Leadership: October 22, 2003



The issue of three military training fatalities within a month was recently raised during a Singapore Parliament session, with the Singapore Defense Minister revealing some details:


While still under investigation, two of the fatalities appear to be accidental, one was where an obese National Serviceman collapsed while undergoing the standard Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) 2.4 km timed run; and the other, a regular soldier who collapsed after undergoing a 5.4 kilometer run during Ranger selection. Pending final investigation, it is suspected that in both cases undetected existing medical conditions may have been a major factor. In both incidences, all proper training procedures and safety precautions were in place.

More seriously, a National Service sniper sergeant died after undergoing Combat Survival Training, which included simulated interrogation under duress. Against authorized training doctrine, the sniper had his head submerged underwater four times, where he aspirated water, and subsequently died. Six others undergoing the same course required medical attention, with three hospitalized. This case is currently under a Higher Board of Inquiry, as well as criminal investigation.

The seriousness of this incident is underlined by not only the suspension of the five conducting instructors of the course, from the Army School of Commando Training, but also the dismissal of the commanding officer of the School, a Lieutenant- Colonel, and the replacement of the Singapore Army's Chief Commando Officer, a Colonel. Military and/or criminal charges will most likely be brought up against the five instructors.

In an unusual step, the Defense Minister also convened a meeting of over 400 officers, comprising the commanders of every unit, formation and service in the entire Singapore Armed Forces, where he basically read them the riot act with regards to the reputation of the Singapore Armed Forces, and the strict enforcement of established training procedure. A major, armed forces wide, review of training practices has been launched. -- Shawn Chung


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