Saturday, February 05, 2011
Reservist as an Officer
I have just completed my annual In Camp Training (ICT) in January and I guess many of the Mindef people are waiting for my usual reports on this blog with regards to the ICT.
It is always good to meet up with old buddies and men. However, many of them will MR (i.e. completing their NSmen cycle of 7 High Keys and 3 low keys or going to pass 40 years old). But some officers have completed more than 7 High Keys (ICT more than 5 days is considered to be 1 High Key) and some like me, are 40 years old or above, are still serving.
Ever since Mindef announced the changes made to the 13 year cycle to 10 year cycle, there are confusions among the officers. Many officers thought that they will only need to finish 7 High Keys and 3 Low Keys and they could MR. This is not true. Officers are liable for reservist training UP TO 50 YEAR OLD.
But some officers are "lucky" that they MR together with their units; especially those "mono-intake" infantry or Guards units way before 40 years old. Thus the confusion was deepen when logistic officers who are in "evergreen units" like mine are required to serve way beyond 7 High Keys and 40 years old.
This disgruntlement is primarily due to poor manpower planning of succession. At the end of each and every of my ICT, the discussion on succession planning always dominates the meeting. Succession planning for officers as well as key NCO postings like CSM, CQ etc is pretty weak. Officers with special technical skills like signal officers are lacking.
Even for my position, MTO (Motor Transport Officer) is lacking. I was sent for two courses during my reservist, both about 2 to 3 weeks each. These are supposedly to be considered as High Keys but it seems that there are rumors courses attended during reservist period are not considered as High Keys! This created much unhappiness on the ground and if Mindef did not come clear on this issue, we will find less officers willing to attend prolonged courses like mine.
Two to three weeks off from our normal work routine to attend military courses are big sacrifices to NSmen officers. It would be unfair to them that all these time spent are not going to be considered as High Key ICT.
Such treatment will aggravate the succession plan for Officers. i.e. If no Officers are willing to attend courses, how could they take on the roles of their predecessors?
Quite a number of officers (as well as warrant officer) in my unit have completed more than 7 High Keys. Some of them chose to sign on as Rovering key appointment holders. Their dedication to National Service is really commendable.
But I think it is unfair for other officers who have completed the needed 7 High Keys and who have reached 40 years old and above to be made to stay just because of the failure of succession planning by the S1 or G1.
Service Officers should be treated fairly as the Combat Officers. If Combat Officers could MR even before they reach 40 years old, why should Service Officers made to stay on beyond 7 High Keys and 40 years old? Such unfair treatment is going to affect the morale of the Service Officers.
I am raising this problem not because my fellow officers in my unit are complaining nor unwilling to serve. We treasure our comradeship and companionship. But in this highly competitive job market, people are worried about their jobs being taken away by FTs who do not pose such disruptions to the company's work routine. Whether we are Officers or men, we face the same constrains and competition on the job front.
The additional problems we officers face when we are serving above 40 years old is IPPT. For any servicemen, you are required to take the IPPT even when you are 40 years old and above. However, we have to take the FFI (a medical check up to certify fit for IPPT) every year. Sometimes, the FFI may drag due to additional medical check up needed. By the time the FFI is done, the window left for IPPT will be very limited.
After going through all the trouble of FFI, we are required to take only THREE stations for the IPPT. This is pretty ironic.
Most reservist officers who serve beyond 40 years old are service officers (logistic officers) like me. Our main role is to provide combat service support to the frontline troops. We are not required to go on physically strenuous combat missions but most of the time, we do a lot of planning on logistics deployment. i.e. We are using more brain power than muscles to complete our missions.
Thus it is kind of inconvenient irony that we are still put through the hassles of FFI and IPPT. The main risk in taking IPPT after 40 years old lies in the 2.4km running. There is totally unnecessary for service officers to take such risks especially so when they are already serving unfairly more than Combat officers.
Personally I am most willing to serve up to 50 years old if the hassles of FFI and IPPT are taken off. Almost all my men in my unit know I am "the opposition man" but I always tell them, even opposition man can be a good soldier. It is a kind of National Education by example that opposition members can be "deadly patriotic" too.
I hope Mindef, especially G1 has to come out and clarify certain things for officers, especially for logistic officers who need to attend courses. I also hope that succession planning for logistic units should be done properly by G1 so that most logistic officers would be treated equally as their combat counterparts. Last but not least, the requirement of IPPT for those NSmen officers above 40 should be reviewed or scrapped totally (especially for logistic officers).
Goh Meng Seng
Afternote: BTW, I am very sorry that I may have caused some anxiety within my unit's admin.
This article is specifically written for higher authority (i.e. G1 & Mindef) to reconsider their policy directions and not meant to doubt the efficiency and effectiveness of my unit's administration.
The key issues here is about fair treatment to Service Officers vs Combat Officers, as well as the redundancy of the IPPT requirement for those NSmen who are above 40.
Imagine that every year you are required to go through the hassle of medical check up and ended up with a watered down IPPT (i.e. required to do 3 stations instead of 6). It really doesn't make economic and practical sense to me.