Would you sign up for Basic Training? Inside the SAF Volunteer Corps
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Would you sign up for Basic Training? Inside the SAF Volunteer Corps

Amanda receiving SAR 21

29-year-old Amanda Cheng (right) receiving her SAR 21 rifle at the weapon presentation ceremony held at Kranji War Memorial.

When Ms Amanda Cheng volunteered to wear the green uniform of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), her friends and family did not expect it and were surprised.

They wondered if the 29-year-old, who admits that she is not a sporty person, would be able to cope with the two-week Basic Training.

The Hong Kong-born Singapore permanent resident (PR) was determined to do it anyway.

“I’ve always had this urge to give back to this country that has done so much for my family and me. So when I heard about the SAFVC, I was up for it from the get-go,” says Amanda, who has lived in Singapore since she was 11.

To her relief, when she turned up at Maju Camp in March 2017, she found that she was not alone.

Dozens of Singaporean women, first-generation PRs, and new citizens had also gathered to volunteer their time and effort for the defence of the country.

One of them was Ms Michelle Teng, a 25-year-old Singaporean nurse who always wanted to know what military training is like by experiencing it first-hand.

“The idea of putting myself in a situation completely different from what I was used to excited me. This was a rare opportunity and I just couldn’t let it pass,” said Michelle.

Over two weeks in March (2017), both Michelle and Amanda were put to the test and had their limits stretched. In the process, they bonded with other SAFVC Volunteers (SVs) who also believed in the importance of defending Singapore.

Different Nationalities, One Objective

The section of 11 women came from different backgrounds.

But it was soon apparent that in order to get through the tough military training, they had to work together as a team, regardless of where they came from or what language they spoke.

In fact, even the most basic of military activities – marching – was a challenge at the start.

One of their section mates was from China and had trouble following the drill commands that were given in Malay, recalls Michelle.

Michelle and her section mates helped to translate the commands so that she could follow the instructions correctly.

“Helping our section mate brought us all together because we bonded over it and wanted to make sure that she didn’t feel isolated,” says Michelle.

“We have nationalities from countries like Malaysia, China and the Philippines serving together. But when you go through Basic Training together and you’ve been through tough times, it just makes you realise that we’re all really the same deep down.”

Another memorable part of their training was undergoing a route march and a simulated casualty evacuation under enemy fire.

Camouflage lady enjoying her meal
25-year-old Michelle Teng caught in a candid moment while tucking into her combat ration during her 3D2N field camp at Pulau Tekong.

Using two jerry cans (each weighing 20 kilograms) and placing them on a stretcher to simulate the weight of an actual casualty, they had to carry out an emergency medical evacuation.

They took turns to carry the stretcher and when it came to Michelle’s turn, she took it up despite feeling fatigued. Already tired from marching with her rifle, Michelle’s body was beginning to ache.

Her left leg muscles were cramped and the weight of the stretcher was bearing down hard on her right shoulder. Sweat from her forehead was seeping into her eyes, making it hard for her to see the path ahead.

She felt like giving up but her section mates cheered her on.

“All I could hear at the time was my section mates calling out my name and telling me to take one step at a time and a few seconds later everyone else was doing the same,” she said.

The support of her section mates was what gave her the strength to keep going.

Bonding Despite Cultural Differences

For some, Singaporean women, first-generation PRs, or new citizens, serving in the Volunteer Corps may seem daunting but for Michelle and Amanda, their motivation was simple: They have made Singapore their home, and they will fight to keep it safe from anyone who threatens the country and their families.

“The training showed me many facets of my section mates that I’d never seen before. Even though many of them came from different backgrounds and countries, we all came together for a common purpose: to stand united with our NSFs, NSmen and Regulars in defending Singapore.” says Michelle.

Overview of SAF Volunteer Corps
The Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC) was launched in Oct 2014. The SAFVC was one of the key initiatives borne from the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS). The intent of the scheme is to allow women, new citizens, and first-generation permanent residents (PRs) to volunteer for national defence, so as to promote deeper understanding and ownership of national defence, and to strengthen support for National Service (NS). NS remains the cornerstone of our national defence and SAFVC Volunteers (SVs) serve alongside our national servicemen to support SAF operations and training. To find out more about SAFVC, please click on the link to the website for more information.

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