Major Jonothon Yuen from the Singapore Armed Forces at Shoalwater Bay.
Major Jonothon Yuen from the Singapore Armed Forces at Shoalwater Bay. Russell Prothero ROK131017wallab

A look inside the life of a mandatory service soldier

IT IS hard for most Australians to comprehend the importance of mandatory National Service in the armed forces when the sunburnt country's only foreign invaders were the British over 200 years ago.

But the Singaporeans, who were occupied by the Japanese during World War II and only gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1963, have a strong emphasis on the importance of national service.

It was Singapore Armed Forces' Major Jonothon Yuen who shed light to the Rockhampton media about where Singaporeans come from with regards to mandatory service.

The solicitor who is also a brigade engineer officer for a guards brigade in the Singapore Army shared a memory of what his grandmother had told him growing up.

"My grandmother suffered under the Japanese occupation and when she was still alive she said that we should never, ever let our country be ever occupied by foreign power again,” he said during a break in Exercise Wallaby 2017 at Shoalwater Bay.

"And I think that mindset from a generation that's still very fresh on our minds, compels all of us to really take this seriously.”

In Singapore, men are required to complete two years of mandatory national service and they can then opt to stay on in a part-time role like the Australian Army Reserves or full-time regular army positions.

"I think you will find varying levels of support for the military service in Singapore, but I think by and large you will find the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans that understand and accept the necessity for this service,” Maj Yuen said.

"I don't think everyone truly enjoys taking time out of your lives, being in a hot sun and running around in camouflage .... There are some of us like myself that actually enjoy it, but I think it would be safe to say everyone excepts and acknowledges how important that it is.”

Private Wesley Wen Jun Kok, 20, will finish his two-year service in February and will be going on to study computer science.

"I think that getting along with everybody here of different ages is very helpful in the future for my career and also that learning about how things work behind the scene. So I definitely can learn a lot from this,” Wesley said when asked how he thought how his time in the armed forces would help him in his future career.

Forward Support Group Commander ME6 Luke Goh Zhenyu said the benefit of bringing National Service here for training was building their confidence in executing our missions in a very realistic environment.



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