A critique of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) published in United States-based journal Armed Forces & Society has Singapore in an uproar.
The article was written by an American soldier Sean Walsh, who was stationed at the United States Embassy in Singapore for several weeks in 2004. In it, The Roar of the Lion City, the writer claimed that women have been held back from holding high posts in the SAF, and that there is a policy to keep Malays out of sensitive areas. That Singapore's top military commanders too young and inexperienced. That they are fast-tracked to the upper echelons because of their scholar credentials, while more experienced non-scholars toil in vain. That the soldiers here are 'soft' because of the emphasis on safety during training at the expense of realism. That officers lack professionalism and commitment because due to the mandatory retirement at 45, many see their time in uniform "as a stepping stone" to a second career in politics or business.
I don't know who this guy, Sean Walsh, is but nothing he says is wrong. Especially the part where people are fast-tracked due to their A-levels and Poly diplomas, NOT their ability. In Singapore, its' not unusual to see lance-corporals and privates ordering corporals and even sergeants around. This is due to the fact that the LCP are 'old-birds' who know what to do and how to do their duties. During NS, I was a LCP as I only had O-levels. 9 months from ROD, 2 new guys came into the unit. They were corporals as they had paper...but I had to tell them everything because they were new. And I was only a private then!
Does this look, even feel right to anyone? Even those 2 new guys thought it was stupid they were corporals but this is not an uncommon sight in the SAF. In fact, it's very common. The need in Singapore for paper may just be too great for the SAF to ignore but on this, Sean Walsh is not wrong.