Monday, September 11, 2006

On the SAF's Utilization of Manpower (for NSFs and NSmen)

Much has been said about the various aspects of NS (I, II) over at Mr Wang's blog.

Mr Wang talked about the SAF's limited ways in taking into account NSFs' preferences and strengths when deciding on their unit postings. Unfortunately for many of the combat vocations in the Army (where the bulk of the NSFs end up in), all they want is a fit body which can run (IPPT/SOC etc) and fire a M16 rifle (or is it SAR21?). Not much leeway there.

There is usually a better fit on the Service/Technical side. Depending on your academic/professional background they actually monitor your work/posting even if you are just a lowly NSF/NSman.

Take for example a NSF project clerk, who OOCed from OCS and was downgraded and posted to a Formation HQ. CPC would actually send out something like this to the Unit he was posted to:

Depot Road

XX Jun 9X

Hd MP (G1 Br), HQ SAF

Project Clerk

1. 1234567H PTE takchek has been posted to HQ SAF as Project Clerk with effect from XX Jun 9X.

2. His HSP is 4 'A' distinctions. Besides the usual clerical duties that he has to perform, he has to be placed on project work, in accordance with the management scheme to employ NSF non-combat fit 4 'A' Level distinction holders in project work.

3. We would appreciate it if you could forward details on the current as well as future projects to be undertaken by the serviceman.

4. Unit is also to monitor his work performance and give a detailed report to CPC on his task and performance in 6 months' time (by 31 Dec 9X) after his posting. Project Clerks who are underutilized will be redeployed to other units which have requests for them.

5. You reply on paragraph by XX Month 9X is appreciated, please.

Some dude in CPC

I won't go into how I was handling a CPT's (read: executive) work, while holding only a PTE, later CPL rank and getting the (lousy) pay allowance. Talk about serving as a cheap laborer. The good thing was that my brain was kept active and did not atrophy.


The SAF also tracks doctors. Doctors who were not MOs when they were NSFs.

There are some doctors who become SAF officers through the NS MOCC scheme, which is different from the regular MOCC.

They are doctors who had served their NSF in other vocations/ranks and did not manage to disrupt for their medical course either in NUS or overseas. This was a scheme launched in 95-96. The first batch of NSMOCC commissioned officers graduated sometime in 97/98.

This is the way it worked (then): Mindef and MOH would share their data on the list of registered male medical doctors in Singapore. They narrow down those who did not get their SAF MO commissions during their NSF. These people could be riflemen, storemen, signallers, infantry officers etc. They could even be clerks and be PES E. It doesn't matter. HQMC would arrange to have them transferred from whatever NS units to under their charge for the NS MOCC.

NSMOCC consists of two phases spread out over two years because of ICT restrictions. At least that was the case back then. These guys would be sent to SMM for their NS MOCC course.

Upon completion, they would be commissioned as SAF MOs, and be given the rank of LTA (DR) (NS) for those medically unfit (ie PES C and below), and CPT (DR) (NS) for those PES A/B. Of course the most xiong part the combat-fit guys would have to endure is the IPPT. There is no need to take the SOC.

You might think that it is a good deal, but the truth is that many of these NSmen do not like to go through the course. If nothing else, it lengthens their NS cycle and raises the age limit from 40 to 50 years of age. They would also be given higher appointments to serve in their NS units (read: more sai kang to do). Many of them would rather spend their time outside than to be called back to camp for ICTs and what nots. And imagine being a cadet as a NSman! Yes, even those LTA(NS) officers have to go through the NS MOCC, if they were not MOs previously. They go through with the others who are SGTs, CPLs etc.

Many were unhappy, and some had even asked if it was possible to 'fail' the course and not get their commission. One guy in the first batch did.

BTW, it is almost impossible to 'fail' or go OOC for NS MOCC. That guy failed because of an 'attitude problem'. Almost all of these doctors were in their late 20s to early 30s. Things might have changed now, as my info is (quite) dated.

The main reason for SAF to have this NS MOCC is to better utilize manpower. On the grand scheme of things, it looks good, since you wouldn't want to waste a doctor in wartime to fight as a trooper etc when he can be a MO saving lives.

Some of these doctors were quite happy to go through this course as this gave them a chance to be an officer. Especially for those who wanted to but failed to qualify for OCS when they were NSFs. Or those who went OOC in OCS during their NSF days.

Then there were those who were disappointed. Their main gripe was that SAF wants them to be an officer only when they are qualified doctors outside.

Others complained about having their advanced medical training disrupted, since they were taking some MMed/specialty training courses. There were requests by this group for deferment/disruption etc.

Each NSMOCC cohort numbers around 30-40, although with deferments and disruptions the actual number could be less than 20.

A small number no doubt, but at least the organisation is taking steps to make better use of (skilled) manpower.


Selected SAF lingo:

CPC - Control of Personnel Center; this is the place where the Army assigns a WOSE (both regulars and NSFs) his vocation and unit

OOC - out of course

OCS - Officer Cadet School

HSP - Highest Standard Passed

NSF - Full time National Service(man)

IPPT - Individual Physical Proficiency Test

HQ MC - HQ Medical Corps

SMM - School of Military Medicine

SOC - Standard Obstacle Course

MOCC/NSMOCC - Medical Officer Cadet Course

WOSE - Warrant Officers, Specialists and Enlisted Men

Technorati: Singapore; NS; SAF.


Mr Wang Says So said...

Tak Chek:

I think that the selection system can be broadened a lot more than that. For example, an officer has remarked to me that poly grads with an engineering background tend to perform much better than others, in his unit (SADA) - they learn to operate the machinery much faster, and can fix problems out in the field. I imagine that the same would apply for the general artillery units and the armour units. That's a lot of combat roles already.

Seems to me that the Navy also takes in NSmen without first asking whether they can swim. This frankly is ridiculous.

-ben said...

Hahaha! Oh, my! You scored a hit with me this time, takchek!

My vocation history:

Registry Clerk
S1PA (Manpower Officer's Personal Assistant)
COPA (Commanding Officer's Personal Assistant)

SAF also tore my ACL in each knee. All the MOs did was to give me more and more painkiller and tell me, "It's all in your head. If you don't think about it, the pain will go away."

Uniquely Singapore!

MMJ said...

Hi Takchek =)
If a student graduates from the Duke-NUS medical postgraduate school, will he be asked to be turned into a a MO during reservist, say if the student has already passed his ORD as a specialist in a non-medical vocation?