Graduands of the 105/16 Officer Cadet Course,

Parents,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To all graduands on parade today, my warmest congratulations on successfully completing the Officer Cadet Course. This is a memorable moment that marks the completion of 38 weeks of rigorous military training. Today, you will be commissioned as Officers of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). All of us present - your commanders, trainers, your loved ones and fellow Singaporeans - are proud of your achievements, and your resilience.

History of SAF

On 15 February 1942, Singapore entered a dark period of foreign occupation. The three and a half years that followed are a permanent scar in the memories of our parents or grandparents. They are a reminder of how important it is that we have a strong SAF, with men and women who take up the responsibility of defending Singapore. As our founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew stressed in 2012, and I quote, "From the day we started, I knew that we needed a strong SAF, and I believe that still remains today. Without a strong SAF, there is no economic future, there is no security. I think the SAF has done better than I hoped. That was because the generations that grew up knew the stakes that were involved", unquote.

With the continuous support of Singaporeans, as well as through the hard work and sacrifices of generations before, the SAF has transformed into an advanced, networked force, always ready when called upon. A strong and dependable defence has enabled our economy to thrive, and Singaporeans have enjoyed peace, prosperity and progress.

Changing Global Security Environment

However, the global security environment is increasingly complex and challenging. Just last month, an unprecedented global cyber attack paralysed computer systems, impacting governments, educational institutions, businesses and even vital healthcare services in more than 150 countries. In the past month, there have been multiple accounts of terror attacks around the world, from the concert bombing in Manchester to the two suicide bombings in East Jakarta and a suicide truck-bomb attack in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan. Less than two weeks ago, terrorists struck in the heart of London at London Bridge and Borough Market. The spate of events have left many innocent civilians dead or injured.

Closer to home, the gravity of the situation sinks even deeper. Over the past two years, multiple attacks have occurred in our region, including in Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Pattani, and Jakarta. Last month, extremist militants seized the city of Marawi, located in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, fuelling concerns that such terrorist groups would find a foothold there to traffic weapons, set up terrorist training camps, and spread their divisive ideology in the region.

Ever Present Need for a Strong SAF

In Singapore, the terror threat to our country is at its highest level in recent years. The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has already plotted to carry out two attacks against Singapore that the authorities are aware of. The first plot to attack Singapore in the first half of 2016 was swiftly foiled by our authorities. The second plot to launch a rocket attack against the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort was discovered and stopped by Indonesian authorities just last year.

The scale and complexity of the threats we face will grow. Conventional threats may be combined with non-conventional threats such as cyber attacks and psychological warfare, which may be stepped up gradually over long periods. But as the threats evolve, the SAF too must continue to innovate and adapt so that it remains a strong and credible force, and remains tightly coordinated with our Home Team agencies.

Indeed, the SAF identified terrorism as a challenge more than a decade ago, at a time where the SAF was transformed into a 3rd Generation armed force to deal with a wider spectrum of threats. After the September 11 attacks, the SAF formed high readiness task forces to respond quickly to terror threats from air, land, and sea. These task forces safeguard homeland security together with full-time and operationally ready national servicemen who protect key installations such as Changi Airport and Jurong Island round the clock. The SAF and Home Team agencies ensure readiness by conducting exercises to stress-test their combined capabilities and responses.

International and Regional Efforts by SAF

The SAF has enabled Singapore to contribute to international efforts against violent extremism. It also contributes to regional security through participating in overseas missions, including successfully leading the international counter-piracy task force CTF 151 in the Gulf of Aden for the fourth time in 2016. The SAF supports Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief efforts, such as in the aftermath of earthquakes in Indonesia in 2009, Christchurch in 2011, and Nepal in 2015. The SAF regularly conducts bilateral and multilateral exercises with foreign military partners, to share professional knowledge, enhance practical cooperation, and jointly tackle transnational challenges. Such interactions have enabled the SAF to benchmark itself against professional militaries around the world. Other militaries speak highly of the SAF as a ready and reliable partner, and have praised the professionalism of our servicemen.

The Commitment of SAF Leaders

These achievements are only possible with effective leadership and the competence, confidence and commitment of our national servicemen. As we celebrate 50 years of National Service (NS), we continue to uphold NS as a pillar of pride and strength for Singapore, as generations before you have done.

As officers, you must help your men appreciate and internalise the importance of their role as national servicemen, who form the backbone of the SAF. As their role models, you must lead by example and uphold the highest standards of discipline and professionalism so that you can win their trust and respect. As their comrade-in-arms, you must care for them without bias.

I am happy to see that commissioning with you today are officers from the Royal Thai Army. The graduation of foreign cadets from OCS bears testament to the close and warm ties between our countries. Over the past 9 months in OCS, I am sure many of you have forged strong friendships. As you move to your next postings, I urge both our Singapore and Thai officers to continue building the relationships.

To the families and loved ones present, thank you for your strong and unwavering support that motivates our servicemen to give their best. The SAF is at the end of the day only as strong as the public support for our servicemen and the collective commitment of Singaporeans to the defence of our nation.

To the officer cadets, your commissioning affirms our nation's trust and confidence in you. Your training and the values that have been imbued in you place you in good stead to serve as leaders of the SAF. Live out these values daily. Generations of SAF Officers before you have served our country with integrity, distinction and dedication. It is now for you to live up to this proud tradition and fulfil the pledge you will take today, to keep Singapore strong, safe and secure.

I wish you all the very best as you carry out your duties as leaders in the SAF and uphold the OCS motto - "To Lead, To Excel, To Overcome".

Thank you.

Source: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE (MINDEF)