SINGAPORE: The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will review the use of the medical classification system and physical employment standards (PES) system so it can better deploy servicemen in more roles according to their abilities.
Currently, servicemen are assigned a PES status based on their medical condition and this is one factor in determining their vocation during National Service (NS).
For instance, servicemen with the highest status of PES A and B1 are suitable for combat vocations, while those with PES B2, B3 and B4 are suitable for some combat vocations and all combat support vocations.
“The review will focus on the operational effectiveness of each individual, instead of the binary classification of whether one is combat-fit or non-combat-fit,” the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said in a factsheet on Monday (Mar 1).
“Medical exclusions that used to limit deployments may no longer be relevant in today’s operating context or with the use of technology.”
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Monday that this “old system is outdated and retrogressive” for many roles in the next generation of the SAF.
“Moving forward, the SAF will use an updated and refreshed medical classification system, which together with its PES system, will better match vocations and deployment of national servicemen,” he added in his ministry’s Committee of Supply speech.
“The new system will also take into account their civilian jobs and skillsets.”
READ: As SAF vocations go high-tech, over 600 servicemen get deployed in previously ineligible roles
With that in mind, MINDEF said the SAF will explore the use of functional assessments to determine servicemen’s deployability in specific vocations, such as for the selection of transport operators – a combat service support vocation.
“The assessment replicates the physical demands required for daily operations, enabling the SAF to better match servicemen’s functional abilities to the role’s actual demands,” MINDEF said.
If the trial is successful, Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How said on Monday it could be extended to other vocations like tank operators.
The review comes amid falling national birth rates and a shrinking pool of national servicemen, with the SAF announcing as early as 2017 that it was reviewing vocation deployment criteria to tackle manpower challenges.
In 2018, then-Second Minister for Defence Ong Ye Kung revealed that the SAF had deployed more than 600 servicemen in vocations they were previously ineligible for, in areas like maintenance where the role of an automotive technician has evolved with technology.
“The SAF is leveraging technology and redesigning jobs to be able to deploy servicemen of varying physical abilities in a wider range of operational roles,” MINDEF said on Monday.
“This would enable a greater pool of national servicemen to be able to contribute in roles that they would not have been eligible for previously, maximising their contributions in NS without compromising operational effectiveness or safety.”
PREP4NS TO BE EXTENDED TO MORE GYMS
MINDEF also said on Monday that it is working with Sport Singapore to extend the Pre-Enlistees Exercise Programme for National Service (PREP4NS) to 24 ActiveSG gyms around Singapore, making it more convenient for pre-enlistees to improve their fitness.
PREP4NS, which was launched in 2019 as a trial by MINDEF and SAFRA, provides eligible pre-enlistees with a complimentary one-year SAFRA Energy One gym membership.
It aims to encourage pre-enlistees to improve their fitness ahead of their individual physical proficiency test (IPPT) and the physical demands of NS.
About 5,000 pre-enlistees have been granted the PREP4NS membership since the launch of the trial, with more than 80 per cent having visited SAFRA gyms since mid-June last year, when Singapore moved into Phase 2 of reopening.
“Almost all pre-enlistees who had provided feedback found the initiative useful in helping them meet their IPPT goals. Many also reported improvements in their IPPT scores,” MINDEF said.
“It was observed that 33 per cent more pre-enlistees attained a gold after receiving their PREP4NS membership.”
Registration for the ActiveSG gym membership will be announced later this year.
EXPERTISE DEPLOYMENT OF NSMEN
Moving on to operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen), MINDEF said that it would increase the areas that NSmen with specialised civilian expertise can be deployed to.
MINDEF will also set up a dedicated deployment centre within the SAF to oversee the expansion of this expertise deployment.
It had announced in 2019 that NSmen with specialised civilian expertise can be deployed to new roles that require such skills under the Expertise Conversion Scheme.
Previously, NSmen had to complete the full 10-year training cycle before converting to a role that allows them to use their civilian expertise.
“MINDEF/SAF will continue to build on this scheme and systematically expand opportunities to deploy NSmen with relevant civilian expertise,” it said on Monday.
“This will serve to maximise the contributions of NSmen and support the SAF’s operational requirements.”
MINDEF also announced that it is making it easier for eligible NSmen to attend the Health Screening Programme (HSP), which ensures they are healthy enough to safely participate in strenuous activities during in-camp training.
The HSP is for NSmen aged 35 and above who are IPPT-eligible, and previously had to be completed over two visits to a medical centre in camp.
Since October 2020, MINDEF said it has streamlined the HSP such that most NSmen can complete it in a single session instead of two.
It will also set up a HSP centre in the Military Medicine Institute at Kent Ridge by mid-2021 to provide NSmen with an alternate and more central location.
“NSmen can also expect shorter booking and waiting times for their HSP appointments,” it said.
Moving forward, MINDEF said the SAF is exploring additional ways to provide NSmen with more convenience and flexibility for NS fitness activities, to motivate them to keep an active lifestyle and ensure that they remain operationally ready.
“More details on these initiatives will be announced in due course,” it added.