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A refresher of the numerous SAF ranks.

If you aren’t in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), chances are that you don’t remember anything about the insignias of the Singapore army ranks.

After all, it’s genuinely easy to mix up the different military ranks. Many of the insignias are visually very similar to each other, with the only difference being an extra stripe here or the addition of a crest.

Get ready for a shock, because there are actually 44 different SAF ranks, distributed across 8 rank classes. What a doozy. The 8 rank classes are, in order:

  • Enlistees
  • Specialists
  • Warrant Officers
  • Junior Officers
  • Senior Officers
  • Generals
  • Military Domain Experts
  • Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC)

Well, if you’re a new recruit (or soon to be), you’d better learn the differences, or you might get punished by your Sergeant by calling him by the wrong rank!

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Here’s your starter guide to the different MINDEF ranks and their insignias.

Enlistees

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Most of the SAF’s Fulltime National Servicemen (NSF) fall into this rank. So first, you start out as a Recruit with no insignia (obviously). Right when you finish your Basic Military Training (BMT), you attain the rank of a Private. Sadly, you don’t get an insignia by graduating from BMT.

From there, if you’re an exemplary Private, you can move up the ranks to Lance-Corporal, Corporal and finally, Corporal (First Class). These ranks are when you start getting your rank insignia, as shown above.

These are the rookies who are still not 100 per cent sure about military procedures, but hey, they’re still new.

Specialists

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Continuing on our military journey up the SAF ranks, here we have the Sergeants. To get here, you have to first enrol in Specialist Cadet School (SCS). Here, you will train to be a Specialist in one of the different vocations available (hence the rank name). If you excel in BMT, you will be recommended to become a Specialist. As a specialist, you may be tasked for roles such as Platoon Sergeant and will be in charge of training and disciplining your men. You will receive recognition for your progress and will be thought of as being the head of the pack.

When you graduate from SCS, you will receive the rank of Third Sergeant, as shown above. From there, you move up the ranks, from Second Sergeant to First Sergeant. Signing on also allows you to nab a Staff Sergeant & Master Sergeant position if you are outstanding.

Warrant Officers

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If you manage to prove yourself as a Specialist, you get to climb up the SAF ranks again, this time becoming a Warrant Officer. To get here, you pretty much have to be a full-time SAF employee. Warrant Officers are usually addressed as “encik” (which means uncle in Malay) or “Ma’am”, but are also called “Sergeant Major”. For the Chief Warrant Officer (the big boss, essentially), you should refer to them as “Sir” or “Ma’am”.

Getting here is no easy feat. You have to show an extraordinary amount of dedication. They have over 10 years of service and are some of the most experienced people you can find in the military. Don’t think they’ll go soft on you, though! These are some of the toughest, fiercest and most uncompromising members of the SAF.

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Junior Officers

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Marching onwards, we reach the SAF ranks of the Junior Officers. They are in charge of platoons and companies and are addressed as “Sir” or “Ma’am”. They carry out orders and take care of their subordinates. These platoons and companies are the smallest sub-units in the SAF, and they are the head honcho. During BMT, recruits with potential are identified and selected for Officer Cadet School (OCS).

When they graduate from OCS, they gain the rank of Second Lieutenant. Afterwards, they will move up to the rank of Lieutenant. If they join the SAF full-time, they may be promoted again to Captain.

Senior Officers

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We’re almost at the top of the command chain! Here, the Senior Officers can be found. If you perform well as a Junior Officer, you go up more ranks. Unlike previous ranks, these insignias are easier to identify. Just look out for that familiar symbol, otherwise known as “crabs” or our National Coat of Arms. They are in charge of various units and branches, and are the driving force behind the formulation and execution of missions. Also, they are the ones who command decisions in combat and peacetime.

As you can imagine, they shoulder a heavy responsibility. You start off as a Major, before moving up to Lieutenant-Colonel, Senior Lieutenant-Colonel and finally, Colonel.

Generals

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Now, we’re finally at the top. These men and women have the highest ranks in the Army, and are the Generals. Not many SAF members get to even see them, much less move up to these ranks. These are the ones you usually see in movies, being in control of the military. As you can probably tell, they bear the heaviest weight of responsibility in the SAF, and are responsible for the planning of policies that affect the entirety of the SAF.

Honestly, you’re more likely to see them on TV and in the newspaper, rather than in real life. The current Lieutenant General is Melvyn Ong, who was promoted to the role very recently.

Military Domain Experts

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These are the professionals of their specific military domains. They have the technical knowledge and expertise to be valuable assets to SAF missions. As a Military Expert, you can rank up from ME1 all the way up to ME8. ME1 to ME3s are addressed as ME and ME4 and above are addressed as “Sir” and “Ma’am”.

Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps

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The Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC) gives more Singaporeans & Permanent Residence a chance to contribute to our national defences. To apply, you need to have no National Service commitments and must be between the ages of 18 to 45 years old. Your ranks range from SV1, and you can be promoted to SV2, SV3 and finally, SV4. Click here to find out more.

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All rank insignia images were provided by the SAF.

By Muhd Farhan