Deployment and advancement within SAF meritocratic, regardless of gender: Ng Eng Hen

Deployment and advancement within SAF meritocratic, regardless of gender: Ng Eng Hen
Newly minted “soldiers” of the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps saying the Pledge at Maju Camp after being presented with their berets for completing basic training.
PHOTO: ST

SINGAPORE - Deployment and advancement within the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is meritocratic and based on the principle of "best person for the job", regardless of gender, race or religion, or other personal characteristics, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

Dr Ng was responding to a question by MP for Sembawang Ms Ellen Lee on whether SAF has provided adequate opportunities for women to participate and excel in their military careers, as well as the impact of more SAF regular servicewomen on our national defence.

Dr Ng added that "over the years, the servicewomen in the SAF have made good progress across all our career schemes".

"We have quite a number of them and they serve in a diverse range of vocations. We have women Guards Commanders, we have women Naval Divers and Fighter Pilots. And a good number have also risen to helm key positions, Department Heads, Battalion Commanders, Brigade Commanders, and Division Sergeant Majors," said Dr Ng.

He added that the SAF "seeks to bring in more good, capable women to serve in the military, with career schemes that are designed to appeal to a diverse range of career interests".

Below is the reply from Dr Ng, in full:

Dr Ng Eng Hen: Madam, in response to Member's question, deployment and advancement within the SAF is meritocratic and based on the principle of "best person for the job", regardless of gender, race or religion, or other personal characteristics. Over the years, the servicewomen in the SAF have made good progress across all our career schemes. We have quite a number of them and they serve in a diverse range of vocations. We have women Guards Commanders, we have women Naval Divers and Fighter Pilots. And a good number have also risen to helm key positions, Department Heads, Battalion Commanders, Brigade Commanders, and Division Sergeant Majors.

Let me give you a few examples, SWO Jennifer Tan - you would have remembered seeing her in this year's NDP as she came in with her children in a tank. She is in 2 PDF, our 2nd People's Defence Force, and is the SAF's first female Division Sergeant Major, and also the first female Parade Regimental Sergeant Major for the NDP in 2011. We have ME6 Sima Rai who was the Commanding Officer of the 6th Army Maintenance Base, which performs engineering and maintenance work on various platforms such as the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). In fact, her unit was named the best Combat Service Support unit for four consecutive years. In 2005, COL Karen Tan was our first servicewoman to be promoted to the rank of Colonel when she was Commander Central Manpower Base (CMPB). Many of you would be familiar, recently in July this year, we had our first female Brigadier-General, Head of Air Intelligence and Director (Special Projects) BG Gan Siow Huang.

Indeed, our servicewomen have contributed significantly to our national defence, and keeping our skies, seas and homeland safe. Today, we have 1,500 uniformed servicewomen serving in the SAF, about 7 per cent of our Regulars. Many of them have also contributed to the success of our multinational peace support operations overseas, such as in Afghanistan and the Gulf of Aden.

MINDEF and the SAF are committed to provide a challenging and fulfilling career which, Madam Lee asked about, and help our Regulars realise their full potential. To do this, we recognise that we have to support our people's life-cycle needs. In keeping with our national workforce policies, our HR policies have progressed over time to be able to accommodate flexibly and support these needs, for example, when they get married or when they become parents. As a result of these incremental changes to create a supportive work environment, that's how servicewomen are able to have fulfilling careers in MINDEF and the SAF. I'm happy to also tell members that our practices are in line with international agreements that Singapore is a party to, such as the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

The SAF seeks to bring in more good, capable women to serve in the military, with career schemes that are designed to appeal to a diverse range of career interests. We are committed to provide a fulfilling profession for our servicewomen, and we look forward to women's continued contributions towards Singapore's defence.

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