SINGAPORE — Operationally-ready National Servicemen (NSmen) could be given more support and recognition, as a committee looking at strengthening National Service looks to wrap up its deliberations in two months.
The Committee to Strengthen National Service is considering a “meaningful package”, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told reporters yesterday after speaking with NSmen taking part in a two-week exercise on Pulau Sudong. “We want to centre the recognition benefits by giving them a greater stake in Singapore, whether it is housing, health or education,” he said.
The move to help NSmen combat rising healthcare costs was first raised by Minister of State (Defence) Mohamad Maliki Osman in November last year. Dr Maliki said the Recognition and Benefits for NS working group is looking at the possibility of supporting NSmen’s contributions to their Medisave accounts, for instance.
Currently, the National Service Recognition Awards (NSRA) given at the first milestone — the completion of full-time NS — can be used to pay for education. Awards for the second and third milestones are deposited into NSmen’s Central Provident Fund.
NSmen TODAY spoke to called for more flexibility when scheduling In-Camp Trainings (ICTs) and support for their housing needs.
National University of Singapore student Tay Rui Xiang, 25, hopes ICTs can be scheduled in December for students. “ICT occurs during the best time for internships, such as in mid-July. I might miss the opportunity compared with someone else who didn’t have the ICT interruption,” said the final-year civil engineering student.
Mr Jonathan Lee, 28, hopes that the Government can provide NSmen with additional subsidies for Housing and Development Board flats. “Helping NSmen purchase a home also allows them to feel like they have a home to defend,” he added.
About 450 NSmen took part in the exercise, which involved guardsmen disembarking on the island from naval fast crafts, while receiving support from Apache helicopters.
Dr Ng called this year’s exercise special because it involved a full battalion of NSmen — 702 Guards — who were taking part as their final in-camp training.
“For the other units, they look towards sort of a lighter exercise before they end their NS,” he said.
“This battalion is different — they said: ‘I want to go out with a bang’. We said okay. You want to go out with a bang, we give you a difficult exercise and you execute it. And I will say they did very well.”