The hard decision of army regular specialists

By Terry Xu

Viewing the local short film “Hentak Taki“, produced by James Khoo from Lasalle , its true that an often hard choice that army/navy/air force regulars have to make is whether to stay in the force or to move out earlier into the private sectors.

This is especially true for army specialists who tend to have lower education qualifications than officers.

Previously with the premium plan 1 and 2 where regulars are graded to see whether or not they will be given the contract to extend their stay in force, the fear is always there that they would be given the “Golden handshake” with the gratuity by the end of the plan and be forcefully thrown into the private sector.

Given the CPF retirement age being pushed back later and later in life in Singapore, the fixed retirement age of army specialist at the current 55 years old comes to be an issue when the specialist would surely have to find another job elsewhere at an older age with lesser qualifications and no relevant working experience.

Some would choose to end their services earlier after they have fulfilled their bond so as to pursue another career path at a younger age without much family commitment or simply to go for further studies. While Mindef has come up with schemes to offer young specialists to further their studies, the general feedback from my regular friends shows up negative due to the “catches” involved in the schemes.

Or in the case of the short film, the warrant officer is being stuck in a scenario where due to his medical downgrade; he can no longer work in an appointment where his passion lies in the career. Finally he chooses to take option of venturing out to open his food stall.

Though most regulars I meet would be fine with such an arrangement as moving into the private sector is a much fearful and painful experience. Not to forget whether if the new job could offer the same pay to upkeep the living expenses one would have with a family at that age.

Even though things have changed in the army with the scrapping of the premium plans but the retention rate has not seen to have improved, a feedback from the regulars on the high dropout rate for the army regulars attributes this to the high workload given.

Some may swear that army regulars do nothing much, but that is only likely to be in the past for some regulars. Bear in mind that though regulars are paid higher in comparison to certain professions but they are paid on a 24 hours 7 days a week basis. There is no overtime pay for guard duties and neither are there for a weeklong field exercise in camp.

“An able man is always wanted for everything” most officers know whom to task jobs to get things done. Those who cannot perform the task are normally not given the task to do, therefore a lot of that is being pinned on those who can perform. When the workload becomes too much to handle and the pay seems pale in comparison, some would take leaving as the final resolve.

With that, workload will be distributed among the rest who are still around, and this pattern continues. The future seems bleak to a certain extent for some.

It is not easy working as a regular specialist as some may think it to be when you do have not much say over the work process and human resource arrangements.  I have seen my fair share during my regular service in the army. There are just so many things from army, which you learn to do and things that you learn not to do and emulate.

Hoping things will improve for the regular specialists, with Mindef trying their best to retain them with better HR policies and career advancements schemes. For without specialists, there will be no officers.


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