I am a former Army regular. I have retired from the SAF donkey years ago.
I am very sad by the passing of our founding father Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Many world leaders and Lee's former colleagues have recounted their positive engagements with the late Mr Lee.
Being a former soldier who signed on in the 1970s, I was very fortunate to witness the late Mr Lee's sincerity for fellow soldiers.
Please allow me to share some stories about this great man.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew visited SAFTI MI in Aug 1995 before the unit's opening ceremony. As you know, SAFTI's nearest MRT station back then was Boon Lay, a distance away. Our Commandant then (a Brigadier General) was giving a brief to Mr Lee. Lee suddenly asked how far is the nearest MRT to SAFTI MI. He was told it is 30 minutes by bus. Lee replied "How can our NS boys reach camp on time? Did you arrange the army tonners to pick them up?". The Commandant replied "No". Then Lee stared at the Commandant, turned to then Defence Minister Dr Tony Tan and said "Can you please arrange for ferry buses to pick up our NS boys as soon as possible? Four waves in the morning and four waves in the evening."
In the same visit, Mr Lee visited the officer's mess. He left the mess moments later and instructed Dr Tony Tan to change the bar counter because the existing one "looks like clinic counter". Mr Lee then took a glance at the lake, and suggest Dr Tan should install a water fountain in the lake.
While on his way to visit the OCS cadets, Mr Lee noticed that those huge trees (sorry I forgot what is the name of those trees) are growing too near to the bunks, he immediately turn to the CO and raised his concern: "When the trees grow big, our NS boys' lives will be endangered during heavy showers". Mr Lee then noticed the training pool. He was shocked when he was told that there were NSFs who don't know how to swim! Lee then turn to Teo Chee Hean to ask him to find out how many JC boys are non-swimmers. I heard it was due to that incident, then MOE began pushing for swimming lessons to be conducted at primary and secondary school level.
The RSMs at SAFTI MI have a story to share as well. When Mr Lee found out that the RSMs have to lead by example to be the first to leave camp and the last to leave, he was concerned with the well-beings of the RSM. He then ordered the military to assign a dedicated GP car and a dedicated lot for the RSMs. Till today, I heard no one dare to touch that RSM's car.
Another story I heard from my CSM is that Mr Lee visited OCS once and noticed that the plants leading to SAFTI were "coniferous type" trees (whatever that is man!). Mr Lee has deep knowledge of plants. Fearing for the safety of our soldiers, Mr Lee warned the CO that those trees were a safety hazard because those attract lightning. He also commented some plants within the camp compound were grown haphazardly which were not pleasing to look at and demoralised morale. So the whole camp underwent re-shrubbing with the support from Environment Ministry.
The last story I heard about the late Mr Lee is that his mother Madam Chua once visited SAFTI in 1968 with a group of senior ladies from Asian Women Welfare Group. Madam Chua was appalled by the standard of the food served to our soldiers. After that visit, the rations within SAF underwent revamp and it became better.
I hope you can publish this letter to let more Singaporeans know about his kind deeds that improved the lives of our soldiers.