Thursday, June 12

Off to Tekong!

The top story in the local news for June 12, 2008, as quoted from ChannelNewsAsia.Com

SINGAPORE: Singapore's Ministry of Defence has declared a three-day time-out (12-14 June) on all physical and endurance training activities in the army, navy and air force.

This follows the deaths of two servicemen within two days.

20-year-old Officer Cadet (OCT) Clifton Lam Jia Hao, a pilot trainee with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), died on Wednesday, one-and-a-half hours after he collapsed while he was undergoing jungle orientation training in Brunei.

A day earlier, 20-year-old army recruit Andrew Cheah Wei Siong died after he fainted while taking part in a two-kilometre walk training activity on Pulau Tekong.

Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean said the time-out will allow the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to review and re-focus on training activities to ensure that proper procedures are in place before training resumes.

"While the SAF needs to carry out realistic training, this will be done without compromise to safety," added Mr Teo.

The minister also extended his condolences to the families of Mr Cheah and OCT Lam. "I am saddened by the loss of two young and precious sons of Singapore," Mr Teo said in a statement.

From Singapore Stories - My Daily Bread: Earlier this year, 40-year old Major Tan Yit Guan collapsed during a self-paced run and, in 2006, Lieutanent Lionel Lim, 24, encountered unspecified difficulties during training in a swimming pool and died soon after being evacuated to hospital. In 2005, 19-year old 3rd Sergeant Ivan Ong and 2nd Warrant Officer Teh Kok Lian, 39, both died after collapsing during runs, following 2nd Sergeant 25-year old Rajagopal Thirukumaran's and 20-year old Recruit Andrew Chew Heng Huat's similar deaths during training in 2003. In addition, we have four more similar cases between 2001 and 2002, and two cases of servicemen found unconscious and who died later, the first in 2002 and the other in 2006.

I'm really shocked by the news - this not being the first time such an incident has happened - especially taking into account the infamous commando head-dunking incident. And is it just mere coincidence that it's happening at a time when the June intake of recruits for Basic Military Training (Physical Training Phase) has just started? I, for one, am enlisting tomorrow (13 June) at 11.30am to BMTC School 1. MINDEF had better review their training policies, practices and intensity thoroughly for the safety of all the young innocent souls serving the country. As I enlist tomorrow, I carry along with me many mixed thoughts and feelings - my family and friends whom I'm gonna' miss (though it's merely 2 weeks, I'm looking at 2 years as a whole), and my mental preparation for the physically enduring regiment of army life. I'm glad I've completed almost all of what I've wanted to do before I enlist (I drew up a "Cage List", a pseudo-"Bucket List") - all my favourite food, all the people I wanted to meet, and all the tasks I had to complete before stepping into this new phase of life. I'm especially grateful to Song Hua, Kevin, Dominic, Brandon, Wilson, Prinsten, Timothy, Varun, and Luqman (all my seniors in the army) for their priceless advice, tips, and encouragement given to me - it really helped to prepare me mentally and "logistically". I'll miss all my friends out there (as well as my hair =P), but I promise I'll catch up with you all again soon alright! I know a few of you all will really miss me or feel worried for me - but I will take care of myself well, no worries! Meanwhile, I'm off now to continue packing... take care everyone and see you all again soon!