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IPPT, basic training to resume from Feb 7; SAF to appoint new Inspector-General to oversee safety

SINGAPORE — From Feb 7, the Singapore Army will progressively lift the safety timeout it imposed following the death of Corporal First Class (National Service) Aloysius Pang. This means that basic activities such as the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) and small arms live firing can be conducted.

IPPT, basic training to resume from Feb 7; SAF to appoint new Inspector-General to oversee safety

File photo of national servicemen in training.

SINGAPORE — From Feb 7, the Singapore Army will progressively lift the safety timeout it imposed following the death of Corporal First Class (National Service) Aloysius Pang. This means basic activities such as the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) and small arms live firing can be conducted.

Besides this, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will create a new Inspector-General's office to support the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong, in ensuring that the commanders' emphasis on safety is consistently applied across all three branches of the military and units.

This is among several safety measures it will introduce following Pang’s death on Jan 23.

The late actor sustained major injuries to his internal organs on Jan 19 after being crushed by the barrel of a gun inside a self-propelled howitzer while taking part in Exercise Thunder Warrior at the Waiouru training area in New Zealand.

The army then called a safety timeout and announced that it is reducing the training tempo to give full-time and operationally ready national servicemen, as well as their units, more capacity to review their training and safety processes.

Speaking to the media at Pasir Laba Camp on Thursday (Jan 31), Major-General Goh Si Hou, Chief of Army, said that basic activities such as the IPPT and small arms live firing will resume from Feb 7.

"This time round, we have taken a more structured and more inclusive approach to the safety timeout. Besides having our units conduct their safety reviews, we have also actively involved all the soldiers so they can participate, give their feedback, as well as raise suggestions to enhance safety on the ground," Maj-Gen Goh said.

"We expect there will be selected training activities that will require more time (for a safety review) and these will be lifted as and when the reviews are completed."

National servicemen who were unable to book their IPPT during the safety timeout will be given time to do so without being penalised.

Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General (LG) Melvyn Ong (centre), with Chief of Army, Major-General Goh Si Hou (second from left), Chief of Air Force, Major-General Mervyn Tan (third from left), Chief of Navy, Rear-Admiral Lew Chuen Hong (third from right), during a panel discussion at the SAF Command Call. Source: Mindef

MEASURES TO IMPROVE SAFETY

Details for the new Inspector-General's office such as its commander and the number of servicemen in it have not been finalised.

It will be led by an Inspector-General, who may be a uniformed personnel and have full powers to enforce safety within the SAF.

The new office aside, the army will also increase the number of safety inspection teams and full-time safety officers to conduct checks and audits on safety systems for all units.

This will ensure that there is an "independent look" on what these units are doing during their training, Maj-Gen Goh said.

And in the coming months, the army will be removing selected confidence courses in the training schools and redesign exercises, such as the upcoming Exercise Wallaby in Australia this year.

The reduced training tempo across the SAF will continue for the next few months as the SAF conducts a "comprehensive review" of training programmes.

The safety timeout will remain in place until the SAF is satisfied that training and other activities can be conducted safely, Mindef said on Thursday.

During a meeting with 750 active and operationally ready National Service commanders on Thursday, including the service chiefs from the army, navy, and air force, Lt-Gen Ong said that every commander will be accountable for the safety of their men. He added that the well-being of everybody is just as important as the performance of units in exercises and training.

Lt-Gen Ong also called for all servicemen to go about their tasks with "alertness and mindfulness to do things right the first time, every time".

"The reduction in training tempo will allow us commanders to take stock, re-orientate, and give full attention to this," he said.

The meeting, which is known as an SAF command call, is only convened for critical matters and involves the entire SAF leadership, including National Service commanders.

Lieutenant-Colonel Deborah Koh, who was at the command call, said that she will take a three-step approach for her battalion, which is to address all feedback from the ground, reduce the pace of training, and to emphasise safety to every single soldier.

"(We want them to) pay attention to the surroundings, to their friends and buddies to correct them or to highlight any unsafe behaviours," Lt-Col Koh said. She leads the 16th Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence Battalion comprising around 220 soldiers.

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