Practical NS tips to prepare you and your son for National Service

byPriyanka Elhence
  • Jul 28, 2021
  • 8 mins

National Service (NS) is an essential part of Singapore’s heritage for every Singaporean and Permanent Resident (PR) male. Some may find it challenging, while others may feel it is an absolute rite of passage that makes every boy a man. Whichever way, homesickness, financial burdens, stress, communal living and relationship strife are just some of the things to expect. Here are some practical tips to prepare you and your son for the two year journey ahead:

The first 9 to 19 weeks of NS is the Basic Military Training (BMT); the exact duration depends on the fitness level of the recruit, where new recruits are inducted into the military way of life and culture. In the first 2 weeks, recruits are confined to their camp, and are only allowed to book out on the third weekend and every subsequent weekend thereafter (unless there’s special training). This initial confinement helps to establish close rapport between section mates and allow recruits to adapt to their new environment.

At the end of BMT, recruits will attend their Passing Out Parade, after which they’ll be posted to their respective units. Some may also get posted to Command School and go on to become specialists or officers. Recruits become Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) after being in active service for two years. NSmen usually serve until the age of 40 or 50 if they are an Officer or have special skills. 


All NS men are given a monthly allowance in recognition of their contributions. This amount will differ according to where you're posted to, your rank and more. Here's a breakdown of the allowance that your son will receive:


SAF’s NS allowance comprises a monthly rank allowance and vocation allowance. Here’s how it’s broken down:

Enlistees Specialists Officers
Rank Starting rank allowance Rank Starting rank allowance Rank Starting rank allowance
Recruit or Private $580 Specialist Cadet $670 Officer Cadet $860
Lance Corporal $600 Third Sergeant $900 Second Lieutenant $1100
Corporal $650 Second Sergeant $1000 Lieutenant $1280
Corporal First Class $690 First Sergeant $1070    


Vocations Monthly Vocation Allowance
Service and Technical vocations $50
All combatants except those under S/N 3 and 4 $175
  • Aircrew
  • Armour, Guards, Infantry
  • Combat Medics, Specialists or Officers in the Medical Response Force or deployed on the Singapore Civil Defence Force ambulances
  • Seagoing
  • Chemical, Biological, Radiological Defence or Explosive Ordinance Disposal
  • Commando
  • Naval Diver


So if your son is a First Sergeant and is an Aircrew by vocation, he will receive a monthly allowance of $1,225. This will be credited to his bank account directly each month.  


The monthly allowance for NSFs in SCDF are mostly based on rank:

Rank Monthly Allowance
Recruit or Private $580
Lance Corporal $600
Corporal $650
Specialist Cadet $670
Sergeant 1 $900
Sergeant 2 $1000
Officer Cadet $860
Second Lieutenant $1100
Lieutenant $1280


Depending on their job scope, some NSFs will also receive an operational allowance ranging from S$100 to S$300, as well as meal allowances for instances when they have been on duty for more than 6 hours and meals are not provided.


The monthly allowance for an SPF NSF is based on his rank and vocation: 

Rank Monthly allownace
Trainee Special Constabulary Constable or Trainee Vigilante Corps $580
Special Constabulary Constable or Vigilante Corps $580
Special Constabulary Constable 2 or Vigilante Corps 2 $600
Special Constabulary Corporal or Vigilante Corps Corporal $650
Special Constabulary Sergeant 1 $900
Special Constabulary Sergeant 2 $1000
Officer Cadet $860
National Service Probationary Inspector $1100
National Service Inspector $1280


Vocations Monthly Vocation Allowance
  • Trainee Special Constables (TSC)
  • Company Commander
  • Training Development Officer
  • Assistant Compliance Manager
  • Assistant Manpower Officer
  • Operations Officer
  • Staff Officer to Head Ops
  • Assistant Trainer
  • Staff Assistant
  • S&T Staff Assistant
  • Bandsmen
  • Officer Cadet Trainees
  • Division Security Officer
  • Assistant Ops Officer
  • Dog Handler
  • Person-in-Custody Officer
  • Ops Support Officer
  • C3 Operation
  • Community Engagement Officer
  • Assistant Navigation Officer
  • TransCom Deputy Team Leader
  • ProCom DOC Trooper
  • Checkpoint Security Officer
  • Ground Response Force Officer
  • Police Coast Guard Officer
  • TransCom Officer
  • ProCom Officer
  • Division Special Taskforce Officer
  • Police Tactical Trooper (NSI)
  • Police Tactical Trooper


Those who have graduated from Home Team Academy are also entitled to a meal allowance of S$100 for non-shift work and S$142 for shift work, pro-rated to the number of days worked. Those working overtime may also be eligible for additional meal allowance.

With NS being a rite of passage into adulthood, cutting the purse strings may not be a bad thing. It’s a great opportunity to teach your son how to be financially independent and put into practice key financial concepts such as saving and budgeting. 

Help him understand the value of hard-earned money by getting him to pay for his own expenses with his NS allowance. If this is new to him or his allowance isn’t sufficient, consider doing it in phases by gradually cutting down on the allowance you’re giving him. 

Have a conversation with your son to explain why you’re doing so and address his concerns, if any. Take this chance to emphasise the importance of spending within his means and saving what he can and share tips on how to do so. 

Things he should bring

When your son enlists, the Singapore Armed Forces will issue him with all the equipment and personal effects that he will need, including personal items such as his uniforms, field pack and boots. 

However, it may also be helpful to pack the following items:

  1. Portable charger for mobile phones, as wall socket chargers are not allowed 
  2. Facial wash (if needed) as only a bar of soap will be provided
  3. Enough undergarments to last the first two weeks of confinement (unless he prefers to hand wash and reuse) 
  4. Febreeze to combat odours 
  5. Prickly heat powder to help keep dry
  6. Coins, so he can buy drinks from the vending machines

Preparing physically for NS

Your son will find NS easier if he’s physically fit. Encourage him to stay active in the months or weeks leading up to enlistment. Some of the sports that’s highly recommended by the Central Manpower Base (CMPB) include:

  • Cardio activities like swimming, jogging or cycling 
  • Rock-climbing 
  • Team sports such as basketball and soccer 
  • Martial arts such as wushu, taekwondo or judo

Should you need to get in contact with your son while he’s in training, you can find your son’s unit’s telephone number in his Enlistment Notice. Alternatively, you can call 1800-367-6767 or +65 6567-6767 (when calling from overseas) for assistance. 

Common issues to prepare your son for

It is normal for your son to face personal challenges within the first few weeks of NS. Common adjustment issues include:

  • Food – Your son might not get his favourite food all the time, but encouraging him to be adaptable is great for building his character and resilience. 

  • Sleeping difficulties – Adapting to a new environment can be stressful. Inability to fall asleep, broken sleep; nightmares or waking up too early are common and will eventually go away as recruits acclimatise to their new environment.

  • Anxiety – Feelings of loneliness and worry are normal settling-in emotions, so him knowing that he has his full family support will help him to adjust faster and better. It’s also common for him to feel insecure about relationships during this time, so helping him to manage his expectations can help to alleviate his worries. 

  • Stress – Feeling stressed out is perhaps the most normal emotion for young recruits. However, like most things, this feeling usually goes away when he has had some time to adjust. 

  • Mood swings – Feelings of worthlessness, loss of interest, enthusiasm, irritability are also some other aspects of emotions that your son may experience. 

The Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Civil Defence Force and Singapore Police Force all have professional counsellors and dedicated helplines for helping recruits and also their family members, so if you find it necessary, don’t be afraid to seek counselling together with your son.

How else you can help him to prepare for NS:

  • Teach your son how to hand-wash his laundry 
  • Get him into the habit of tidying his room as discipline and neatness are expected in camp 
  • Talk to him about the importance of learning how to keep within a fixed NS allowance 

As a full-time NS man, your son will spend a considerable amount of time outdoors which may lead to unforeseen circumstances.

While recruits will receive Group Term Life and Group Personal Accident insurance coverage paid for by MINDEF/SAF, you should also consider enhancing his coverage with Income’s PA Assurance which offers comprehensive coverage against personal accident-incurred injuries for greater peace of mind. 

Some of the plan benefits include a payout of up to $1,500,000 for permanent disability due to an accident, and physiotherapy expenses, and more. You can also opt for an infectious disease cover to cover your son against 25 infectious diseases1 such as Chicken Pox, Shingles, Dengue Fever and more.

Another option to consider for a comprehensive medical and hospital insurance cover for your son is Income’s Enhanced Income Shield plan, which can be paid using your MediSave account (up to $600 per insured person per year). This plan allows an increased annual claimable amount from $100,000 (with MediShield Life) to up to $1,500,000, as-charged coverage for eligible inpatient and outpatient hospital treatment expenses, and the option to upgrade his ward entitlement to a private hospital with 1-bedded room. 

NS is a rite of passage for all SG men, and it’s important to note that while it may be challenging, your son will grow so much from the experience. Give yourself peace of mind knowing your son is fully protected, so you can focus on his mental and emotional wellbeing and be there for him when he needs you.

Tags: Parenting

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