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A Guide to National Service in Singapore

Goh Jun Cheng

Singapore runs a mandatory national service program for young adult males, requiring around 2 years of military service. Here is an in-depth guide to how national service works in Singapore.

Background of National Service

National service (NS) was introduced in 1967 to build a ready defense force for Singapore after separation from Malaysia. All 18-year-old male citizens and second generation PRs are required to serve.

The SAF (Singapore Armed Forces), SCDF (Civil Defense Force) and SPF (Police Force) all recruit NS conscripts to bolster Singapore’s security, disaster response and law enforcement capabilities.

Enlistment and Service Periods

At age 16.5, males are medically screened for fitness and assigned an enlistment date. The earliest enlistment age is 18 and deferred enrollment is possible for some students.

Full-time NS is typically 24 months long. For SAF it’s a 2-year stint that includes:

  • 2 months of Basic Military Training
  • Advanced vocational and combat training specific to deployment
  • Participation in exercises and activities

Police and civil defense NS is around 36 months due to additional upfront education.

Key Facts and Experiences

Here are some key facts about the NS experience in Singapore:

  • Enlistees receive monthly allowance around S$600 during service.
  • Strict discipline, regimentation, and a rigorous training routine are emphasized.
  • Weaponry training with assault rifle for the army and revolver for police.
  • Physical fitness is a major component with runs, marches, and drill exercises.
  • Participants can indicate vocational preferences but final postings are needs-based.
  • NSmen remain in the reserves on call-up cycles for many years after.

Exemptions and Flexibilities

While exemptions are limited, some flexibility exists:

  • Those medically unfit can be reassigned or exempted after thorough review.
  • Length reductions apply for highly educated or skilled enlistees.
  • Certain sports, arts and research talents get short-term deferments for training.
  • Overseas conscripts can participate for 6 weeks through the Foreign Military Training Assistance Programme.

Conclusion

National service remains a vital pillar of Singapore’s defense policy. While rigorous and highly regimented, NS provides invaluable skills and experience for Singaporean men.

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