SINGAPORE – Translating her lifelong passion for dogs into her work as a military volunteer was a dream come true for veterinarian Alayne Kwok.
Initially trained as an auxiliary security trooper when she joined the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC) in 2015, she became a veterinary technician in 2019 and is currently the only SAFVC volunteer (SV) serving in this role.
Other than going from camp to camp to check on the health of military working dogs, as a senior SV, she also helps with the basic military training of newer volunteers.
“I was a bit hesitant at being an auxiliary trainer at first, but after seeing them graduate, it’s definitely very meaningful because we’re training someone to join the SAFVC family,” SV3 Kwok told The Straits Times in a virtual interview last Friday (Sept 17).
“We’re not subject matter experts, but we can help to spot mistakes in areas like weapon handling, such as if they missed out a step.”
The 35-year-old permanent resident, who has studied and worked in Singapore since 2006, is one of the 15 SVs in the Volunteer Corps with the rank of SV3, after she was promoted in July. The first SV3s were promoted in July last year.
There are five ranks in the SAFVC, with the highest being SV4. The SV ranks do not correspond to other military ranks, such as those in the military expert scheme or officer and warrant officer tracks.
Among the increased responsibilities for more senior SVs is being a detachment in-charge of newer SVs.
They also go through leadership training. SV3 Nicolas Michel Mas, 42, who joined the force in the pioneer batch in 2015, completed a 10-day course at Maju Camp last year when he was promoted.
He was introduced to new weapons, undertook a route march and navigation exercise, and sat through lectures on the SAF’s leadership framework.
Of his role as a detachment in-charge, the permanent resident from France, who has lived here for more than 11 years, said a key function is to address concerns his juniors might have, for instance before they go on their first deployment.
“We’re here to share the experience we have gathered over the years. Another role is to broadcast information from our headquarters to the detachment,” said SV3 Mas, who works as a chief technology officer in a fintech start-up.
He counts his first deployment at the National Day Parade in 2015, to help with crowd control at Marina Bay Sands, as among his most memorable moments.
Women, first-generation permanent residents and new citizens aged between 18 and 45 who are not liable for national service can sign up to be an SV.
They can serve up to 14 days a year. After completing basic training, they undergo further training as required for their roles.
Like operationally-ready national servicemen, SVs can be recalled for duty with a call-up notice, and their employers need to grant them leave of absence to do so.
SV3 Arlene Pang, 38, joined the SAFVC in 2015 and is currently the only SV3 deployed in the navy. Among the deployments for the Singaporean secondary school teacher was a two-day Women’s Boot Camp in 2018, exposing members of the public to military activities.
“Just see them participate in the activities and you see the energy and strong interest; it was very encouraging,” she said.
She also helped to check on people on stay-home notice in March last year.
“I think over the years through the deployments, I’ve seen that it takes a lot of great determination and fortitude to defend Singapore. It’s really not easy because there are sacrifices that are made,” she said.
The SVs told The Straits Times their experience in the volunteer corps has strengthened their conviction about serving.
SV3 Kwok said she has made friends with military regulars, and become attached to some of the working dogs. “So I feel more determined to do my part to contribute to national defence, and I also have a greater understanding of how the SAF works,” she said.
SV3 Mas, who is married to a Singaporean and has a 10-month-old son born here, said he considers himself part of a country where every Singaporean son goes through national service.
“To me, being in the SAFVC was the closest thing I could do to contribute my tiny share. I’m not doing the two years of NS – I would never do that – but the closest thing we can do is join the SAFVC and serve,” he said.
“It just feels like normal and natural and the right thing to do.”
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