SAF sits up, listens, takes a broad leap

SINGAPORE - For more than 30 years, the Individual Physical Proficiency Test, or IPPT, has been the notorious four-letter word on the lips of every Singaporean man who has to get into shape in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

Now, changes are afoot for the annual physical fitness test, which will be simplified so that servicemen will find it easier to train for and pass the IPPT.

The SAF is finalising changes to the test, which will likely include scrapping some test stations, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

Today's IPPT has five stations: the chin-up, standing broad jump, 4x10m shuttle, sit-up and the 2.4km run.

Noting that the majority of militaries worldwide "use simpler tests" with fewer components, Dr Ng said that the Singapore Army had studied their fitness tests and "found a format that meets these needs, which you can do (with) fewer stations...(and) are able to maintain the fitness standards, and keep or at least signal the fitness standards".

Dr Ng announced the IPPT review in an interview ahead of SAF Day today.

The changes will be announced by army chief Perry Lim "within the next few months".

With the new test, SAF servicemen, including active personnel and operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen), will be able to "train in their own environment for types of exercises which are simpler to do", said Dr Ng.

About 116,000 people take the IPPT every year. Failing it means the serviceman has to undergo remedial training.

Dr Ng said that the SAF will still keep the IPPT as a "marker of fitness" and servicemen must put in effort to train for it.

"So having said that we want to maintain the correct signal, we want to simplify it so that NSmen can feel that they can train (for) what is accessible in their time and if they put in time...they will be able to meet the pass marks."

But IPPT changes will be made "without diluting fitness standards", he said.

The latest IPPT revision will bring the SAF test in line with its American and Australian counterparts, which have three or four test components.

The changes will follow the Government's recent move to approve 30 proposals made by the Committee to Strengthen National Service last month to better recognise NSmen and boost public buy-in for the conscription scheme, which started in 1967.

From today, NSmen no longer need to report to the authorities when going overseas, unless the trip exceeds 14 days.

They will also be given up to twice the current timeframe to pass their IPPT and complete remedial training.

Dr Ng said easing the restrictions and burden of NS on servicemen does not mean that the SAF is getting "softer".

Rather, it is a response to the changing needs of a new generation of servicemen, who have a "different psychological make-up", said Dr Ng.

"It is, in a sense, not taking that strictly dogmatic approach, but being flexible and listening to the NSmen, responding to them."

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