Just a month before Chinese New Year, Singaporeans were saddened with the sudden passing of local actor and NSman Aloysius Pang.
After the accident and his eventual demise, Mindef held a press release to explain the circumstances that led to the accident, but left some questions unanswered as a Committee of Inquiry (COI) is convened to investigate the accident more thoroughly.
While the COI investigation has not been completed, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen shed more light on the incident in his ministerial statement in Parliament today.
Aloysius was with a Regular Technician and a 3SG NSman
According to the minister, Aloysius was part of a forward maintenance platoon, comprising NSmen, activated to troubleshoot a suspected fault in the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH).
However, when he could not resolve the fault, he sought help from a forward support group, a team made up of regulars that could do more complex repair or maintenance work, and a regular technician was called in .
The regular technician holds the rank of ME2 (if you’re more well-versed in the usual military rank, ME2, depending on whether it’s ME2-1 or ME2-2, is equivalent to the rank of Staff Sergeant or Master Sergeant), and has been in service for more than 16 years.
The gun commander, who tagged along with the technicians, is a fellow NSman who holds the rank of a Third Sergeant.
For anyone who’s unfamiliar with the terms, here’s a brief idea: two soldiers (Aloysius and the gun commander) are reservist soldiers who hold full-time job in the civilian world and come back for training once a year for one or two weeks, while one soldier (the regular technician) holds a full-time job as a SAF soldier.
Mindef has a video that shows the exact SOP when the gun barrel is to be moved up or not.
SOP is something that soldiers always follow: for example, in this SOP, the gun commander is supposed to check whether the area is clear, shout “Clear away!” and then “Stand by!” before the gun barrel is lowered.
Here, take a look at the SOP:
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So, you might be wondering: could the gun barrel has somehow lost control and therefore moved by itself?
SSPH in Working Condition
According to Dr Ng, “Inspections of the SSPH have not detected any machine malfunction of the gun lowering mechanism.”
For the last 15 years, over 1,000 SAF soldiers have been trained to operate it and there has been no injuries from the lowering of the gun barrel whether for maintenance work or combat exercise.
In addition, the SSPH was also designed and developed to international military standards for system safety and human factor engineering.
COI Still Ongoing
The investigation is still ongoing, and Dr Ng added, “Everything asked for by the COI will be released to them – I do not foresee needing to withhold any information for security reasons.
“We owe it to CFC (NS) Pang and his family, indeed to all Singaporeans, to get to the bottom of what happened, and make things right, to ensure the safety of the NS training system as a whole.”
SAF Investigation Branch Also Investigating
Many of us are familiar with the SAF Investigation Branch (SIB) as the branch that investigate people who cheated in IPPT, but it actually does more than that.
It will step in to investigate the incident, as technically speaking, the Singapore police and State Coroner do not have the jurisdiction to investigate the incident as it occurred overseas, but under military laws, the SIB has the jurisdiction.
D Ng said, “Based on SIB’s investigations, the Chief Military Prosecutor will decide if any servicemen are to be prosecuted for criminal or military offences in a military court.”
In addition, the two soldiers who were with Aloysius in the SSPH have been “been re-deployed from their operational roles.”
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