Instead of watching in person as their newly enlisted sons take the oath of allegiance on Pulau Tekong, parents will have to watch this rite of passage on video.
The longstanding practice of inviting parents to the Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC) has been stopped till at least April 30, as the Singapore Armed Forces ramps up its measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Instead, new recruits yesterday took their oaths in front of a camera. The videos will be given to the enlistees, to send to their parents.
Parents had to drop their children off at Selarang Camp in Loyang yesterday, and could not accompany the enlistees to Pulau Tekong to tour the camp facilities.
Introduced in 1997, direct enlistment allowed parents to visit the military camps when their sons enlisted for national service.
The 1,400 people enlisting between Tuesday and today will also have to adhere to stricter safe distancing measures during their basic military training.
For instance, they will move from place to place in a section – a maximum of 16 people – instead of in a platoon, which has up to 64 recruits.
Physical training like runs will also be done in sections, as will SAR-21 rifle technical handling training and weapon presentation ceremonies.
The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) on Tuesday announced stricter safe distancing measures such as training in smaller groups, and deferring all in-camp training that is not essential for operations – for example, refresher sessions.
These measures will last until April 30, and may be extended.
Mindef added that activities critical for building up operational units, like direct enlistment exercises, will continue with the latest measures.
… (Commanders will) endeavour to continue to ensure a meaningful and memorable experience for all the recruits that come to BMTC.
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL DENNIS OH, commanding officer of BMTC School 1.
Lieutenant-Colonel Dennis Oh, commanding officer of BMTC School 1, told reporters yesterday that the rigour and intensity of training will not be compromised by the measures.
While he acknowledged that there will be some inconvenience, he said the school’s commanders will “endeavour to continue to ensure a meaningful and memorable experience for all the recruits that come to BMTC”.
At Selarang Camp, enlistees were asked by BMTC commanders to maintain a 1m distance from one another as they streamed in to board the bus to the SAF Ferry Terminal in Changi.
The buses and ferries will transport half their usual maximum number of passengers as part of the new measures. For instance, a ferry from the SAF Ferry Terminal to Pulau Tekong now carries 100 instead of 200 people.
Reporters observed the enlistees taking the oath of allegiance in groups of about 40 in an auditorium at BMTC, compared with the usual number of 100 to 150. They stood two seats away from one another, and every alternate row was empty.
At the cookhouse, enlistees were seen queueing and having their meals at least 1m apart.
Freelance artist Jennifar Sy, 56, who dropped off her 19-year-old son at Selarang Camp yesterday, said she had expected that she would not be allowed to go to Pulau Tekong, as she was informed in earlier updates that the number of guests would be reduced.
“We understand the situation, so it was okay. We just told him to take care and message us when he has the chance,” she said.