Monday, December 21, 2009

NS deaths: Confidential Operational Matter or Issue of Public Interest

NS deaths: Confidential Operational Matter or Issue of Public Interest

(Unpublished - Dec 13, 2009)

I refer to the report on Alex Tan's ban from the Young PAP Network Facebook group (Dec 13).

I am shocked at the part of the report which stated he was put into detention barracks for five days for blogging about the number of National Service related deaths over the years.

He was reported to have been detained because this is an operational matter, which suggests that what he did was a compromise of operations.

Since the number of training-related deaths is a statistic for public interest, I cannot understand the extent to which knowing the number of deaths is a compromise of operations.

Furthermore, should the government not be more accountable for something that annually receives a lot of public funds and taxpayer money?

Most training and operational matters deserve their confidentiality, but I hope the rules are not abused just to silence people who are deemed to be potential threat to the establishment. We are today definitely beyond such political strategies, because such strategies remove the agents of debate and lead to the avoidance of debate itself.

Having served five cycles of reservist training and being fortunate enough not to suffer any severe injury, I feel as a member of the public, that I deserve to know training-related deaths and injuries. I want to know how our training safety track record and serviceman welfare have improved.

It is sometimes relatively apparent that the blanket ruling of confidentiality and secrecy is more of a public relations management strategy than an actual safeguard of training confidentiality itself. The related defence organisations see public embarrassment and lack of public faith and trust as great a threat as actual confidentiality compromises.

I hope Alex Tan's detention will not create a chilling effect on servicemen, preventing them from providing feedback, contributing to public opinion, and demanding accountability.

Ho Chi Sam

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Taiwan to End Military Conscription

End of military conscription

On Monday Minister of National Defense, Chen Chao-ming, announced that Taiwan's military will become an all-volunteer force within five years. Speaking to a military committee under the Legislative Yuan, Minster Chen explained that the process would commence on 2011 and by 2014 all divisions of the R.O.C. Armed Forces will be filled with career soldiers instead of conscripts. In the future, local men will only be required to serve four months of basic military training.

A decade or two ago many men could look forward to a military term of at least two years. The inductees were first separated into “A” and “B” groups depending on physical strength and other factors. Then lots were drawn to determine the length and location of military service. Some unlucky conscripts drew terms as long as three years in places such as the front-line island of Matsu. Over the years the length of conscription has been reduced to where today, a young man will generally only have to serve a one-year term. We salute the sacrifice of veterans — conscripts and volunteers — who have kept Taiwan safe over the decades. These brave men and women suffered immense physical and mental pressures so that their fellow citizens could remain free. Truly, without their heroism, Taiwan could have long ago been assimilated into communist China.

But we must also agree with Minister Chen that the time has come to repeal conscription. Quite simply, unless a threat is direct and imminent, conscription during peacetime is not a viable economic policy. Even with a full two years of service, most conscripts lack the training to be effective wartime soldiers.

Aside from economic considerations there is also a humanitarian issue. The mostly young men who are conscripted have generally just finished high school or college and instead of continuing the momentum of youth, are forced to delay their careers, segregated from society and subjected to the rigors of military life. Some of these young people do not adapt well and almost every year there are stories of suicides due to depression over military service. Filling the ranks of the Armed Forces with professionals can only improve the R.O.C's capacity to respond effectively to any threat. President Ma's policies have brought a degree of detente with arch-nemesis China and are certainly a factor in the military's decision. The time has come for Taiwan to move into a new, 21st century military posture and ending conscription is a great first step.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Changes to NS Basic Military Training and medical classification from 2010
Singapore MoD Outlines Changes to Basic Military Training

13:18 GMT, December 4, 2009 Basic Military Training (BMT) equips recruits with the basic military skills to become combat-ready soldiers. It also aims to give them a sense of purpose and a positive experience in their National Service. To better engage and train recruits, the SAF undertakes periodic reviews to strengthen the BMT system.

The current review was conducted in two phases. In the first phase, the SAF looked at how recruits undergoing the 4-week Physical Training Phase (PTP) could be better prepared for BMT. This resulted in the introduction of an 8-week PTP which will raise PTP recruits' physical fitness to a level that is comparable to their direct-BMT peers'. The new PTP programme will begin in December 2009. The second phase of the review focused on customising the other BMT programmes to engage recruits and prepare them better for their subsequent combat, combat support and combat service support roles. The BMT system will now include a new 19-week BMT for obese recruits with effect from February 2010, a new 9-week BMT for PES B2 recruits from June 2010, a new 9-week BMT for PES C recruits from June 2010, and a new 4-week BMT for PES E recruits. There will be no change to the standard BMT for PES A/B recruits.

19-week BMT Programme for Obese Enlistees

The new 19-week BMT programme will be conducted for recruits whose Body Mass Index (BMI) exceeds 27. This BMT programme is designed to help obese recruits improve their physical fitness incrementally while equipping them with basic soldiering skills and knowledge. Over time, obese recruits have shown that they can achieve optimal fitness levels and weight loss in about 19 weeks, hence the 19-week BMT programme for this group of recruits.

9-week BMT Programme for PES B2 Enlistees

The new 9-week BMT programme will be conducted for recruits who are medically fit for deployment in selected combat and combat support vocations, such as signal operators, combat medics and naval system operators. These recruits will be given a new medical classification of PES B2, in place of the existing PES C1 classification. This is to ensure that the medical classification of our soldiers is consistent with their deployment. The new 9-week programme will include customised physical training, as well as basic combat training to prepare them for their combat and combat support roles.

9-week BMT Programme for PES C Enlistees

The new 9-week BMT programme will be conducted for PES C recruits. This programme will include light physical training and vocational training to prepare them for combat service support vocations, such as service medic, and those related to logistics and administration such as supply assistants.

4-week BMT Programme for PES E Enlistees

The new 4-week BMT programme will be conducted for PES E recruits. This programme will focus on National Education, SAF core values, regimentation and discipline, as well as vocational training to prepare recruits for combat service support vocations.