In a SAF media briefing yesterday (24 Jan) after the death of National Serviceman, Corporal First Class (CFC) Aloysius Pang, occurred during his reservist training in New Zealand, Chief of Defence Force LG Melvyn Ong announced that he had asked all services to review their training tempo and focus on the safety of all personnel, including full-time national servicemen as well as reservists on trainings.
This is to give commanders and troops the time and space to review the safety of its systems and processes.
Colonel Terry Tan, Commander of Combat Service Support Command, said CFC Pang was qualified and competent to carry out his work as an armament technician. He said CFC Pang had undergone refresher training when he reported for reservist duty. He had also undergone seven in-camp training stints.
Chief of Army MG Goh Si Hou added that he had held a safety call with 1,200 army commanders and trainers, and told them that the SAF needs to do better to restore confidence in its training safety.
“I have told all my commanders that this cannot be business as usual. We are very sorry for every training death that happens in the SAF. I have told them that we must do better, that we must do our utmost to restore confidence in our training safety and to ensure the safety of all our soldiers,” MG Goh said.
But last year, the SAF chiefs has already assured Defence Minister Ng that safety will continue to get their “highest command attention” to achieve zero fatalities.
Following the deaths of full-time National Servicemen Gavin Chan, Dave Lee and Kok Yuen Chin, Minister Ng told parliament in May last year, “Chief of Defence Force and service chiefs have assured me that safety has always been, and will continue to, get their highest command attention to achieve zero fatalities.”
“But we need every level to play their part, down to the individual commander and soldier to protect their own well-being and that of their men and their buddies,” he added.
Obviously, as MG Goh has acknowledged, things did not change in SAF and have been going on like “business as usual”.
In any case, MG Goh also said that the army had called for a safety pause in the artillery training in New Zealand and also for an immediate pause in all maintenance-related work and training, both in New Zealand and Singapore.
The SAF commanders at the media briefing, however, did not say whether any safety procedures had been breached in the incident involving CFC Pang. An independent Committee of Inquiry will be set up to investigate what happened.