The Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC) has enlisted its first batch of volunteers – comprising 68 Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) – on Tuesday (Mar 24), with an aim to deploy them alongside active servicemen from September onwards.

The volunteers were among those selected from about 900 applicants who signed up for the volunteer corps, set up last October to allow more citizens and PRs the opportunity to contribute to national defence.

Since then, the SAFVC has interviewed applicants and conducted checks to assess their suitability.

Speaking to the press at Maju Camp, SAFVC commander Colonel Mike Tan said the response to the volunteer corps “has been heartening”. There were even some over-aged applicants who turned up in person for interviews and the SAFVC had to turn them away, he said.

The age criteria for SAFVC is between 18 and 45 years old.

“Among the more than 900 applications received, 85 per cent were eligible and we have since identified some 150 volunteers for the 2015 cohort,” said COL Tan.

This cohort will begin their training in three intakes on Mar 24, Apr 11 and Jun 15, he said. For the remaining eligible applicants, the SAFVC will continue with various other checks, he added.

Across all three intakes this year, slightly more than half (51 per cent) are Singapore citizens, while PRs make up the rest. Four in 10 are women and those aged between 30 to 40 make up a slight majority.

One in three are aged below 30, and one in 10 volunteers are above 40.

Volunteers want to serve for various reasons, said the SAFVC. It includes a desire to repay society and country, set an example for their children who will need to serve National Service, and interest in military life, said SAFVC officers who interviewed them.

The applicants also believed that joining the SAFVC will help them feel more rooted to their new home, and better identify and integrate with Singaporean males, they added.

On Tuesday, the newly enlisted SAF volunteers (SV) pledged their commitment and loyalty to the SAF by taking an oath of allegiance at Maju Camp, where the volunteer corps is based. Among them is Dr Janil Puthucheary, Member of Parliament for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, who became a Singapore citizen at the age of 35.

The SVs will undergo two weeks of basic training – a continuous one where trainees stay and live inside the camp for the duration. The third intake will also undergo continuous training.

The second intake, however, will undergo training from Apr 11 to Jun 14 in a “modular” fashion, where lessons are provided on weekends instead of weekdays. Trainees who opt for this usually do so because of work and family commitments.

During the first two weeks of basic training, SVs will be taught how to fire the SAR 21 rifle, overcome the standard obstacle course, and undergo a two-day field camp, among various military skills. If required, SVs will also undergo one week of Qualification Training and one week of Advanced Training to prepare them for their specific roles.

Addressing newly enlisted volunteers on Tuesday, COL Tan commended them for stepping forward to play their part in national defence and highlighted that this was an important commitment.

“By stepping forward to volunteer, you are making a commitment to serve alongside our servicemen and servicewomen to ensure the continued peace and security of Singapore,” he said “You have made the all important decision to give your time and commitment, out of your own volition, to serve the nation and the people who live here.”

Most, specifically 67 per cent, of the volunteers in the first intake will be trained as security troopers, guarding key installations across Singapore alongside active servicemen and reservists.

The rest will serve in specialised roles. Volunteers serving as information and media staff make up the second-largest group (13 per cent), while a handful of volunteers will become medical trainers, maritime trainers, defence psychologists, bridge watchkeepers and deck operators.

A small group, or 2 per cent, will serve as experts of command, control, communications and computers (C4).

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