My Experience As A SCDF NSF


Have you ever wondered what life as an NSF from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) looks like? Are you about to enlist into SCDF and have no clue on what to prepare for your first day?

I had the opportunity to interview someone who went through his NS in SCDF, and here’s what you need to know:

Can I choose to get into SCDF for my NS?

It is possible for you to indicate your choice of posting during the registration before your medical checkup. You are able to choose to serve your National Service (NS) in the Singapore Arm Forces (SAF), Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) or Singapore Police Force (SPF). 

In total, there are 7 categories of vocations offered from SAF, SCDF and SAF.

As a pre-enlistee, you can indicate 2 or more vocations in each category. However, it is not compulsory if you do not have any specific interest.

Ultimately, your deployment will STILL depend on manpower requirements as well as your fitness, skills and your interests. 

What is PTP in SCDF?

PTP stands for Physical Training Phase. Recruits who failed or did not attempt their Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT), AND those under PES BP will have to go through this phase. This will be an additional 2 months of physical training which will bring the total duration of your National Service to 24 months

Did you know that you can reduce your NS duration to 22 months? However, you will need to be exempted from PTP, where you will need to fulfil both of these criteria:

  1. Attain a PES status of A or B
  2. Obtain either gold or silver during your pre-enlistment IPPT

If you do not meet these 2 criteria, you will need to serve the full 24 months of national service. 

During this Physical Training Phase (PTP), you will go through a strenuous routine on a daily basis which is choreographed to work on your fitness and discipline. As recruits, your food intake will be monitored as well. 

You will be required to adhere to a very strict physical training regime every day along with necessary foot drills. However, fret not! There will also be days where you will have games and various fun activities as well. 

Physical training at SCDF is conducted by an external company called Force 21, and they are slightly more relaxed compared to your sergeants and instructors.

However, they do have a mission in hand, and will make sure that your fitness improves by the end of it. 

During your physical training phase, here are some activities to look out for:

Games dayPlatoons will compete in various sports
such as sepak takraw, frisbee and basketball
OC nightYou will gather with your commanding officers,
order food in and have a fun night
Department talksTalks by various departments in the SCDF
(one of the only times that you can relax!)

As such, your PTP phase will not just be physical training the entire day!

Does SCDF have BMT?

SCDF does not have Basic Military Training (BMT) which is what is conducted if you are serving your NS under the SAF. For the SCDF, you will be undergoing Basic Rescue Training (BRT) instead. Apart from the physical training, you will undergo various rescue training activities as well.

Here are some things you can expect to learn from BRT:

  • Building simple height rescue set-ups using pulleys
  • Familiarising with various rescue tools

Personally, I had a ton of fun using the spreader cutter.

A spreader cutter is a versatile piece of equipment used in road traffic accidents all around the world.

There are other rescue devices as well that you will learn to use, including:

  1. Jackhammer
  2. Oxyacetylene cutter
  3. Airbags
  4. Chainsaw

While most of you are familiar with BMT, only recruits enlisted in the SAF will go through this training. Meanwhile, the SCDF has its equivalent of BMT: the BRT.

In Basic Military Training (BMT), you can expect to go through a training regime that will hone your ability to survive different conditions should there be a war one day. You will be taught the ways of handling various weapons, and undergo vigorous training on urban operations. 

However, in Basic Rescue Training (BRT), you can expect to go through a course that prepares you for various rescue scenarios. Unlike BMT, you will be expected to hone a completely different set of skills.

The main focus of your training would be the basics needed to rescue an individual or a group of people during an internal crisis.

Another key difference between BMT and BRT is the location of your training.

For the SAF, your initial training will be conducted at Pulau Tekong.

In SCDF, you do not need to travel to an island for BRT. All you have to do is to take the bus or even drive your own vehicles to the Civil Defence Academy located at Jalan Bahar.

How long is BRT for SCDF?

Basic Rescue Training in SCDF will be conducted 4 weeks after the 8-week Physical Training Phase (PTP).

The duration of your BRT is dependent on your PES status, although for most NSFs, the entire duration is 4 weeks. Here is a list that breaks down the different durations of BRT.

PES StatusDuration
PES A/B1 and ≥ 61 points
in your Pre-Enlistee IPPT
4 weeks
PES A/B1 and < 61 points
in your Pre-Enlistee IPPT
8 weeks of PTP
prior to 4-week BRT
PES BP (obese
with a BMI > 27.0)
8 weeks of PTP
prior to 4-week BRT
PES B24 weeks
Other PES B4 weeks
PES C4 weeks
PES E5 days

You may want to note that the type of activities you do as a PES C9 in SCDF may differ from someone who goes through PES C9 in the SAF.

Is there a confinement period for SCDF?

Upon enlisting, you will have to spend your first weekend at the Singapore Civil Defence Academy (CDA). Your confinement will just be one weekend long and you can expect your first bookout to be the following Friday. 

However, there is nothing to worry about!

It is an amazing way to get to know your fellow recruits through a variety of activities. As part of our weekend bonding activities after I enlisted, we went to HomeTeamNS at Bukit Batok.

Upon reaching, we took part in various team-building games and activities such as paintball. Furthermore, we had a mini Treasure Hunt that was filled with games and dances.

The weekends will also be used for administrative matters should it be necessary. Personally, I would advise you to try to get used to the new surroundings

Believe me, it can get pretty overwhelming and it may not come as a surprise if you see some of your fellow recruits breaking down at the thought of missing their loved ones.

What comes after BRT?

In general, after the end of your Basic Rescue Training (BRT), you will experience your first Passing Out Parade (POP) and undergo training for your new vocation.

Following the POP (which is a memorable milestone in your National Service journey), you will finally get your first promotion to the rank of private.

After the POP, there are 3 main paths that you can take:

  • Firefighter course
  • Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Course
  • Secondary vocations

What vocations are available in SCDF?

Here in the SCDF, there are a couple of vocations for you to choose from. During your BRT phase, your instructors will approach you to ask for your choices on desired vocations and you can make a decision based on the list. 

The list below shows the available vocation choices for you as a freshly graduated private:

  1. Clerk 
  2. Dog Handler
  3. Driver
  4. Fire Fighter 
  5. Fire & Rescue specialist (FRS)
  6. Marine Fire & Rescue Specialist (MFRS)
  7. Info comms Operator
  8. Watch Room operator (WRO)
  9. Emergency Medical Technician (EMT)
  10. Provost
  11. Rescuer (Special Rescue Bn)
  12. Storeman
  13. Technician 

I was selected for the Marine Fire and Rescue Specialist vocation. This is one of the few vocations in SCDF where you will need to go through a trial process and an interview before getting selected. 

Since this is a specialist course, I needed to undergo an additional month of training. Furthermore, the skills I’ve learnt for marine firefighting is completely different from land firefighting!

Apart from the physical training that you’ll undergo, it will be good to have a decent amount of marine knowledge too.

What is the allowance that I will receive during my NS with SCDF?

The allowance that you can expect to receive is based on your rank. In addition to the monthly allowance, NSFs will also be eligible to receive operational allowance ranging from $100 to $300, depending on the vocation and unit they are deployed in.

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

How does the SCDF reservist cycle work?

In general, after finishing your NS, you can expect to return for your reservist for the next 10 years of your adult life. You will participate in High-Key and Low-Key exercises, and you are expected to complete 10 cycles to ensure you are operationally ready to serve the country in times of nationwide emergencies.

After completing your NS, you will embark on a completely new path. It is called the Operationally Ready National Service (ORNS) journey.

This is typically a 10-year training cycle

Out of these 10 years, the first 7 will be with your respective departments or fire station, also known as “High-Key” activities. The last three will be back at the Civil Defense Academy. They are called the “Low-Key” terms. 

Moreover, you will be required to take your IPPT yearly. You may be required to complete an assessment at the Civil Defense Academy.

This will be to refresh and test the basics that you have learnt during your National Service.  

Is NS in SCDF tough? 

Being an NSF in SCDF is tough, especially for frontline vocations. You will experience a lot of real-life incidents, be it fires or accidents. Furthermore, you will need to stay calm and work with finesse, even with the public’s eyes on you. Nevertheless, with this high pressure that you face, it will help you to build character.

My experience as a firefighter was difficult. It requires a list of things, such as:

  • Fitness
  • Resilience
  • Mental strength
  • Teamwork
  • Empathy
  • Patience
  • Bravery

Hours of training were conducted so that we can tackle any situations given to us. From firefighting to road traffic accidents to height rescues, we were trained in various disciplines

Getting used to high temperatures and overcoming our phobias are a huge part of training too. However, you do not need to worry as all training is conducted safely by trained individuals.

While NS can be tough, it is also not impossible. I think the best advice I can give is to have the proper mentality.

At the same time, you need to look after your own health and that of your peers as well!


With that being said, being an NSF for SCDF is extremely rewarding. The motto of SCDF is “TO PROTECT AND SAVE LIVES AND PROPERTY”. It is an extremely impactful motto and we try to live by it every day.

There are some memories that I have from my NS life that I will never forget such as:

  • The feeling you get when you get to save someone’s life from immediate danger
  • The sense of accomplishment you get when you manage to extinguish a fire
  • The experience you get when you see the public looking up to you in times of need
  • The sense of satisfaction when members of the public show gratitude to you

That feeling is nothing like I have ever experienced in my life. There is a saying:

People run away from danger. We deliberately run into it.

This is an extremely impactful sentence because it illustrates the danger we face every day and the risks we are willing to take.

This vocation teaches you to be versatile, and to be respectful to everyone. In addition to that, you get to work on your fitness during these 24 months, which is a huge bonus as well!

All in all, the experiences you will go through here in SCDF are very beneficial to you as an individual.

I wish you all the best in your journey as an NSF in SCDF!

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