General JJ Singh became the mascot of the Sikh community when he took over the reins of the Army last year. And now the Singhs are roaring out loud in Lion City, Singapore, making their presence felt in the island-nation’s Armed Forces (SAF).
Ravinder Singh has become the first Sikh to rise to the rank of brigadier general and assume the command of a frontline formation — the 6th Singapore Division. This is one of SAF’s three Combined Arms Division that has elements of infantry, armour, artillery, combat engineers, signals and air defence artillery.
“This promotion is really the icing on the cake,” Ravinder Singh is quoted as saying on the SAF’s web publication cyberpioneer. “Work hard, do your best, and the SAF will definitely reward you accordingly — with challenging duties and ample recognition.”
The SAF has a career military force of about 20,000, supplemented by 30,000 personnel on active national service and almost three lakh reservists. The ethnicity in Singapore’s population is sufficiently reflected in the armed forces, which account for almost 8-10 per cent soldiers of Indian origin.
Singh’s leap into prominence only re-emphasises the contribution these soldiers have made to the SAF. Singapore’s first defence adviser in India, Colonel Perdit Kumar Tiwari, is also of Indian origin.
The genius of a battery of officers who trace their roots to India is shining brightly in the SAF. Lieutenant Colonel Deep Singh, for instance, served as Singapore’s first military consultant to the United Nations. In 2003, Lieutenant Colonel Sukhvinder Singh Chopra led an SAF contingent to West Asia, as part of Singapore’s contribution to multinational reconstruction effort in Iraq.
More recently, Lieutenant Colonel Jaspal Singh Sidhu was the ‘Mother Goose’ responsible for controlling the fighter aircraft display at the National Day Parade 2006.
It is evident that an ethnic background does not matter in the SAF — there are equal opportunities for the Chinese, Malays and Indians.