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     FrontPage Edition: Thu 9 Mar 2006

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Defence Minister Teo speaks on training deaths in 2005

Source: www.gov.sg

Statement by Minister for Defence Teo Chee Hean at Committee of Supply Debate

An Excerpt
Sir, Mr Tan Soo Khoon and Dr Ong Chit Chung asked about the training deaths last year.
There were 4 training incidents that resulted in fatalities in 2005.
In the first incident in June 2005, a regular serviceman in training for the Special Operations Force drowned during maritime counter-terrorist training.
This is very demanding training to carry out the extremely difficult mission of approaching a ship which may be in the open sea, and then taking it over, by force if necessary, with minimum casualties to any hostages.
Only specially selected regular troopers who volunteer for this Force undergo such training. And they are rigorously prepared in step by step, progressive training, in order to be able to conduct such missions. It is a very very demanding mission. These are things which ordinary human beings don't do.
These are very special men and I certainly am deeply grateful and the nation should be deeply grateful that there are men, Singaporeans who are prepared to volunteer for such missions and to put their lives on the line at anytime, 24 hours a day when they are called upon to undertake a rescue mission.
The Attorney General's Chambers, after reviewing the facts of the case, the investigation reports by the Police, and the findings of the Coroner's Court, found no legal grounds for proceeding with criminal charges against the four servicemen who were conducting the training.
AGC has now referred the matter to MINDEF for possible action under military law.
MINDEF will conduct further investigations before we decide on the next course of action. If our investigations show that any of the 4 servicemen has failed to perform his duties as required, we will take the appropriate disciplinary proceedings against the serviceman under military law.
The second incident in July 2005 involved two servicemen - an SAF serviceman and a foreign serviceman.
They were doing helicopter rappelling training when they fell after their ropes disengaged from the rope attachment device on the helicopter.
The Police investigation is still in progress. This training has since resumed after a thorough review has been done and improvements were made to the rope attachment device and dispatch procedures.
The other two cases were of two servicemen who collapsed while taking part in runs and subsequently died.
The autopsies revealed that these were cases of Sudden Cardiac Death. Our investigations showed that the medical responses in both cases were appropriate and adequate.
The SAF has a regime for screening for cardiac risk factors, starting before a serviceman is enlisted.
But it is not always possible to detect a heart ailment before a person suffers a heart attack. Over the last five years, there were 6 cases of Sudden Cardiac Death in the SAF that occurred during training.
Sir, the SAF will continue to strengthen its safety systems and procedures, as well as its safety culture. Even as we proceed with tough and realistic training - as we must, to enhance the SAF¡¯s capabilities and operational readiness - MINDEF will continue to make sure that we do so without compromising safety.
On Ms Irene Ng's suggestion to erect a memorial to commemorate servicemen who lost their lives in the line of duty, MINDEF recognises that the servicemen who lose their lives have made the ultimate sacrifice while serving the country. We will consider her suggestion.
During the SAF Day Parade on 1st July each year, a minute's silence is observed to pay tribute to the servicemen who lost their lives in the course of duty. This is a deeply significant segment of the annual parade. MINDEF believes that this is a meaningful and solemn recognition of SAF servicemen who lost their lives during training.

Full Text of Speech

Source: www.mindef.gov.sg Media Release 6 Mar 2006

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