The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) said it will be lowering its training tempo, across all services, with the intention to give commanders and troops the time and space to review its system and process as well as to focus on safety.
Chief of Defence Force Melvyn Ong said this at a press conference on Thursday (24 January), in an attempt to take measures after Singaporean actor Aloysius Pang died from injuries sustained during a military exercise in New Zealand.
He noted that he had ordered all services to review their training tempo, with a view to lower it to focus on safety for all personnel, including full-time national servicemen (NSFs) and operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen).
“What does this mean? This will take the form of lowering the duration, the intensity, the frequency of existing training, take some things out, to do training better at a more sustainable pace, to focus on safety. So all services will review this, lower their training tempo in the weeks ahead,” he explained.
“This reduction of training tempo following the safety timeout will be enforced for as long as it takes for us to get it right. And we want to do it right, we want to do it safe for every activity, we want to do it right every time,” added Lieutenant-General Ong.
However, he gave the assurance that a lowered tempo would not affect SAF’s readiness, as it would not include those on operations and deployments.
Following the aftermath of Pan’s death, Major General Goh Si Hou said that the army called for a safety pause in the artillery training in New Zealand and also an immediate pause in all maintenance-related work and training, both in New Zealand and Singapore.
In addition to that, he has also called for an armywide safety timeout in order to give units the time to review their safety procedures and to check their training tempo so that they could reinforce safety procedures as well as drills in the field.
“I’ve told my commanders that we will review our training tempo and training activities because we want to put a singular focus on training safety. If this means removing training activities, reducing some of the training that we do in the meantime, we will do that in order to give time and focus on training on the ground,” said MG Goh.
However, netizens are asking why the action of slowing down the training pace wasn’t done sooner, before such an unfortunate event happens. They also questioned why safety wasn’t kept as SAF’s top priority.
One user called Desmen Low even went to the extreme of dissecting the entire incident and identify loopholes that SAF didn’t answer like who controlled the barrel, is there a design flaw in the Howitzer in terms of safety and why they barrel movement cannot be stopped or reversed in time?
With over 450 comments by netizens on Straits Times’s Facebook page, some of them insisted that Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Chief of Defence Force (CDF) Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong Su Kia resign from their position.
Others are wondering why is Pang inside the Howitzer when the barrel was lowered. They questioned the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for this operation.