Speech by President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the 103/16 Officer Cadet Course Commissioning Parade at Safti Military Institute, 17 December 2016, 6pm

Graduands of the 103/16 Officer Cadet Course


Ladies and Gentlemen

Good evening

The commissioning parade marks a momentous occasion in the lives of our graduands. Today, you begin your journey as commissioned officers in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Nine months ago, you first stood on this Parade Square to receive your ranks as Officer Cadet Trainees. Now you stand here again, tall and proud as Officers-to-be. You went through months of rigorous training to earn the right to stand in today’s parade. Training that has moulded you both physically and mentally into competent, confident and committed leaders. You are now ready to take your place in training and leading our soldiers to defend the sovereignty and security of Singapore.

Next year marks the 75th Anniversary of the Fall of Singapore. It is a poignant reminder of why it is paramount that we have a credible SAF that is always ready and capable of defending our sovereignty. When Singapore first gained its independence, nobody thought we could defend ourselves. Now, nobody doubts that we can, and we will. We have transformed the SAF from its humble beginnings into a modern, effective and capable force that is well respected by other militaries. However, we must never take our peace and prosperity for granted. We live in a world that is inter-connected and complex. As a small island state with an open economy, we are susceptible to regional and global volatilities. We must ensure that we continue to have the wherewithal to defend ourselves against all threats.

Today, we also face unconventional security challenges such as extremist ideologies, piracy, pandemics and, of course, terrorism. In particular, terrorism as a menace is clear and present in Singapore. Perpetrators have proven capable of executing attacks anywhere, anytime, and even under heightened security. The foiled rocket attack from Batam in August this year is a sobering reminder of how near home terrorism can strike. We must remain vigilant and alert so as to protect our loved ones.

This dangerous and uncertain world is the one through which you must lead your soldiers.

It is a daunting task, but you will have the support of decades of foresight, preparation and wisdom of leaders who have walked before you. The SAF has come a long way from its humble beginnings in 1965 when it just had two infantry battalions, two wooden hull boats and no air force. Today, the 3rd Generation SAF is a respected military force, leveraging advanced technology to maintain our edge. The commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Defence Technology Community last month recognised this pivotal role that defence technology plays. For instance, the recent introductions of the Belrex Protected Combat Support Vehicle, Littoral Mission Vessel and Aerostat exemplify how the SAF constantly hones its capabilities in order to address ever-evolving operational requirements.

To everyone on the parade square, today’s ceremony is a shining and defining moment for you and your families. Your commissioning affirms Singapore’s trust and confidence in you as leaders of tomorrow. I am confident that you will serve with integrity and honour, just like many generations before you. Undergoing this gruelling training together has forged strong bonds of friendship and unity amongst you. Such friendships will be the pillars of support that will help you face the challenges of the future, together. I am happy to hear that an Officer Cadet from the Royal Thai Army is also in the contingent. The friendships you now share with your Singaporean peers mirrors the warm and close ties between our nations.

Let me conclude by sharing a quote by military scholar Vegetius:  “Few men are born brave; many become so through care and force of discipline.” As Officers of the SAF, you are responsible for the training, morale and discipline of your soldiers. Through your leadership, your men will find the courage and strength to rise up to the challenges they will face in future.

I wish you all the best in your leadership journey ahead.

Thank you.