More effort 'to stress NS' significance'

More effort 'to stress NS' significance'

More will be done to drive home the importance of national service, including finding new ways to connect veteran soldiers with youth.

Second Minister for Defence Chan Chun Sing highlighted the need to get the younger generation to better understand why they serve national service, as it is key to instilling "a sense of identity and purpose" in this group.

"We can do everything well, but if we cannot settle this issue of why we are wearing the uniform... all the other things are meaningless," he said at a focus group discussion held by the Committee to Strengthen National Service at Safra Toa Payoh on Thursday evening.

The Defence Ministry (Mindef) will look at a "more systematic" way to share the experiences of veterans with youth, he revealed. This will include talks to students and full-time national servicemen (NSFs), for instance.

Mindef is also looking at expanding the existing Singapore Armed Forces Veterans' League and setting up a collective memory project to document the experience of veterans, such as those who served during Konfrontasi in the 60s and the Japanese Occupation.

Thursday's event to discuss how to better spread values like resilience to the young was attended by 46 veterans, most of whom were from the first few batches of national service (NS) enlistees.

Participants, who were in their 60s to 90s, were put into groups to come up with ideas on how veterans such as themselves could help further this goal.

Suggestions included having a pool of professionally trained veterans to talk about the importance of national defence, and getting parents to share their own NS experiences with their children.

One group led by former civil defence commissioner Chng Teow Hua believes it is important to inculcate a positive mindset towards military service among the young in schools. "If you start NS with negative thoughts, it is very hard to convince them that this is good for you," said the 68-year-old.

This was the 37th session since focus group discussions started last May. Close to 40,000 people, including parents and NSFs, have been consulted so far.

The next session, which will be held today, will look at how to improve fitness in the armed forces.

This article was published on April 5 in The Straits Times.

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