Training begins for SAF's first 68 military volunteers

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has started training its first military volunteers to get them fit for duty by September.

Sixty-eight were enlisted on Tuesday, the first among 150 who have been recruited into the SAF Volunteer Corps (SAFVC) this year.

They comprise women, first- generation permanent residents and new citizens. All are aged between 18 and 45, and not liable for national service.

They are staying in Maju Camp over the next two weeks, where they will pick up basic military skills. They will then spend up to two more weeks familiarising themselves with the duties required in one of the 17 vocations they have been assigned to.

After training, the newly minted volunteers will be required to serve seven days a year.

Out of 900 people who signed up, 15 per cent have so far been rejected, according to SAFVC commander Mike Tan. Those who have yet to be rejected or recruited are still being considered as future volunteers.

The pioneer batch of 150 made the cut after clearing their medical and security screening, and a 30-minute interview with a panel of military men.

Nearly half of them (49 per cent) are PRs, while two in five are women. More than half (55 per cent) are aged between 30 and 40, while more than a tenth are over 40.

But Colonel Tan said the selection criteria go beyond numbers.

"We are more interested in making sure that people who come to us have the right motivations, have the right aptitude, attitude and lifestyle," he said.

"We are making sure that the people who come to us are the ones who really want to serve."

Col Tan has interviewed more than 600 candidates, including lecturers, general managers and business owners.

The key attribute he was looking for was an ability to work with everyone else. "We want to make sure that the volunteer is able to look beyond ego to be able to work with people."

Although eight out of 10 trainees hold day jobs, two-thirds have opted to stay in camp for the continuous basic training course.

So far, 67 per cent have opted to pick up rifles and patrol key installations like Changi Airport, alongside career soldiers and national servicemen.

Others have chosen to serve as defence psychologists, medical trainers and airbase civil engineers. They can share their area of expertise with their military counterparts.

Those who complete their training will wear one of four new ranks on their uniforms - SV1 to SV4. The higher the number, the higher the rank. They will receive benefits, including an allowance or make-up pay when they are called up for training.

Employers will be required to release staff for the voluntary stints.

The volunteer corps was one of 30 recommendations made by the Committee to Strengthen National Service.

It is one of several schemes already in place for people who wish to volunteer or extend their services to the SAF.

Republic Polytechnic student Kimberley Winona Jeremiah said she hopes that through the in-camp experience, she will become more disciplined and learn how to fire a rifle.

The 19-year-old said: "It's more enriching than getting a holiday job... it's also like ticking off a bucket list."