‘Don’t Waste Your Time In NS’: 82-Year-Old Former Military Chief On The Value Of National Service In New Documentary

Former SAF Lt-General Winston Choo Urges Those In NS To Value The Opportunity

82-year-old former military chief Winston Choo has urged those serving their mandatory two years in the National Service (NS) to value and not waste their time there.

He was giving his comments in a new documentary, ‘A Duty To Lead’. It’s a short film by independent producer Reel Lumina that premiered online on 2 Feb.

Singapore’s first and longest-serving Chief of Defence Force, Mr Choo held various diplomatic positions after retiring from the military.

Now a Lieutenant-General (Retired), the documentary highlights some of Mr Choo’s memorable moments that are interspersed with anecdotes from the man himself. 

NS is a privilege — value that time & don’t waste it, he says

In a short clip released by Reel Lumina, Mr Choo stressed that a Singaporean man’s two years in NS is not a waste of time, but rather, an opportunity for an experience one cannot get anywhere else.

Pointing to those who have held leadership positions in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) during NS, he said: “Think about it — where else in the world can you have two years giving you the opportunity to command men?”

“Where can a 20-year-old young man, boy, be given a chance to command 30 people? Be responsible for 30 people?”

For those who handle equipment, Mr Choo pointed out that they are in charge of millions of dollars worth of military equipment at just 20 years old.

“What privilege is that? What experience is that, for you? Where else can you buy that experience? So, don’t waste it.”

He added: “Make use of that time, build yourself up, build your experience with the opportunities provided to you.”

Ex-SAF Lt-General was longest-serving Chief of Defence Force

Mr Choo held various positions in the SAF during his service from 1959 to 1992.

In a speech at the launch of Mr Choo’s memoir in 2001, Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean in 2021 said Mr Choo “epitomised the SAF and led by example”.

He also built national service as an institution and professionalised the three services — the army, air force and navy — among other feats, said Mr Teo.

Source: Reel Lumina on YouTube

Besides being the longest-serving Chief of Defence Force, Mr Choo also carried the following titles:

  • Director, General Staff, from 1974 to 1976
  • Chief of the General Staff, from 1976 to 1990
  • Chief of Defence Force, from 1990 to 1992

After retiring from the military in 1992, Mr Choo served as Singapore’s envoy to Australia, Fiji, South Africa, Papua New Guinea and Israel.

Sheds light on what it takes to be a leader

In the trailer for the documentary, Mr Choo highlighted the crucial qualities that should be present in a leader:

  • Sense of duty
  • Courage and integrity
  • Value and care

As a leader, he said, one must have a sense of duty and impart the same duty to the people one leads.

Next, a leader must have the courage to do difficult things and the “courage to have a sense of integrity”.

Most importantly, he said, a leader must value and care for the people they lead.

To learn more about Mr Choo’s impressive life, catch ‘A Duty To Lead ‘ on SMIX.

Also read: Desmond Tan Gets Glowing Reviews From Former Soldiers, Proves Respect Is Earned Not Given

Desmond Tan Gets Glowing Reviews From Former Soldiers, Proves Respect Is Earned Not Given

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Featured image adapted from Reel Lumina on YouTube.

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