The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is calling for an army-wide safety timeout and will also reduce the tempo of training in the army, navy and air force services, following the death of local actor Aloysius Pang during a training exercise in New Zealand.
Speaking at a press conference at the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) on Thursday (24 January), Chief of Defence Force Lieutenant-General (LG) Melvyn Ong said that the safety timeout will last “a month or two”.
“(After the timeout), we will reduce our training tempo and review this across the SAF to focus on safety…this will take the form of lowering the duration, the intensity, the frequency of existing training. (It) will be enforced for as long as it takes for us to get it right.”
Pang, 28, was severely injured at Waiouru Training Area on Saturday while performing maintenance work on a Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH), sustaining injuries to his chest and abdominal areas.
The armament technician from the 268th Battalion Singapore Artillery was participating in Exercise Thunder Warrior, an artillery live-firing exercise, at the time of the incident.
When asked by a reporter at the conference, LG Ong confirmed that the timeout also applies to Thunder Warrior and that the exercise has been cut. The exercise was originally scheduled to end on 2 February.
Pang passed away on Wednesday night (Singapore time) at Waikato Hospital, New Zealand, where he was warded in its intensive care unit, following a third operation on Tuesday night.
According to Chief of Army Major-General (MG) Goh Si Hou, the SSPH has been in operation since 2003 without causing serious injury to any individual.
MG Goh added that immediately after Pang was injured, a safety pause was called for artillery training in New Zealand. “We also called for an immediate pause for all maintenance-related works and training, both in New Zealand as well as in Singapore.”
Noting that he had a safety call with more than 1,200 army commanders and trainers on Thursday morning, MG Goh noted, “We may have sound safety systems and processes, good commanders on the ground, but we recognise that every time we fall short, the cost could be very costly.
He added, “We want to put a singular focus on training safety on the ground, going forward. If this means removing training activities, reducing some of the training that we do in the meantime, we will do that.”
An independent Committee of Inquiry will be convened to investigate the circumstances leading to the incident.