More goodies soon to thank citizen soldiers

More goodies soon to thank citizen soldiers
NSmen from 702 Guards, on their 10th and final in-camp stint, coming off RSN fast craft at Pulau Sudong yesterday, part of a battalion coastal hook, Exercise Golden Sand.

SINGAPORE - Citizen soldiers can expect goodies to be handed out to them that could help with their education, health and housing needs, as part of the Government's efforts to thank them for defending the country.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday that the benefits are meant to give the Operationally-Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) a "greater stake in Singapore".

This "meaningful" package of benefits, part of a high-level panel's recommendations to better support and recognise national service, will be announced later this year.

Giving an update, Dr Ng said that the 20-member Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) is now "putting the final pieces together" and will wrap up its work in June.

Since it was formed in May last year, the CSNS has canvassed the views of about 40,000 people through town-hall sessions and focus-group discussions.

Suggestions include allowing new citizens and women to do their part for the nation and better matching citizen soldiers' abilities to their combat roles, and giving them more leeway in deciding how they want to serve their stints to keep them committed to NS.

Such motivation was on display yesterday in a military exercise involving 450 NSmen, who chose to be called up for a more complex and demanding training mission - forgoing a less hectic schedule - for their 10th, and final, in-camp training.

After witnessing the show of force, Dr Ng paid tribute to the men, saying that the soldiers from 702 Guards wanted to do more and "go out with a bang".

"The main point from all this feedback that we have from many, many NSmen is about empowerment. Yes, we accept and we want to serve and defend Singapore... But they feel that for those who want to do more, can I do more?" Dr Ng said.

3SG (NS) Muhammad Fadly Asis, a section commander with 702 Guards, said that the milestone award system introduced in 2010, which credits servicemen's CPF accounts, is a "good start" but he hopes more can be done.

"People don't see what we do, but we are serving our country at our best... (maybe) give employers more incentive to support the NSmen?" said the 36-year-old pre-school teacher.

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