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More flexible obligations for volunteer corps

SINGAPORE — In a bid to lower the hurdles for those keen to volunteer their time towards the Republic’s defence, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has relaxed the obligations on members of its new Volunteer Corps.

SINGAPORE — In a bid to lower the hurdles for those keen to volunteer their time towards the Republic’s defence, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has relaxed the obligations on members of its new Volunteer Corps.

Not only can volunteers opt to switch roles midway through their stint, but there will also be no minimum period of service imposed on them — the SAF had previously set a three-year floor. The number of days they can expect to be called up each year has also been slashed by half to seven days.

In addition, the mandatory four-week training volunteers will have to undergo before they are deployed has been made more flexible: Recruits get to choose between attending modular courses on weekends and in-camp training.

Explaining these changes at a media briefing last Friday, the commander of the new SAF Volunteer Corps, Colonel Mike Tan, said the aim was to allow a wider pool to step forward and serve.

Despite these relaxations, the commitment expected of these volunteers has not changed, he stressed.

“The moment you put on your uniform and proclaim that you are ready to be deployed, we will expect you to uphold our ethos and military professionalism,” said Col Tan at Maju Camp, where the unit will be headquartered.

Similar to national servicemen, volunteers who are negligent in their duties or skip call-ups will be subject to disciplinary action, he added. Deferment requests will be considered under circumstances such as on compassionate grounds, examinations and having a new business or job.

Currently, soldiers who go absent without official leave can be punished with detention at the SAF Detention Barracks.

Applications for the inaugural batch of the SAF Volunteer Corps scheme — targeted at women, new citizens and first-generation permanent residents between the ages of 18 and 45 — open today, with training commencing in March next year. Volunteers can choose to serve in wide-ranging fields in the land, sea and air forces — from operational deployments, such as Auxiliary Security Trooper and Bridge Watchkeeper, to professional roles such as legal specialist staff and doctors — alongside regular soldiers in active units.

The SAF plans to recruit 100 to 150 such volunteers over a year through three recruitment drives.

Outlining the details of the training and deployment for these volunteers, the SAF said all trainees need to undergo two weeks of basic training on soldiering skills and knowledge, including physical training as well as learning to fire an SAR21 rifle and throw a grenade. They must also go through a field camp. In addition, they will be taught basic first aid.

In the second phase of training, which takes one week, volunteers will be prepared for the roles they will be deployed to. For example, a nurse will receive training at the SAF Medical Training Institute.

Those who take on roles that are more demanding will undergo an additional one-week advanced training. Auxiliary security troopers, for instance, will learn weapon handling, marksmanship, rules of engagement and Military Police Close Combat.

All training sessions can be continuous stay-in sessions or modular courses held over a series of weekends. Trainees will also be allowed to drop out if they are unable to take the rigour, said Col Tan. Volunteers who wish to leave the SAFVC can do so by informing the commander three months in advance.

But Col Tan said the motivations of applicants will be assessed through interviews. They must also fulfil prerequisites for the role they applied for and go through a medical screening.

Successful applicants will receive a letter of enlistment and an SAF card and will be required to take an oath of allegiance.

Among the service benefits they will get are meal and transport allowances, and 50 eMart credits — to purchase personal equipment — for every year of completed service.

Volunteers will also be given leeway to change their deployments. For example, an 18-year-old who is heading for undergraduate studies as a medical student can first serve as an auxiliary security trooper. Upon graduation, he could ask to be deployed as a medical officer, said Col Tan.

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