Speech by President Halimah Yacob At The 107/17 Officer Cadet Course Commissioning Parade at SAFTI Military Institute
Graduands of the 107/17 Officer Cadet Course
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. My warmest congratulations to all the cadets here today on successfully completing the Officer Cadet Course. Over the 38 weeks of arduous training, you have shown tenacity and discipline – qualities that the Singapore Armed Forces values in its leaders. Today marks a milestone of your leadership journey, as you are entrusted with the responsibility of leading your soldiers as a commissioned officer. I am confident that the SAF and OCS have prepared you well for the challenges ahead.
The Importance of a Strong SAF in Safeguarding our Sovereignty
2. Since our independence in 1965, we have understood the importance of defending our nation’s sovereignty. A safe and secure environment has enabled Singapore to thrive, progress, and prosper. This is why our founding leaders instituted National Service (NS) – to provide us with peace and stability upon which to build our country. Over time, it has also played a crucial role in fostering a collective resilience and cohesion, as generations of Singaporeans undergo NS as a rite of passage. It has become a pledge of commitment by our younger generations to continue safeguarding Singapore’s future.
3. This year, we pay tribute to over a million Singaporeans who have served NS over the past 50 years. Decades of hard work, sacrifice, and commitment of these National Servicemen have built the SAF to what it is today – advanced, effective, sophisticated and capable of performing a full spectrum of operations.
The Role of the SAF in the Evolving Global Environment
4. As we celebrate the evolution of NS in Singapore, we must also recognise that our security environment has become increasingly complex, uncertain and volatile. We are now faced with new threats such as terrorism, cyber-attacks, fake news, and the geopolitical tensions in our region.
5. In particular, terrorism has come to the fore in recent years. Terror attacks by ISIS and other groups supporting the terrorist cause have harmed many innocent lives around the world. We can expect some of these fighters to also bring this misguided mission of violence to our region. Singapore is not spared either and has been identified as a prime target. We are facing the highest terror threat level in recent years. In the last quarter of this year alone, three Singaporeans were dealt with under the Internal Security Act for terror-related activities – a stark reminder that terrorism is a real and severe threat to Singapore’s security.
6. In response, the SAF has evolved to be adaptive and responsive. After 9/11, the SAF formed high readiness task forces to respond quickly to terror threats from air, land, and sea. The SAF has also been enhancing how it works with Home Team agencies in response to terror attacks, with regular stress-testing of the combined capabilities and responses, including an island-wide counter-terrorism exercise in October.
7. At the international level, the SAF is a valuable partner to many established militaries and organisations. From 2007 to 2013, the SAF deployed close to 500 personnel to Afghanistan as part of Singapore's contribution to the multinational stabilisation and reconstruction efforts there. The SAF has also deployed specialised teams such as Intelligence Fusion Officers, Imagery Analysis teams and medical support teams to the Middle East to contribute to the international effort against ISIS.
8. No country can deal with these threats in isolation. Whether it is to fight piracy, combat terrorism, neutralise cyber-attacks or tackle fake news, the SAF needs to build strategic partnerships with our regional neighbours and like-minded countries. This is why the SAF plays an active role in regional security institutions such as the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and ADMM-Plus, as well as participates regularly in regional military exercises to enhance military-to-military relations and address security issues with our partners through practical cooperation.
9. The SAF has gained a positive reputation for its professionalism, commitment and valued contributions. Critical to achieving mission success in such complex and challenging operations is dependable, visionary and excellent leadership – and this is why the SAF invests so much in selecting, training and grooming leaders like you.
Responsibilities of SAF Officers
10. As commissioned officers of the SAF, the task to defend Singapore against the challenges and threats ahead will rest on your leadership. The SAF depends on you to lead by example, with conviction, compassion and confidence. Excel in everything that you do, so that you can train and guide your soldiers well. At the same time, hold yourself to high standards of moral courage and integrity, so that you can discharge your duties honorably. These qualities will serve you well not only in the military but also when you join the workforce after your full-time National Service.
11. To the family members and friends joining us here today, I thank you for the unwavering support you have given to our cadets, encouraging and motivating them to persevere, excel, and give their best.
12. To all the cadets, remember that your commissioning symbolises the trust that the nation has vested upon you. I wish you all the best in your leadership journey.