SINGAPORE: The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) on Friday (May 19) advised caution about a proposed new cleaning, storage and packing service for reservists, although a spokesperson for the business idea said it seeks to enhance rather than hinder operational readiness.
Called Helping Arms in ICT's Laundry, Packaging & Storage (HALPS), the service - conceived by a group of Operationally-Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) themselves during an in-camp training (ICT) – will work by picking up the NSman’s uniforms and equipment like field packs outside his camp on the last day of training.
All of these will then be cleaned and stored at a warehouse before being prepared and sent for collection outside the camp gates come the next ICT.
“It is vital for all SAF servicemen to ensure that they are operationally ready,” said the SAF’s Chief Supply Officer Colonel Terry Tan. “All SAF servicemen are responsible for the safekeeping and maintenance of their personal equipment (PE), and to ensure that they are able to report at the stated time to the stated location with their PE for in-camp training or when mobilised.”
“Operationally Ready National Servicemen should consider carefully whether any third-party service provider is consistently able to deliver the agreed services on time, so that their operational readiness is maintained.”
But earlier this week, the HALPS spokesperson said: “Such 'concierge' services that we are aiming to provide only seeks to enhance and streamline administrative processes for our soldiers.”
“Let's assume a mobilisation exercise has been triggered in the middle of the day and a soldier is out from home,” he explained. “Rather than having him travel back to his home to change into his uniform and retrieve his 'barang barang' (Malay for personal belongings), would it be more effective if he proceeds to the camp directly, where our team will be waiting to enable his 'transformation' from civilian to soldier within a matter of minutes?”
The spokesperson also rejected the idea that HALPS could possibly run counter to SAF guidelines on NSmen preparedness. “We opine that the service represents private transactions between a business and its consumers,” he said.
“As a business entrusted with the responsibility of safekeeping the NSmen's kits, HALPS is committed to providing a seamless service to satisfy the needs of our servicemen,” he added, when asked who would be held responsible should equipment be damaged or go missing. The loss of SAF property is an offence and can result in up to three years' jail.
“There will be proper operational procedures for the handing over of kits between NSmen and the HALPS team. Nonetheless, unforeseen circumstances do happen and the team will put in measures to engage such issues.”
NOT MAKING ‘LESS OF SOLDIERS’
Pricing for the service has yet to be confirmed “but should fall around the range of S$360 per annum”, said the spokesperson, adding that HALPS also “should be able to give to our clients a sizeable rebate on any group signups within the same unit or camp”.
So far, around 80 NSmen have signed up based on interest expressed over email and Facebook. Once it has a “good gauge of the demand after firming up pricing”, HALPS will be registered as a business.
Online reactions to the service have been mixed. Said Max Li on the Facebook page of TODAY, which first reported on HALPS: “Sign me up for this! No more stupid time wasting packing stuff you're not going to even need in the long run. People who don't see the benefits to this are really just unable to see how many useless things we do in the army.”
But one Wee Teck Ong commented: “Packing and maintaining the field pack is every NSman's personal responsibility. No one is going to help you pack your field pack when a war comes.”
“This is wrong in every sense of the word,” said Samad Saif on Facebook. “We want our NSmen to be responsible, self-reliant, independent and capable of being organised. This is not helping but spoiling our NS men.”
In reply, HALPS said: “Our SAF has evolved over the years. The bunch of us still remember how we had to pick up spent bullet cartridges one by one at the firing range, in the sun or rain… Nowadays, soldiers shoot in air-conditioned ranges with automated retrieval of the cartridges. Does this change make our men less of soldiers?
“Our core services are targeted at NSmen who are, well, civilians. By taking on the administrative processes such as NS kit maintenance on their behalf, our NSmen can focus on other roles that they have to play.”