Imagine our soldiers using handheld touchscreen devices such as the iPad, iPod Touch and Samsung Galaxy tablet to enhance their fighting skills during their Basic Military Training (BMT). That will soon become a reality.
The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has purchased 8,000 units of such devices worth about $4 million, and will start issuing them to every recruit in the BMT Centre and those in other departments such as the Officer Cadet School, as well as to servicemen in the air force and naval training schools from November this year.
According to The Straits Times, the pioneer batch to receive the devices will be trainers in the Infantry and Armour training institutes, and they will get the gadgets in August.
Citing handheld touchscreen devices as being light, portable and filled with useful applications, Lt-Col Yeo, 39, a guardsman for 20 years, said soldiers can harness the built-in camera in the devices to capture photos and videos, which will be uploaded and stored online on the SAF's website for analysis and future references.
If a troop stumbles across a problem, he can save time by approaching the commander through a real-time messaging platform instead of making a trip.
In addition, soldiers can look forward to learning combat skills via custom-built applications created by private developers.
In an interview with Yahoo! Singapore, 29-year-old business manager Nicholas Tan welcomed the news and said that the portable devices will help boost the efficiency and make learning more exciting for our technologically-savvy serviceman.
"Our generation today should be familiar with the latest gadgets as they use them in their daily lives, and I think our servicemen will benefit significantly from the maps, photo, communication features offered by the devices if used correctly," he said.
"However, there is a need for close moderation to ensure that they don't misuse the devices such as transmitting confidential military documents in the form of photos and videos out to the public," he added.
In 2009, recruits were given laptops to access self-directed learning online tutorials, replacing some of the conventional lectures in the training shed and classroom. The tutorials cover topics such as how to assemble and handle their rifle, throw a grenade, carry out first aid and clear battle obstacles before going outfield to get hands-on experience.
However, the inconvenience of carrying the bulky laptops around was a worrying issue, which then prompted the SAF to explore the use of handheld devices as an alternative.
While the SAF might be the first country in the region to integrate commercially-available tablets to its military training, such technologies have been implemented elsewhere in the world, particularly in the United States.
The US Marine Corps' pilots in Afghanistan are using the iPad loaded with digital maps of the southern regions of the country. The tablet has helped reduce their workload in the cockpit as the crew are now able to search out locations with a simple tap on the screen instead of flipping through heavy and bulky map packs.
Other than investing in portable devices, the US military in 2009 has purchased 2,200 Sony Playstation consoles for supercomputing research projects.
The writer is a 17-year-old technology blogger who loves social media and gadgets. He is also Singapore's No. 1 Twitter user, with 210,000 followers.