Wednesday 24 October 2012

NS45: $100 million to recognise contributions of 900,000 NSmen

By S Ramesh and Dylan Loh, Channel NewsAsia, 22 Oct 2012

More than 900,000 national servicemen (NSmen) will benefit from a S$100m "hongbao" from the Singapore government to commemorate the 45th anniversary of National Service in the country.

Speaking at the celebrations at The Float @ the Marina Bay, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said all NSmen will receive vouchers to enjoy a movie or meal with their family and friends.

In addition, Operationally Ready NSmen who are currently serving out their cycles, as well as those who have completed their cycles, will also receive a year's free membership to SAFRA or HomeTeam NS.

Mr Lee said the "hongbao" will cost the government S$100 million. But he said the gestures will never fully compensate for their personal sacrifices.

The vouchers, with value of between S$50 and S$100 each, can be used for groceries, dining, recreation and at petrol stations, among other things. These will be handed out next year.

Servicemen will receive a letter by post between January and April 2013 informing them of their eligibility for the benefits.

Prime Minister Lee said that the commitment of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Home Team in protecting Singapore has won the country 45 years of peace and stability.

He said fortunately, Singapore has not had to fight a war but added this was not a matter of luck.

He said the SAF, by its very existence and capabilities, has contributed to the stable and peaceful security environment in the region, and helped Singapore maintain friendly relations with its neighbours.

He added the Home Team has protected the country against unconventional threats like extremist terrorism and put would-be perpetrators away before they could do the nation harm.

Mr Lee said looking ahead, he is cautiously optimistic that the region will remain peaceful.

"One key factor is relations between the US and China. We must expect problems, frictions and tensions to arise from time to time between the two countries," he said.

"But both Chinese and American leaders recognise how inter-dependent they have become, and I believe they will strive hard to manage relations and avoid jeopardising their major shared interests."

Mr Lee went on to say: "In Asia, countries are trading, investing, and interacting more and more with one another. But there are also tensions in the region.

"Some ASEAN members have exchanged fire over territorial disputes. Tensions are brewing in the South China Sea and the East China Sea, also because of territorial disputes.

"North Korea remains a potential security flashpoint. In addition, we must always be prepared for emerging and unconventional threats, especially extremist terrorism, which remains a real danger.

"We therefore cannot take our present peace and stability for granted. We must continue to build and maintain a committed, competent and vigilant SAF and Home Team.

"We must upgrade our capabilities steadily year by year, in a sustainable and affordable way. We must help younger generations of Singaporeans who have grown up in a more stable and affluent environment understand these strategic realities, and prepare them for their part in defending Singapore.

"We must also strengthen Total Defence. Every Singaporean must be committed to the defence of Singapore, whether in the military, civil, economic, social or psychological domains."

Prime Minister Lee added that National Service is ultimately about safeguarding Singapore's homes, their loved ones and the country's freedom to determine its own way of life.

And it is a personal duty which generations of NSmen have fulfilled and which every new generation must take up.

So, as Singapore celebrates the first 45 years of National Service, Mr Lee urged Singaporeans to reaffirm their commitment to National Service and a strong SAF and Home Team.

The Defence and Home Affairs ministries say the benefits announced on Monday add to the various measures over the years to recognise servicemen for their vital contributions.

Operationally-ready NSman Captain Indrashah Muhammad Isa described the benefits as a "bonus", adding that "I'm grateful that we have this as part of them recognizing our contributions."

Full-time NSman, Corporal Wong Zeng An, said: "National Service itself, we shouldn't just go running on the logic that there must be carrots or incentives given to us all the time. But rather, we need to see beyond that and understand that National Service is present because of the importance of contributing to the defence and the security of the nation."

To mark 45 years of National Service, a book containing stories and pictures of servicemen over the generations was also launched.

Prime Minister Lee said: "Every Singaporean son is precious. It is our duty to provide our servicemen with all the equipment, training and support they need to fulfil their mission. But newer weapons, better welfare or comfier amenities are only part of the solution. What is most important is our Singapore spirit."

Awards were also given out to 15 people who attained high standards in training and contributed positively to their units as military servicemen.

Memories of NS through the years
Some 1,400 NSmen and guests mark 45 years of national service at dinner 
By Jermyn Chow, The Straits Times, 23 Oct 2012

IN 1977, a young Chang Nguan Chua enlisted as a commando, and spent the next 21/2 years undergoing some of the toughest training in the military.

Exactly 29 years later, his son Meng Yong followed in his footsteps, joining the elite unit and even pipping his father, a lance corporal, by becoming a commissioned officer.

He had decided to join the Singapore Armed Forces' most fearsome unit after being inspired by his dad, who used to regale him with his army stories.

"Back then, there were no other options. I wanted only to be a commando," said the younger Mr Chang, who trained hard just so that he could be selected as one. He completed his full-time stint in 2008 and is now a property management executive.

The elder Mr Chang, now 53, has completed his national service cycle, but recalls the yearly call-ups with fond memories. "I'd never miss a single in-camp training for anything else," he said.

Theirs were among the many stories being swopped last night, when some 1,400 national servicemen and guests celebrated 45 years of national service at a dinner at The Float@Marina Bay.

For the elder Mr Chang, the event was also a chance to meet old friends, including a basic airborne coursemate from more than 30 years ago: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"He remembered how we used to jump out of what were then known as Skyvans," Mr Chang said of the aeroplanes that commandos used to parachute from.

PM Lee and his wife Ho Ching spent an hour touring the NS45 exhibition and mingling with uniformed men in their blues and greens.

Also present were Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Senior Minister of State (Defence) Chan Chun Sing, Chief of Defence Force Neo Kian Hong, Acting Police Commissioner Raja Kumar and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) Commissioner Eric Yap.

But the real guests of honour were the hundreds of men who had served the nation in the military, civil defence and police forces. Between mouthfuls of mee rebus and chicken rice, they could be heard laughing constantly as they recalled memories of days and nights of sweat and mud.

"To be able to chat and meet NSmen of all ages... it's humbling to know how far we have come and how far we need to go to continue maintaining our commitment to NS," said SCDF Major (NS) Raizan Abdul Razak.

Last night, 15 NSmen and eight of 66 full-time national servicemen (NSF) also received awards for their sacrifices and service from PM Lee, while 18 employers were honoured for their support for national service and defence.

The dinner capped year-long celebrations of the 45th anniversary of NS, which had included activities such as an Army Open House and the NS45 roadshow.

And while the theme was "From Fathers to Sons", the women behind the men were also honoured last night, when mothers and wives joined the men up on stage to get their awards.

Mr Heng Poh Choong, 51, whose son Chang Horng received the NSF of the Year award, said his wife always looked forward to cooking a good meal for their son when he came home from camp.

He said: "Without the women's support for NS and motivation, many of us may not be able to carry out our duties as well we have so far."

Why they went the extra mile

"The more you contribute, the more you feel you have a stake in the country and you don't want to give it up."

- Major (NS) Dr Mathew Cheng, 45, an orthopaedic surgeon who volunteered to go to Afghanistan in 2010 even though his baby girl was only four months old. He also extended his NS stint in the Singapore Armed Forces.

"While there are some 1,400 people here tonight, there are thousands more who... have sacrificed and served the nation. As commanders, it is our duty to spread the word and honour these men when we go back for in-camp training and show our appreciation for their service."

- Deputy Superintendent (NS) Mulyadi Ahmad, 36, aviation security manager who was in charge of security during the Geylang Serai Bazaar this year. He extended his NS stint in the Singapore Police Force

"There was never a dull moment during NS and I never reported sick because it was all about going through good and bad times together with your camp mates."

- Lieutenant (NS) Chang Meng Yong, 27, who followed in the footsteps of his father to become a commando

Who gets what

- Full-time national servicemen: $50 worth of Safra/HomeTeam NS vouchers 
- Those who have passed the statutory age of 40 (Warrant Officers and Specialists) or 50 (officers) and have not completed their operationally ready national service (ORNS) training cycle: $80 worth of Safra/ HomeTeam NS vouchers 
- Currently serving ORNS: One-year free Safra/ HomeTeam NS membership and $80 worth of Safra/ HomeTeam NS vouchers 
- Completed ORNS training cycle: One-year free Safra/HomeTeam NS membership, $100 Safra/ HomeTeam NS vouchers
This one-off initiative will add to the various measures that MINDEF and MHA have put in place over the years to appreciate our National Servicemen for their vital contributions to defence.

National Servicemen Lauded for Their Contributions to Defence
900,000 NSmen recognised with benefits for service to nation
A toast to 45 Years of National Service
Recognition of NSmen's contributions to National Service
Download "Ns is..." e-Book

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