Singapore—After finishing a 12-kilometer march, the Singapore Armed Forces’ (SAF) latest recruits graduated on Saturday, March 9, 2019. Some 3,500 soldiers from the Basic Military Training Centre attended the parade at the Marina Bay floating platform.
The recruits did not take the longer, customary 24-kilometer graduation march, unlike the recruits from older batches.
According to a post on Facebook from the Singapore Army, the recruits had not been able to accomplish the necessary training in order to accomplish the longer march. The recruits usually start with marches of less than 5 kilometers and build up gradually to a 24-kilometer march as part of their Basic Military Training programme.
However, for this year, after the death nearly two months ago of Aloysius Pang, the actor and operationally ready national serviceman (NSman) SAF, a two-week safety timeout was called.
The SAF wrote, “As a result of the Safety Time-out, there has been one-time impact on specific training activities. For instance, the BMTC recruits graduating today on 9 March 2019 had a 12km graduation march and not the usual 24km march, as they were not able to complete the required build-up training in line with existing training directives. The 24km graduation march will be reinstated for subsequent batches.”
On January 19, the 28-year-old actor was part of a training exercise in Waiouru, which more than 500 Singaporean soldiers participated in. The military of New Zealand hosts this exercise, Exercise Thunder Warrior, but only Singaporean forces participate in it.
As he was repairing the gun of a self-propelled Howitzer, the gun barrel lowered, crushing him between the barrel and the cabin of the vehicle. He sustained severe injuries to his stomach and chest.
Mr Pang, a Corporal First Class in Singapore’s National Service, with the 268th Battalion Singapore Artillery who was assigned as an armament technician in the exercise, received immediate medical attention. He underwent several surgeries in Waikato Hospital, but unfortunately died on January 24.
The actor’s death was the fourth training- and operations-related casualty in 17 months, from September 2017 to January 2019.
While the timeout, which lasted from January 23 to February 6, was lifted progressively from February 7 onwards, it had an impact on the training for national servicemen, whose in-camp training (ICT) sessions were cancelled or shortened.
According to the post from SAF, “The Army held a Safety Time-out from 23 January to 6 February 2019. Training was suspended so that the Army could conduct a thorough review of safety systems and training programmes. The Safety Time-out was progressively lifted from 7 February.
In-camp Training (ICT) for three National Service (NS) units was also cancelled, as it fell within or immediately after the Safety Time-out. The cancellation will not affect the fulfillment of their Operationally Ready NS training cycle. There has been no other cancellation of ICT for NS units.”
Additionally, the Individual Physical Proficiency Test for NSmen has been resumed as well since the Safety Time-out was lifted. Recruits may take the IPPT at their own convenience at Fitness Conditioning Centres (FCCs), but it was indicated on the post that “units which choose to exclude IPPT from their ICT training programme can seek a waiver.”
However, even after the Safety Time-out was lifted, the SAF announced that the yearly SAFRA Singapore Bay Run & Army Half Marathon (SSBR & AHM) will not push through. This is because the SAF will be supporting the nation’s bicentennial commemoration. Omitting the run and half-marathon gives the SAF time to “better manage the overall tempo for a busy year, according to the post.
This is not the first time in recent history that the run and half-marathon was not held. IN 2015, it was “put on hiatus in 2015 to support SG50 celebratory events.”
As to whether it will resume next year, the SAF post says, “SAFRA and the Army will review if SSBR & AHM will be reinstated subsequently.”