This post is part of my National Service Survey series, titled “The Full-Time National Serviceman: Concerns, Challenges And The Way Forward“. The study was also premised upon three key principles: first, to involve NSFs in the entire feedback process; second, to inform the SAF and MINDEF about these concerns; third, besides the implementation of workable recommendations, this ad-hoc survey can function as a humble starting point for future exercises or studies to evolve from.
Read more about my first attempt at an online survey (here), and feel free to let me know what you think about the discourse.
Leadership Opportunities For NSFs
Key Qualitative Findings
Three groups of NSFs have lamented the lack of substantial leadership opportunities made available to them and their counterparts. These include those from mono-intakes, the slightly combat-fit (PES B2), and the non-combat-fit personnel.
Hailing from a mono-intake infantry battalion, it was pointed out by a NSF that “there are some men who are much more capable than their commanders in terms of infantry things during outfield … [but] these capable soldiers are not given a chance to go to command school because they were not posted to Basic Military Training (BMT) in the first place” [B5].
Leadership opportunities can be opened up to these outstanding soldiers, so as to provide genuine incentives to encourage good performance, and promote a healthy trend of possessing forward-looking ambitions.
Slightly Combat-Fit (PES B2)
The same applies to those who are considered to be slightly combat-fit (PES B2). “The PES B2 status is unfair to those who have a slight medical problem … but are aiming to go for command school … as B2 is not part of the enhanced leadership scheme” [C1]. These soldiers go through a nine-week BMT training programme, but are not afforded the chance to become Specialists or Officers. It would also be greatly beneficial if there could be greater transparency of the PES system, with more information and clarifications afforded.
There should be “more command positions for PES C personnel … currently the only way is [either to be] a company quartermaster or administrative specialist” [C2].
1. More information can be provided about the different PES statuses, so as to provide enlistees and their parents with more details on the aforementioned. Some of these information can be found – albeit with much effort – on the MINDEF website, but the current navigation is very poorly managed.
Many individuals rely on an assortment of forums and websites to clarify doubts, or to raise personal queries prior to their enlistment; however, problems might arise when anecdotal experiences are conveniently generalised, which might end up misleading them (no ability to properly differentiate between what is fact or fiction, so to speak). Given the relatively new introduction of the PES B2 status, MINDEF could provide more information to clarify assumptions or circulating guesses.
2. There could be supplementary clarifications provided to NSFs on the various channels available for upward movement to the command schools, especially in mono-intake units. It would be positive if soldiers are cognisant of avenues that would allow them to move progressively up the hierarchy. These motivations – in the long-term – prove to be genuine incentives to constructively encourage good performance and consistencies in the different units. This also allows late-bloomers (those who might not have excelled in BMT) to shine and progress too at later stages of their NS term.
3. Trade-offs are certainly involved when it comes to the institution of more leadership opportunities for different groups of NSFs (for instance, combat-fit personnel might be unhappy that non-combat-fit soldiers were to get greater chances). Different interests should be balanced here.
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