Singapore Armed Forces redesigning Pes system to focus on operational effectiveness instead of medical fitness alone

The Ministry of Defence is testing the use of ‘functional assessments’ to determine whether a serviceman is suitable to be deployed in a specific vocation. — Picture by Wee Teck Hian/TODAY
The Ministry of Defence is testing the use of ‘functional assessments’ to determine whether a serviceman is suitable to be deployed in a specific vocation. — Picture by Wee Teck Hian/TODAY

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SINGAPORE, Mar 1 — The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is redesigning the Physical Employment Standards (Pes) system, moving away from the classification of a full-time national serviceman as combat-fit or non-combat-fit to place a bigger focus on operational effectiveness.

It will also redesign jobs for soldiers with different capabilities, so as to provide a broader range of operational roles, Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How told Parliament today.

“Medical exclusions that used to limit deployments may no longer be so relevant in today’s operating context, especially with the latest technology,” Heng said during the debate on the Ministry of Defence’s (Mindef) budget.

Mindef is testing the use of functional assessments to determine whether a serviceman is suitable for deployment to a specific vocation, he said.

When selecting transport operators, for instance, SAF has introduced functional assessments that replicate the physical demands of daily operations.

If successful, Mindef will extend the use of such assessments to other vocations, such as tank operators, Heng said.

Right now, pre-enlistees are assigned a Pes status, which is a factor in determining their vocation during National Service (NS). 

For example, those assigned Pes A — the highest standard — are deemed fit for all field activities, including front-line duties and direct combat. 

Those in Pes C are fit for combat service support vocations and some combat support vocations. 

Those in Pes E are fit only for combat service support and service vocations.

Pes C and Pes E soldiers undergo a modified Basic Military Service training programme.

The changes come on the back of suggestions put forward by an NS review committee established last year to examine how to better match servicemen’s skills to their vocations, to fulfil the future demands of SAF and meet the needs of a new generation of soldiers.

Heng said that Mindef would also be creating new vocations and redesigning existing ones for full-time servicemen.

“In recent years, new vocations have been established in the SAF in response to the changing threat environment, such as cyber specialists who protect our networks and systems.” he said.

In an earlier parliamentary speech during the debate, Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said that the redesign of vocations would allow a larger pool of servicemen to contribute in areas for which they were previously not eligible.

For example, with the SAF’s use of unmanned surface vessels for maritime patrols and watch towers to protect installations, more servicemen would be eligible for deployment to roles involving maritime security and the protection of key installations.

As for operationally ready national servicemen, Heng said that Mindef would continue working towards drawing on their skills in their civilian jobs to support SAF’s operational needs as part of a move announced in 2019.

“We will increase the areas they can be deployed to and establish a dedicated deployment centre to oversee this expansion,” he said, without giving more details. — TODAY

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