Friday 20 September 2013

Help for NSmen to prepare for IPPT

WE THANK Mr Keith Wee ("Review system for NSmen who fail IPPT"; Sept 9), Mr Yeo Yujin ("Let's not make life even more difficult for NSmen"; Forum Online, last Saturday), Mr Elgar Lee ("Review incentives for passing IPPT"; last Saturday), Dr Yik Keng Yeong ("Don't take soft options when going gets tough"; Forum Online, last Saturday) and Mr Lee Kek Chin ("Incentive to pass IPPT: Good health"; Tuesday) for their feedback.

The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) recognises that operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) have to balance the demands of work, family and national service duties.

MINDEF and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) are therefore committed to helping them train for and achieve their required fitness standards.

The Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) serves as a baseline measure of physical fitness. It comprises various stations designed to measure different components of physical fitness. Appropriate standards are set according to the gender and age of our personnel.

To help NSmen prepare for the IPPT, the SAF has implemented the enhanced IPPT Preparatory Training (IPT), a voluntary programme designed to improve fitness levels by setting progressive personal performance targets. NSmen who achieve their targets within the first nine months from the start of their IPPT window will not have to attend remedial training, even if they fail to meet the IPPT standards.

The SAF has set up four fitness conditioning centres, which serve as one-stop centres for fitness testing and training for NSmen, in Khatib, Maju, Bedok and Kranji. We have also enhanced more than 100 fitness corners with IPPT training facilities across Singapore, as part of the IPPT-in-your-community initiative, which NSmen can make use of to train at their own convenience.

It is the duty of NSmen to meet their annual IPPT requirement as their physical fitness is critical to the SAF's operational readiness. For NSmen who have attained good results in their IPPT, we recognise their efforts by giving a small monetary sum.

We are encouraged by Dr Yik's support for the IPPT system and his comment that standards should not be lowered for the sake of convenience. We also welcome Mr Lee's view that achieving a healthy body is an incentive in itself to perform well in the IPPT.

Once again, we thank the various NSmen for their feedback. The SAF seeks to continue improving our fitness training system as well as regularly reviews our IPT and remedial training programmes to ensure their efficiency and effectiveness.

Ng Ying Thong (Colonel)
Assistant Chief of General Staff (Training)

Review system for NSmen who fail IPPT

THERE is a need to review the annual Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) system.

Currently, operationally ready national servicemen who fail the IPPT are compelled to attend 20 remedial training (RT) sessions of four hours each. These are held at 6pm on weekdays or 4pm on weekends and must be completed within three months.

Such a system is untenable in current societal conditions and incurs costs that are higher than the benefits.

Nowadays, people typically leave the workplace after 6pm. To attend RT, a person would have to leave the office earlier, incurring huge manpower costs.

Furthermore, if a person did three RT sessions a week, he would leave for home only at 10pm quite often over that period. Much precious time that can be spent with loved ones or enriching oneself is taken away.

Singaporean men already sacrifice a minimum of two years to serve the nation. While I agree with the need to serve the nation, where does the sacrifice end?

After factoring in mandatory in-camp training duties, RT only further removes the goodwill one might have for the nation.

So, why not just pass the IPPT in the first place, one might argue?

The IPPT comprises six stations that must be cleared. I have friends who can run full marathons but are unable to jump 1.6m or do six chin-ups. Does this mean they are unfit?

The current standards for passing IPPT are certainly due for a review.

Keith Wee
ST Forum, 9 Sep 2013

Let's not make life even more difficult for NSmen

I CANNOT agree more with Mr Keith Wee ("Review system for NSmen who fail IPPT"; Monday). He rightly pointed out that the remedial training (RT) requirements for operationally ready national servicemen who fail the Individual Physical Proficiency Test are impractical.

The regime is unnecessarily taxing, not just for the NSman but also for his family.

For a salaried worker to fulfil the RT requirements, he has to either make special arrangements to leave work early - which is unlikely to sit well with his boss - or sacrifice weekend time with his family.

Most army camps are located in out-of-the-way places, so travelling to and from them takes much time, on top of each four-hour RT session.

Some NSmen have family commitments, such as picking up their children from childcare centres. The whole family would have to change its routine just to fit the RT sessions.

The Singaporean man is already two years behind his female peers and foreign counterparts in an increasingly competitive globalised workplace. He is expected to work hard and provide for his family, constantly upgrade himself through training or studies, have more children and be an involved dad.

On top of these, he has to take time off work and be away from his family at least once a year for reservist training.

Let us not make life even more difficult for him.

No one would argue with the need for national service. But how can one look forward to serving the country when it takes such a heavy toll on one's personal life?

If the objective of RT is to get our NSmen fit, wouldn't the more practical way be to provide free access to all community centre, Singapore Sports Council and Safra gyms, and allow them to exercise at their own convenience?

They can then be tested on their physical fitness at their next in-camp training.

Perhaps in the ministry's discussions on how to boost NS and recognise our NSmen's contributions, it should start by reviewing how to make it easier for them to serve, keeping in mind that everyone has personal commitments.

Yeo Yujin
ST Forum, 14 Sep 2013

Review incentives for passing IPPT

WHILE Mr Keith Wee is asking the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) to review the system for operationally ready national servicemen who fail the Individual Physical Proficiency Test ("Review system for NSmen who fail IPPT"; Monday), I urge the ministry to review the incentives for those who pass.

Currently, MINDEF uses a carrot-and-stick approach to get NSmen to pass the test. However, the carrot is disproportionate to the stick.

Those who fail will be subjected to the compulsory and punishing remedial training regime for a few months, as described by Mr Wee.

Those who pass will receive a mere $400, $200 or $100 for a gold, silver or incentive award respectively.

These amounts have not been revised for more than 10 years and it is timely for MINDEF to increase them.

For all we know, better incentives could motivate more NSmen to pass their IPPT, thereby reducing the Singapore Armed Forces' manpower costs in conducting remedial training. And NSmen would be grateful for the greater token of appreciation for their sacrifice to the nation.

This would be a win-win situation for NSmen and MINDEF.

Elgar Lee
ST Forum, 14 Sep 2013

Don't take soft options when going gets tough

IT SEEMS to be a trend these days to lower standards when requirements seem too stringent for personal achievement.

The Primary School Leaving Examination is too tough? Make it easier so hapless pupils can score high As. Queen's English too convoluted to master? Just use Singlish.

And now, remedial training (RT) for those who fail the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) is too inconvenient? Let's review it ("Review system for NSmen who fail IPPT" by Mr Keith Wee; Monday).

The nation got to where it is today by avoiding the soft options.

Yes, the high road is far more strenuous to traverse, but on arriving at the destination, one realises not only that the lofty view is worth it, but also that the journey itself becomes an epiphany of sorts, revealing our grit, determination, mettle and fortitude - or lack thereof.

We can avoid RT and the exasperating disruption it brings by passing the IPPT - a series of well-planned stations adopted by many armies in the world to test different types of strength and stamina endurance.

Lose some weight, eat more healthily and far less, quit smoking and imbibing alcohol, cut down on night life, build endurance with aerobics and strength with gym work, and set weekly goals for motivation.

In doing so, the IPPT becomes a cinch and RT no longer a concern.

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)
ST Forum, 14 Sep 2013

Incentive to pass IPPT: Good health

ACHIEVING a healthy body is in itself an incentive to perform well in the Individual Physical Proficiency Test ("Review incentives for passing IPPT" by Mr Elgar Lee; last Saturday).

Attaining a good fitness level allows one to be free of illness and not have to spend money on visits to the doctor.

Although the monetary awards have not been increased in years, they should be seen as an "added incentive".

After all, the onus is on us, and not the Defence Ministry, to have a healthy body.

Lee Kek Chin
ST Forum, 17 Sep 2013

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