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IMAGES: (CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT) LINKEDIN/@DAVID-NEO-791A01A, SIM DING EN, AZIZ SHAFII, BENJAMIN TAN There's a takeaway for everyone from the stories of these inspiring individuals.

13 NS-Related Stories That Caught Our Attention In 2023

Whether it was the moment CPT Yap Hui Jun became the first woman to complete the gruelling 65-day Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Ranger Course or the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) sending humanitarian aid to Gaza or Brigadier-General Cai Dexian putting the Lion City on the world map by becoming the first Singaporean to receive the US Bronze Star Medal, we were very inspired by the following NS-related stories in 2023.

Read on and be awed.

Through martial arts and a unique family activity, retired encik Mohamad Munir bin Rohani aka "Hosan" (bottom left) helps his five children navigate through life with valuable skills and useful tactics, and emphasises the importance of defence and family. | PHOTO OF MASKS: NG KAI, OTHER PHOTOS COURTESY OF HOSAN

1. Mohamad Munir bin Rohani aka "Hosan", ex-Company Sergeant Major (CSM)

Read this on "Serious Fun: Martial Arts And Nerf Wars Keep This Ex-CSM And His Family Together"

Every week, Thursday to Sunday nights, the 56-year-old gathers his brood of five aged between 14 and 22. The group, who call themselves G.H.O.S.T. (Guts and Honour to Overcome Situations Tactfully), gear up in military garb, arm themselves with cool AF NERF blasters, and head out (mostly to Tampines Quarry but also to various parks and their Pasir Ris neighbourhood) to tackle "operations" using military tactics and formations.

The main reason behind their unique family activity? Hosan sums it up succinctly with a catchphrase: "A family that plays together, stays together".

Since April 2023, NSmen only need to apply for an exit permit when leaving the country for 12 months or more. | IMAGE: PIONEER

2. Relaxation of exit permit requirement

Read this on "Ho Seh Lah! NS Exit Permit Only Needed If Out Of S'pore For 12 Months Or Longer"

On 27 Feb 2023, at the Committee of Supply debate on the Ministry of Defence’s (MINDEF’s) budget, Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How announced the relaxation of the exit permit requirement. From April 2023, this requirement will apply to trips out of Singapore for 12 months or longer (it used to be 6 months or more).

And if you’re planning to be out of the country for a long period (but less than 12 months lah, so that you don’t need to apply for the exit permit), we have some tips to level up your overseas experience.

Barbed wire is affixed to a ship's hull, superstructure, and railings as a protective measure for its crew against piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. | ORIGINAL IMAGE: 123RF

3. A salute to those defending our waters

Read this on "Stepping Up Our Game To Combat Piracy And Protect The Waters Around Singapore"

According to a half-yearly report by the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP) Information Sharing Centre, 2023 reported the highest number of incidents since 2019, on a “half-yearly to half-yearly” comparison. Being a significant global trading hub, Singapore actively addresses the challenges of piracy in international waters. We have adopted various strategies, such as conducting patrols in high-risk zones, exchanging information with other nations, and collaborating with the shipping industry to establish effective practices.

A vital piece of our defence is the Republic of Singapore Navy, maintaining maritime security through several means such as regular patrols, boarding inspections and more.

Chief Engineer Officer COL Terence Ho (left), a father of three daughters, assumed the mantle as Chairman of the NDP 2023 Executive Committee. | IMAGES (CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT): SIM DING EN, NDP 2023 EXCO AND SCREENSHOT FROM YOUTUBE/NDPEEPS

4. COL Terence Ho, Singapore Combat Engineers’ 20th Chief Engineer Officer

Read this on "NDP 2023 Head Honcho Is Hard At Work Engineering An Awesome Parade"

Every National Day Parade (NDP), we are blown away by the pinpoint accuracy and smooth movement of all the performances. On 9 Aug 2023, we even had a sensational showcase in the Total Defence Parade segment, where the six pillars of Total Defence were featured using floats, SAF, SPF and SCDF hardware, all strung together with a story.

This year, the well-oiled show machine was led by COL Terence Ho, who is also the Singapore Combat Engineers’ 20th Chief Engineer Officer.

During our interview, the 24-year-old was exceedingly polite, and very much the opposite of the brash, "kiam pah" characters he often portrays. | IMAGE (LEFT): GARY TAN

5. Gary Tan, actor

Read this on "Ah Boy To Man: On Screen, This Actor Has Gone From Kid To Bully To Soldier"

The Singapore University of Social Sciences undergraduate (pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Finance degree) made his acting debut at the age of five in “The Champion 任我遨游” (a Singapore-Taiwan swimming drama starring Jeanette Aw, Fiona Xie and Johnny Yan). 

During his National Service (NS), he served in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Counselling Centre as a Counselling Assistant in Charge, and was even awarded the Best Soldier Award for FY2019 Q4. Ups lah!

Outward Bound Singapore instructor Aziz Shafii has taken our soldiers' humble mess-tin meals and elevated them. Steak and asparagus in a mess tin, anyone? | IMAGES: TIKTOK@/RANGEREATS AND AZIZ SHAFII

6. Aziz Shafii, ex-Ranger and mess-tin maestro

Read this on "Ex-SAF Regular Cooks Up A Storm On TikTok With Mess-Tin Meals"

"Ranger eats what ah?"

This is how Aziz Shafii, former Ranger - a 16-year military career with the SAF - and current Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) instructor, humorously kicks off his mess-tin TikTok videos. The original inspiration for his sedap-looking mess-tin meal idea had come about one day when training in the jungles of Brunei with his men.

The 38-year-old was even approached for a spot on "MasterChef Singapore" Season 4, and shortlisted for the second round of auditions. Unfortunately, he had to decline due to conflicting schedules.


7. Benjamin Tan, CEO of Red Alpha Cybersecurity

Read this on "This Ex-Military Guy Has New Missions - In Cybersecurity And Fatherhood"

The 37-year-old's origin story began in the military, where he was a key member of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF)'s Cyber Incident Response (IR) Unit. After a roughly 15-year stint in MINDEF and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Benjamin credits his time in the military with leading him toward his new career, saying:

“The military was my first step into cybersecurity. I had many opportunities to build my expertise through various training, participate in various cybersecurity operations and exercises, and learn from the best cybersecurity experts in the military. The cybersecurity ecosystem in Singapore is also a small and tight-knit community, and I made many friends in the industry during my time there."

After making the switch, Benjamin is mentoring a pool of up-and-coming cyber talents at his current firm. By imparting his knowledge, Benjamin hopes to also empower a new generation of professionals to defend Singapore from looming online threats.

Apart from defending our skies, aircrew and ground crew from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (some of whom are represented here), work together to ensure the safe and successful execution of the aerial displays at NDP. | IMAGES: NDP 2023 EXCO

8. The RSAF's 55th anniversary at NDP 2023

Read this on "Spectacle In The Sky: RSAF’s Enhanced Aerial Showcase Set To Make NDP 2023 Superfly"

During the National Day Parade (NDP) on this year 9 Aug, we were treated to a glorious display of aerial mastery by the Republic of Singapore Airforce (RSAF) as they performed an enhanced Aerial Display to commemorate their 55th anniversary (RSAF55).

The display featured a thrilling line-up of four aerobatic manoeuvres (what the RSAF calls “profiles”), showcasing not only the prowess and skill of our RSAF pilots, but also their commitment to protect our home.


9. Members of the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC)

Read this on "They’ve Stepped Forward To Serve The Nation, And Keep NDP 2023 Safe"

Unseen heroes keep our nation secure, whether it's during large-scale events like the National Day Parade (NDP) or in day-to-day life.

Among them are individuals from the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC), a uniformed volunteer scheme inaugurated in 2015 to give Singaporeans and Permanent Residents the opportunity to contribute to national defence, and show support for national service.

We spoke to four SAFVC Volunteers (SVs) who not only contributed to the defence of our Little Red Dot, but also supported operations at NDP 2023 that ranged from water safety, to medical services and crowd management.

These trailblazing individuals - including CPT Yap Hui Jun (centre right) with Chief of Army Major-General David Neo - are forging the future with the pioneering milestones they've made in Singapore's military history. | IMAGES (CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT): FACEBOOK/@SINGAPORENAVY, LINKEDIN/@DAVID-NEO-791A01A, FACEBOOK/@DEFENCEPIONEERSG, FACEBOOK/@NGENGHEN, AND FACEBOOK/@SINGAPORENAVY

10. The pioneering women of the SAF

Check out our piece: "Glass Ceiling, Shattered: Celebrating Women's 'Firsts' In The SAF"

CPT Yap Hui Jun has etched her name in the annals of the 65-day Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Ranger Course, emerging as the first woman to conquer the arduous training regimen.

As reported by Mothership, Chief of Army Major-General David Neo even celebrated her achievement on LinkedIn, stating, "Ladies and gentlemen, let's welcome our first female Ranger in the 50-year history of the SAF Ranger course, CPT YAP Hui Jun! Immensely proud." Kudos to CPT Yap!

And in tribute of the 27-year-old's remarkable feat, we explore the journeys of other trailblazing women who have charted pioneering milestones in Singapore's military history.


11. Ashley Chu, Youtuber and a member of the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC)

Read this on "Unity In Uniform: Answering The Call To Serve In The SAF Volunteer Corps"

The author of two travel books, coach, model and musician has added another feather in her (camouflaged) cap: meet SV (Trainee) Ashley Chu, a new member of the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC).

"I feel very honoured to contribute even a small part, and I understand what every single Singaporean man has gone through in their life," says Ashley, better known on YouTube as The Krazy Koala.

An RSAF A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (like the one shown here) was deployed on 30 Nov with medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, water filters and food, among other things. | IMAGE: FILE PHOTO

12. RSAF sends humanitarian aid to Gaza

Read this on "Aid In The Skies: RSAF Aircraft Deployed For Gaza's Civilian Support"

A Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) aircraft departed Changi Air Base early morning on 30 Nov 2023 with a humanitarian package to provide relief for civilians in Gaza.

According to a report by Channel NewsAsia, the package included medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, blankets, sanitation items, water filters and food. A total of 46 SAF personnel, including pilots, aircrew, engineers, and Singapore Army security personnel were deployed with the aircraft - an RSAF A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport.

We also take a look at some other ways the RSAF is every-ready to offer aid, defend our skies and tackle air threats.

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