Ex-NSF Clerk Claims That Some NSFs Went AWOL Due to Financial Reasons


Absence without leave (also known by its synonym AWOL): a term associated with non-permitted absence from the Army, and the detention barracks.

Overall, it’s not something that you should trifle with.

And yet, the question begets;

Why do some NSFs commit AWOL when they’re fully aware of the dire consequences it brings?

Image: Giphy

Well, it seems that at long last, we might have some insight into how these NSFs think. Though in stark contrast to what we might speculate…

It may be something that hits closer to home. Literally.

Ex-NSF Clerk Claims That Some NSFs Went AWOL Due to Financial Reasons

On 4 August 2020, Facebook user Micheal Tan posted an update on his Facebook page, detailing the AWOL cases he had been tasked to document back in his NSF days and expressing how some soldiers had gone AWOL not by choice, but because they were left with no other options.


The relatively lengthy post was written in response to a very old comment by PAP MP Josephine Teo, who said that NSmen’s service for the nation cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

According to Tan, he had worked as a clerk back in his NSF days, and witnessed at least 20 AWOL cases in the 2.5 years he spent there.

For him to be serving 2.5 years, he must have ORD-ed before 2004, as the NS period has been shortened to 2 years from December 2004.

Of more than 70% of the AWOL cases that happened, financial problems were deemed as the root cause. More often than not, these AWOLees came from complicated families, and needed to work outside to help their family financially.


“Otherwise,” Tan wrote, “how could the family survive on SAF allowance of barely $350 a month?”

After talking to them, Tan learnt of their stories… their backgrounds.

Some were constantly worrying about the bills back at home, even after booking into camp. Others had sickly parents and/or younger siblings to take care of.

Trapped with their backs to the wall, they AWOLed in a bid to solve their financial problems.

“From their point of view, family should come first, and not SAF who pays pittance under the excuse of national service.”

Why Didn’t These Soldiers Seek Financial Assistance?

Lest you’re wondering that, Tan explains it as well in the post.

According to him, the complicated process of seeking financial assistance, as well as the chain of command involved, ultimately deterred these soldiers from pursuing help.

More often than not, they are also storemen and drivers who have a “bad reputation in the army due to their background and tattoos.”

“The S1 and chief clerks tend to view these soldiers as ‘gengsters’ and ‘attitude problems’,” he wrote.

“So it ends up that these soldiers who had financial problems don’t see eye to eye with those doing administrative work which eventually delayed the financial assistance to the poor soldiers, making them more desperate to earn extra income for home.”


He then addresses Teo’s opinion that a soldier’s service “cannot be measured in dollars and cents”.

He wrote: “Let me quote you article 2 from People’s Action Party party constitution: “The Party shall be a national movement dedicated to serving our nation and advancing the well-being of our people.

“The PAP views themselves as servants to the nation. Just like how SAF views its conscripts as servants of the nation.

“The only difference one pays themselves millions a month to serve Singapore, the other was paid $350 allowance a month.”

For the record, the comment in question was made by Teo five whole years ago, back in 2015.


The #SAF has an important place in our society. Boyfriends, husbands and sons serve alongside brave women who choose to…

Posted by Josephine Teo on Tuesday, 10 March 2015

You can view Tan’s post here:

I refer to the recent comment by PAP MP Josephine Teo who said NSmen's service for the nation cannot be measured in…

Posted by Micheal Tan on Monday, 3 August 2020

Netizens’ Responses

Following Teo’s revelation, Netizens turned up in the comments section to air their approval.

Some, in particular, lauded Tan’s “speech” as being well-said.

Image: Facebook (Micheal Tan)

It should be noted that several Netizens have also slammed the local government system for how it treats lower-ranked personnel.

Image: Facebook (Micheal Tan)

Whether it’s merely a crack in society or something to be looked into, do note that it’s coming from a point of view of a single person, and it should be taken with a grain of salt.

Though we have a suggestion: Why not just give market rate pay to NSF just like NSmen and-


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