“The Singapore Armed Forces has shelved boot camp plans for reservist servicemen who skip their mandatory military fitness test three times” (SAF Shelves Boot Camp Plans For IPPT Defaulters, Jermyn Chow).
Since the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has reportedly shelved boot camp plans for defaulters of the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) – through which these defaulters “would have had to pay a monetary fine and gone through a five-day boot camp to get fit” (ST, Jun. 13) – it would now make sense to involve operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) in conversation. A conversation not just on punishments for those who skip their IPPT obligations, but also on the implications of the annual fitness test.
It can be convenient to fault servicemen for a perceived lack of effort, or perhaps cite cases where others have had no trouble fulfilling these physical obligations. Yet physical abilities differ, and the need to balance family and work commitments cannot be underestimated too. The last time there was a concerted effort by the SAF to reach out to NSmen, the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) organised focus group discussions and dialogue sessions across Singapore. In fact after that endeavour, the CSNS had recommendations to make it easier for NSmen to pass their IPPT: longer periods for preparation, as well as greater flexibility of preparatory trainings and remedial training, for instance.
Consequently, the effectiveness of these initiatives should be ascertained. Has the number of individuals who do not clear their IPPT decreased after these changes, and how frequent are these transgressions? What is the small number of NSmen – according to the SAF – who repeatedly skip their IPPT, and what are their reasons and the corresponding penalties meted out? After the recent changes to the fitness test and its components, has overall passing and performances rates improved? More importantly, what is the feedback from the ground?
Decisions may be made by the military top brass, though they should also be guided by the experiences of the average NSmen.
It is true that “physical fitness is a personal responsibility”, that beyond the strategic needs of the SAF physical fitness is generally beneficial for a person’s well-being, and that there are already many incentives and programmes in place to help NSmen. Therefore, also cognisant of the many demands faced by the NSmen, it would not hurt for the SAF to get a better sense of the perceptions or attitudes towards these endeavours, and eventually craft more reasonable punitive measures to deter more from defaulting.