Dear ASS,

the SAF professes the following 8 core values: Loyalty to country; Leadership; Discipline; Professionalism; Ethics; Fighting spirit; Care for soldiers. “Safety” was only added to the list in 2013. Are these ethos really true or merely words inscribed by academic scholars (with no war experience)?

Let’s take a quick look at the top 5 SNAFUs (screw-ups) that happened in the SAF, under the leadership of their overpaid paper-Colonels and paper-Generals.

1. RSAF “Above All”?

The SAF’s deadliest accident took place on 24 Jan 1987, when 6 lives were lost in a helicopter crash. SSG Goh Kim Loong, CPL Ramiya Mohan, Lieutenants Ng Soon Hup, Siow Poh Guan and Wee Tong Leong and CPT Lakbir Singh died after an Air Force UH-1H Huey crashed 14 nautical miles south-east of Brunei International Airport.

2. “Every Round Counts”?

On 9 Mar 1997, a 155mm artillery round exploded in the barrel of a FH2000 gun howitzer in Waiouru, New Zealand, during a live firing exercise conducted by the 23rd Battalion, Singapore Artillery. The incident resulted in the death of 2 full-time national servicemen, 3SG Ronnie Tan Han Chong and LCP Low Yin Tit. Another 12 servicemen, including a Staff Sergeant from the New Zealand Defence Force, were injured in the incident.

Leadership-then: BG Bey Soo Khiang (CDF, 95-00). Bey went on to be Executive VP of Singapore Airlines (00-11); Chairman of SIA Cargo (08-10).

3. Courageous or Negligence?

On 3 Jan 2003 (11:35pm), the RSN’s RSS Courageous collided with ANL Indonesia (cargo ship) in the eastern Singapore Straits, resulting in the deaths of 4 crew members (CPL Goh Hui Ling, 1SG Seah Ai Leng, 1SG Heng Sock Ling, 2SG Chua Bee Lin) and caused extensive damage to the Navy patrol vessel. Lt Ng Keng Yong was guiding a trainee, fellow officer Lt Chua Chue Teng (2nd OOW), who was in control of the boat at the time of the collision.

Leadership-then: RDAM Lui Tuck Yew (Chief of Navy, 99-03), Lui went on to be MOS Education, Sr MOS Education & MICA, Minister of Transport. LG Lim Chuan Poh (CDF, 79-03), Lim went on to be Perm Sec (Education) and Chairman of A*STAR.

4. 2003 was a dunking ‘bad’ year?

On 21 Aug 2003, 19-year-old 2SG Hu Enhuai died during combat survival training on Pulau Tekong. 4 Officers (CPT Pandiaraj, Lt Ng Chin Fong, Lt Divanandhari Ambat Chandrasekharan) and 1 senior Specialist (WO S. Balakrishnan) who conducted the training did not follow the approved lesson plan, and instead of being doused with water, 2SG Hu had his head submerged in water four times (20s each). As a result 2SG Hu aspirated water, had breathing difficulties and collapsed. 26-year-old CPT Ho Wan Huo, another trainee on the same course was also dunked and suffered acute respiratory distress and nearly drowned. WO Balakrishnan, the course commander, could have stopped it, but he did not. Then Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean described the tragedy as ‘a stain on the reputation of the SAF’ and promised to get to the bottom of things.

Leadership-then: COL Noel Cheah (Chief Commando Officer) was removed from his job as investigations got underway. COL Cheah went on to be Chief Operating Officer of NUH (09 onwards). Ng Yat Chung (Chief of Army, 00-03), Ng went on to be CDF (03-07), Sr MD of Temasek (07-11) and CEO of NOL (11-16). On 7 Dec 2015, National shipping line, Neptune Orient Lines (NOL) was sold to French conglomerate CMA CGM SA for S$2.26 billion, a loss of approx. $1 billion.

5. 1 jeep, 2 unbelted passengers, 1 unlicensed driver

On 11 May 2012, 3SG Tan Mou Sheng was thrown out of a SAF jeep he was travelling in, after it overturned. He was pinned under it, and was extricated and underwent an emergency operation in hospital, but eventually died from his injuries. The conducting officer of the exercise, MSG Lee Kong Kean, had assigned 3SG Cavin Tan (unlicensed jeep driver) to drive without checking if he had a licence. 3SG Tan and another passenger were not wearing helmets or lap belts. The Combat Intelligence School was found to have a weak safety culture, with previous cases of unlicensed driving. Its vehicle-management system was also found to be unsatisfactory.

Share more SNAFUs by the SAF, and vote which you think is the number 1 screw-up?

Major Jiak Liao Bee
A.S.S. Contributor

#SAF #SNAFU #screwup #Army #Terrex #RSAF #AboveAll

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