Thursday, January 1, 2015

Singapore Armed Forces SAF training deaths in 2014

In 2014, Singapore's Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) reported two deaths in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), up from a single fatality reported for 2013.

As we usher in 2015, the rise in this tally is a timely reminder for all in the defence eco-system to take workplace and training safely seriously. At the same time, we must learn to be aware of and in control of our personal issues well. Should we feel down and need a listening ear - and we all go through such patches at some point in our lives - we must know whom we can approach to get things back on track.

Since 2009, when 10 SAF deaths were logged, the MINDEF/SAF have put in immense efforts at improving training safety.

This saw a dramatic reduction in fatalities in 2010. The SAF closed the year with zero fatalities.

However, that clean sheet has proven elusive.

In 2011,  the SAF reported three fatalities.

In 2012, the number doubled to six deaths.

The following year saw one fatality. However, one should remember that 2013 clocked at least five instances of near misses. These include servicemen who were hospitalised due to cardiac arrest, some 300 suspected Norovirus cases at BMTC on Pulau Tekong and an incident involving a Republic of Singapore Air Force pilot who was involved in a hard landing in a United States Navy T-45C Goshawk trainer in Florida.

From one death in 2013, we now have two for 2014. Every fatality is one too many.

However, this must be seen in perspective. Both took place in the first half of 2013, which suggests no slide in training safety awareness and protocols as the year wore on.

The SAF had a busy operations tempo in 2014. Last year, the SAF staged overseas deployments to the Gulf of Aden and contributed search teams to look for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370  as well as the ongoing search for AirAsia Flight QZ8501 in the Java Sea.

Looking ahead, the SAF has a busy calendar in 2015 as Singapore gears up for its Jubilee Year celebrations under SG50.

The ops tempo for Regulars, full-time National Servicemen and Operationally-Ready NSmen is likely to remain high in 2015. This will involve local deployments and a training calendar packed with training arrangements and exercises around the globe.

As a new year unfolds, the commitment to safety and better management of personal issues should be a top priority for all ranks.

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