The term "Aide-de-Camp' is of French origin, meaning 'camp or field assistant'. The ADC was originally a military assistant in the field to a Sovereign, Chief of State, or General. They transmitted orders and supervised operations in the name of their commander, and even exercised delegated authority on occasions.
In modern day, the ADC is an officer of the armed forces who serves as a personal assistant to the President, Head of State, General, Admiral, or other high-ranking commanders. Compared to the military importance and tasks of ADCs in 19th Century armies, the role of ADCs today have changed to become mainly those of rendering personal assistance and acting as confidential secretaries to their commanders.
In some countries, the ADC to the sovereign or Head of State is an honorary position. In others, ADCs have more detailed and important duties. In most countries, the tour of duty of an ADC is between two and four years, and it is usually required that an ADC appointee has served several years with troops previously.
Currently, the President of the Republic of Singapore has three full-time ADCs. The full-time ADCs are assisted by a corps of Honorary ADCs from the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Civil Defence Force at major events.
The full-time ADCs to the President attend to the general administration, security and social needs of the President, and accompany him whenever he attends, presides, or is involved in State functions, gatherings, ceremonies or occasions of ceremonial or charitable/social nature. They are responsible for the co-ordination, planning, execution and follow-up of all of President’s events, both locally and for overseas visits.
Honorary ADCs assist the full-time ADCs in the discharge of their duties to the President. They help in areas such as receiving guests and serving as liaison officers for VIPs or as emcees at official events, to ensure the smooth running of these functions.
Internationally, Aides-de-Camp may be identified by the thick distinctive cords worn across their right shoulder, called aiguillettes. The aiguillettes are plaited cords ending at two points called aglets. Historically, the aglets were used by knights to fasten the plates of their armour together. Aiguillettes are worn on the right shoulder by officers of certain appointments only. They include:
- Chief of Defence Force in the Singapore Armed Forces
- Commissioner of Police in the Singapore Police Force
- Commissioner in the Singapore Civil Defence Force
- Aides-de-Camp to the President
- Honorary Aides-de-Camp to the President
In Singapore, ADCs from the Singapore Armed Forces and the Singapore Civil Defence Force wear gold aiguillettes, while those from the Singapore Police Force wear silver aiguillettes.