Speech by Mr Desmond Lee, Minister of State for National Development, at The 19/14 Specialist Cadet Course Graduating Parade, at Pasir Laba Camp


Graduands of the 19/14 Specialist Cadet Course,
Parents, Grandparents
Ladies and Gentlemen,

A very good evening to all of you.

To all of you standing on parade today, let me congratulate you on the successful completion of the Specialist Cadet Course. You have shown the ability, drive and determination to push your own limits and to excel. You are now ready to take on your place in the SAF Warrant Officers and Specialists Corps.  At this juncture, I also want to recognise all the people who helped you to reach this important milestone – your parents, brothers, sisters and your loved ones who have stood behind you every step of the way during your training.  Their strong support and encouragement have helped you to achieve your best while on course. Today’s parade is all about you and your family as you march by the few number of cameras, video cameras, marking this important milestone for each and every one of you.

Your graduation today marks the end of a key phase of your training. But more importantly, it signifies a new beginning of your service to Singapore.  You are now entrusted with the heavy responsibility of upholding and defending our nation.  Many generations before you, including your older siblings, your parents and your grandparents, have carried arms and done their part in keeping Singapore safe and secure. It is now your turn to step up to the challenge and continue to keep watch and to remain alert always over our country, our families and our home. Singaporeans are able to go about our daily lives, and countries around the region treat Singapore with respect, in large part because of the service that you give.

As a small country, we depend on the world to make a living. But at the same time, we are greatly affected by what goes on around us, even if it does not directly involve Singapore. For example, tensions in the region over territorial claims and overlapping maritime disputes can easily escalate, while the situation in the Korean Peninsular and ongoing developments in Ukraine bear watching. These might seem far away but have an immediate possible impact on life here in Singapore. Security challenges that we face in our region are also increasingly transnational and non-traditional. These range from terrorism, weapons proliferation, natural disasters and biological pandemics. In such an uncertain environment, having a strong and credible defence allows us to steer a steady course. In fact, without defence, nothing that we have in Singapore can really be called ours to keep.

Over the years, the SAF has been deployed to meet a wide range of security challenges, mounting over 20 Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief operations, and contributing to the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. More recently, the SAF deployed C-130 aircraft in response to Typhoon Haiyan to deliver much needed aid and evacuate victims at a moment’s notice. The SAF also participated in the search and locate efforts for MH370. Tomorrow, our fifth naval task group will return home from the Gulf of Aden where they conducted anti-piracy operations under Combined Task Force 151. Many Full-time National Servicemen and Operationally Ready NSmen just like you have served on these missions, demonstrating dedication and professionalism. They demonstrate Singapore’s commitment to contribute to a more secure and safer world through their efforts.

While modern weaponry and advanced technology have transformed the SAF, it is indeed the determination and fighting spirit of our people that underwrite the strength of our defence. To achieve mission success in today’s operating environment requires greater decentralization of operations and much more autonomy to our ground troops.  It is therefore even more crucial to have strong leaders among our junior ranks, and this includes each and every one of you here on parade today.

With the Government’s acceptance of the recommendations of the Committee to Strengthen National Service, known as CSNS, we will strengthen the NS training system, enhance the NS experience, increase recognition and expand community support for our NSmen. NSmen can look forward to a more positive NS experience that empowers you and builds on your personal skills and talents. At the heart of this effort will be our warrant officers and specialists who will be pivotal to strengthen training in units, impart values and develop our soldiers. These recommendations will strengthen NS and our commitment to defence for future generations.

As a commander, you will come to understand that the men and women under your charge come from all walks of life and bring with them a variety of viewpoints and perspectives. They will need your leadership to help them better understand the importance of National Service. Engage them. Train them well and help them maximise their strengths. Unlock their potential and motivate them to give their best during training, but always have their well-being and safety at the top of your mind.  Be genuine in your actions and words to earn the respect and trust of the men and women under your charge.  Spend time with them, and be their guide, their mentor and their friend. Indeed when I was myself in National Service as a young cadet and officer, I had the privilege to be mentored and guided by specialists and warrant officers who took care of all of us, who spent time to train us, and to share the rationale of the kind of trainings and operations that we undergo. This is critical to the success of the SAF.

Lead with conviction and be a good role model.  Always do what you expect your soldiers to do, and help them achieve the standards that you set for them. Lead with pride and uphold the values of soldiering – duty, honour, country.

The rank that you are about to wear is an affirmation of the nation’s trust and confidence in each and every one of you.  Perform your duties to the best of your abilities and live up to the Specialists’ creed of excellence, leadership by example and dedication to Singapore.  I welcome all of you as Specialists of the SAF, and wish you all the best as you serve our country and safeguard our home and our Singaporean way of life.