering as cadets at a time of great uncertainty, when Singapore had just separated from Malaysia. "The first batch knew what was at stake, and... persevered through blood, sweat and tears, out of a love for... this country."

This has inspired generations of officers, who have together built up the SAF from just two infantry battalions to today's tri-service fighting force with the latest equipment, technology and tactics, he said.

To the 547 new officers, he added: "It is your duty to ensure that Singapore will always be secure, so that your families, and all Singaporeans, can always be confident of our future together."

Pioneer SAF officers one of a kind, says PM Lee
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 27 Jun 2016

Singapore's first batch of army officers who volunteered to join the new SAFTI Military Institute 50 years ago were referred to as "handmade", as the country had no prior experience in forging an officer class.

They were selected through IQ and physical fitness tests at Jurong Town Primary School, where they were also trained with the help of Israeli advisers.

Brigadier-General (Ret) Kirpa Ram Vij, who was the first director of SAFTI, said yesterday: "We started from scratch, and we had 117 first- class products - no compromise."

These SAFTI-trained officers earned their spurs and went on to lead the earliest generations of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers and train future batches of officers. Many went on to occupy key positions in public and private life.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday paid tribute to them for their contributions and described them as "one of a kind" in a speech commemorating the 50th anniversary of SAFTI.

Lieutenant-General (Ret) Ng Jui Ping, who was in the first batch of officers, answered an advertisement in 1966 to become one of Singapore's pioneer career soldiers.

Then 17 years old, he thought life as an SAF officer would be glamourous. "Little did I know - and neither did the rest of the batch know - that we were in for a really rough time," he said.

Even today, he recalls spending whole days running up and down hills as punishment for not perfecting foot drills, and remembers being so sleep-deprived that he would doze off while standing with map and compass in hand during exercises.

But the unforgiving training forged a bond between him and other trainees in the pioneer batch of officers that endures even today.

"As individuals, it built our character, it taught us to face adversity and to overcome," said LG Ng, 67, who was formerly defence chief and became an entrepreneur after leaving the SAF.

Yesterday, LG Ng and about 70 of his batch mates were present at SAFTI as PM Lee unveiled a mural at the military institute to mark the jubilee anniversary of SAFTI and remember its earliest days.

Mr Lee, who was once a young officer cadet at SAFTI's Pasir Laba Camp, said he knew many of the pioneer officers personally, having served with them and under them.

He said he hoped their indomitable spirit "will inspire future generations to uphold that same spirit to lead, excel and overcome".

He came out tops after seizing second chance
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 27 Jun 2016

From his first day of national service, Mr Muhammad Khalid Mohamad Sukri, 23, knew he wanted to become an officer leading men in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

But he did not make the cut after basic military training and was sent to Specialist Cadet School instead.

After becoming a section commander in 2nd Battalion Singapore Infantry Regiment (2SIR), he excelled in his missions and so impressed his superiors that he was asked if he would like to be recommended for officer training.

This entailed extending his national service by six months, but he said "yes" immediately.

Yesterday, the 23-year-old's voice boomed across the SAFTI parade square as parade commander for his cohort.

He was also awarded the Sword of Merit, an award given to the top 10 per cent of a graduating cohort.

The air force's Ms Laura Lee, 21, received the Sword of Honour as the best performer of the batch. She is the first female trainee in her Ground Based Air Defence vocation to get the honour.

Ms Lee was determined to join the air force after attending a career seminar in junior college, but was told repeatedly that there were no vacancies available. When a slot opened up last year, she decided to sign up, putting her university studies on hold.

Despite her diminutive 1.58m frame, she more than pulled her weight in training in a vocation that operates heavy duty surface-to-air missile systems, winning the Best PT award for physical fitness.

She hopes this will inspire more women to make the leap to join the SAF. "There are still some in society who see protecting the nation as more of a male's job than a female's," she said.

"But I hope that seeing what I've achieved will really encourage other females who want to come here to just go ahead and do so."

Yesterday's commissioning parade marked the completion of 38 weeks of rigorous training for 547 newly commissioned officers.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Permanent Secretary (Defence) Chan Yeng Kit, Chief of Defence Force Perry Lim and other senior Ministry of Defence officials and SAF officers were also present at the parade.


SAFTI 50 Commemorative Book

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