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All male citizens were eligible for the draft on their eighteenth birthday. Prospective draftees reported to the central manpower base operated by the Ministry of Defence with their birth certificate, identity card, educational record, and medical records. In the 1970s, the Ministry of Defence computerized the registration process. The Integrated Manpower Information System maintained at the central manpower base enabled the government to match more efficiently the skills and educational capabilities of draftees to the manpower needs of the services. Exemptions were granted only if a person was medically unfit for service, had a criminal record, or could prove that his enlistment was a hardship for his family. Deferments were granted to students who were enrolled or had been accepted for admission at an accredited college or other education institution.
Singapore's declining rate of population was partially responsible for government efforts to recruit more women for noncombatant duties. In 1980 about 50 percent of all women in the armed forces served in clerical positions in which promotion and career opportunities were limited. By 1989, however, military regulations had been changed to allow women to be considered for assignment to a number of military occupation specialties previously reserved for men. Women with high school diplomas and those with specialized skills, such as computer programming or office management, were offered professional and technical positions in support units. Many women found the medical and fringe benefits that came with a military career to be equivalent or better than these in the civilian job market. The recruitment of women for noncombatant duties enabled the Ministry of Defence to maintain manpower levels in combat units without changing length of service requirements or extending the length of reserve duty.
Because of the scarcity of open land on the main island, Singapore established training bases and firing ranges on offshore islands and sometimes sent army units abroad for training that could not be provided in the country. The Military Maneuvers Act-- passed in 1963 while Singapore was a part of Malaysia, and amended in 1983--strengthened restrictions on civilian access to several islands located northwest and south of the main island of Singapore. Each of the services conducted live firing exercises in the restricted areas, and the army used some of the islands for basic military training and various types of field training. Operational exercises, such as amphibious landings and training conducted with Brunei and other countries, took place on these islands. The use of unpopulated islands for military training enabled the armed forces to avoid endangering the city and other heavily populated areas on the main island. Large scale exercises involving several battalions, however, were considered too dangerous even on the deserted islands. After 1975 the army used bases in Taiwan for military training that included combined arms exercises involving infantry, artillery, and armored units. These exercises, engaging as many as 10,000 troops at one time, provided officers a chance to simulate wartime conditions more closely and gain experience in the command and control of operations involving several battalions.
In each of the three services, male inductees were given three months and female inducters three weeks of basic military training at the basic military training camp on Pulau Tekong. For the men, the program included daily physical exercise to build stamina, classroom and field instruction in handling small arms, and day and night combat operations. Particular emphasis was placed on learning to function as members of a combat team. Infantrymen usually remained with their basic training company throughout their military careers. In this way the army hoped to strengthen the efficiency of units during combat by encouraging the loyalty of the individual soldier to his unit. Basic training for female military personnel emphasized military discipline, physical training, and an introduction to military skills, including handling small arms, marching, and survival techniques.
Following basic training, conscripts selected for the army's combat units were given additional training that familiarized them with military procedures, weapons and equipment, tactics, and a unit's offensive and defensive missions during wartime. Infantrymen were assigned specific duties. Those assigned to rifle platoons learned assault tactics at their home base, while those selected for the weapons platoon were sent to the School of Infantry Weapons at Pasir Laba Camp where they received instruction in how to fire and care for mortars and recoilless guns. Training for artillerymen was provided first at the Artillery School at Khatib Camp, where they learned to locate and fire accurately at targets, and then at their home base, where the emphasis was on weapons deployment in battle. The courses at the Artillery School lasted from eight to thirteen weeks. In the eight-week gunner course, artillerymen were trained to fire 155mm guns. There were additional courses for those assigned to heavy mortar units and for artillery specialists such as the technical assistants responsible for computing target engagement data. Base training was conducted in two phases. During the first phase, field artillery and mortar units practiced what they had learned at the Artillery School and participated in cross- training, through which personnel were trained to perform the duties of other members of their gun or mortar unit. The second phase involved field deployment drills and battalion or brigade exercises. Tank crews were given an eight-week course at the Armor School located at Sungai Gedong Camp. A three-man crew comprised a commander, driver, and gunner. Training included familiarization with the tank, cross-training, and the use of computers and visual aids to simulate combat conditions. Most field exercises involving tanks were limited to small units, usually at the company or platoon level, again because of the limited space available for such training.
Outstanding army recruits were selected for training as NCOs and sent to Pasir Laba Camp to attend the School of Infantry Section Leaders. This program emphasized toughness and endurance during combat. Trainees were taken to various parts of the main island and Pulau Tekong and given extensive instruction in leading a small group and taking responsibility for its survival in combat. Additional training included conventional and unconventional unit tactics, discipline, and communication with the platoon and company headquarters.
The Armed Forces Training Institute located at Jurong Camp officer training and instruction for army personnel enrolled in advanced programs designed to improve leadership and military skills. Officer candidates, including university graduates and other recruits considered to have the aptitude and physical capabilities to command a platoon, took a nine-month course at the Officer Cadet School of the Armed Forces Training Institute. Classroom instruction included lectures on unit administration, tactics, planning operations, command and communications, and assessing unit capabilities in combat. During field exercises, cadets were presented with both urban and rural battle scenarios in which they took turns performing the duties of officers and enlisted men in order to improve their understanding of the role of subordinates. Graduates of the course were commissioned as lieutenants and assigned to command active-duty or reserve units. The army's Advanced Training School and Command and Staff College also were located at the Armed Forces Training Institute.
The air force provided pilot training at the Flying Training School at Paya Lebar Air Base. Pilot trainees were required to complete the army's basic training and nine-month officer cadet courses before being accepted into the flight training program. The introduction to flying began with a one-month orientation course in advanced aerodynamics and aircraft instruments. This course was followed by sixteen weeks of training in Italian-produced SF-260 turboprop and S-211 jet trainer aircraft. Following this basic flying course, cadets were assigned to fighter aircraft squadrons for forty weeks of advanced training that included sight and instrument control of flight, air-to-air and air-to-ground combat tactics, flying in formation, night flying, and other subjects. Those who failed to qualify were reassigned to transport or rotary aircraft units, or given ground assignments.
The air force also operated schools to train air traffic controllers, air defense controllers, and aircraft maintenance personnel. Air traffic controllers, trained at the Air Traffic Control School at Seletar Air Base, were taught how to distinguish commercial and military aircraft, to regulate military air traffic, and to provide emergency services. Air defense controllers learned to identify enemy aircraft on radar screens, to guide fighter aircraft to the enemy, and to operate surface-to-air missiles. The Air Engineering Training Institute offered a wide range of courses to train mechanics and technicians in the maintenance of the various types of aircraft, engines, radar, and communications equipment used by the air force.
Naval officer training was provided in the Midshipman School at Sembawang. This school had separate eighteen-month courses to train navigation, gunnery, communications, and logistics officers. Advanced officer training was not available, but most ship commanders received additional training in Australia, Britain, or the United States. The navy also operated a Technical Training School for ship maintenance personnel at Pulau Brani and a school to train seamen for duties as gunners, radar operators, and communications specialists.
Training for army reserves included weekend duty at army bases, field and mobilization exercises, and occasional assignments to schools and training bases. Reserve military personnel were required to spend a minimum of forty days a year with their military unit or in an individual training program. Regularly scheduled weekend duty usually included physical fitness exercises, instruction in individual and unit military skills, and occasional travel for shooting practice to one of the army's indoor firing ranges or to a training area for field exercises. Every few years, reserve units were sent to the Basic Combat Training Center at Pasir Laba Camp for a ten-day refresher course in unit tactics. During mobilization exercises, selected units were required to assemble at their home base and deploy to their assigned field positions to test the readiness of personnel to respond to an alert. Most branch schools had some on-site and correspondence courses that reservists could take in order to fulfill part of their annual service requirement. The Armed Forces Training Institute offered courses for reservists chosen for officer training.
Data as of December 1989
Singapore Table of Contents