How Does Reservist in Singapore Work? 10 Things to Know

Look no further for a complete guide of how the reservist system in Singapore works.

“ORD lo!” For most of us, that’s probably one of the happiest words you’ve ever said in your life. However, your National Service journey isn’t entirely over yet. You’ll still need to complete your reservist in Singapore.

From an NSF, you become an NSman and must undergo your Operationally Ready National Service (ORNS) lasting approximately 10 years. This comprises In-Camp Training (ICT) events and mobilisation or manning. Thus, it is imperative that you know exactly how does the reservist system in Singapore work.

You may have found this article because you were just called up by your unit for the first time and are unsure of what to do.

This article aims to provide you with the top 10 things you need to know to answer the following question. How does the reservist system in Singapore work?

1. ICTs and Mobilisations

The first thing you need to know about how does the reservist system in Singapore work are ICTs and mobilisations.

During the 10 years of your active ORNS years, you usually have to complete seven High Key ICTs as well as three Low Key ICTs.

But what do ICTs involve?

High Key ICTs include activities such as training, make-up training and courses. High Key ICTs are usually longer, lasting for between a week to three weeks.

On the other hand, Low Key ICTs includes a wider range of activities. In addition to training, make-up training and courses, Low Key ICTs may also involve briefings, medical reviews and mobilisation or manning. Low Key ICTs are typically shorter and do not last for more than a week.

Although it may seem troublesome to go back to army training, many people who go on reservist actually embrace this period away from work. This is because you get to catch up with your old friends from your unit. What’s more, your employer continues to pay you while you go for your ICTs.

You may not always be lucky though. Some units call their personnel back during the holiday season like in December. But not to worry, even if this happens to you, your unit will notify you a few months in advance so you have ample time to make arrangements.

2. Call-Ups and Manning Periods

How does the reservist system in Singapore work in regarding call-ups and manning?

You will be notified by MINDEF for you pending call-ups and manning periods. How the reservist system in Singapore works for mobilisation is quite unique. Essentially, there are two types of mobilisation methods, open mobilisation and silent mobilisation.

For open mobilisation, MINDEF will notify you through the broadcast of codewords in traditional media sources such as the TV and the radio. These codewords actually represent your unit and means that your unit is being called up.

Silent mobilisation involves being personally contacted through SMS and email. After being notified, you will also be prompted to go to the website to acknowledge that you are aware of such activities. This is to prevent you from denying that you were unaware of the reservist activities.

You can also find further information on the details of the upcoming call-up or manning period on the NS portal.

3. Personal Equipment for Reservist

Before your reservist activities commence, you should ensure you have all the necessary personal equipment. This includes your helmet, army Load Bearing Vest, smart four uniform, jockey cap, field pack, boots and so on. If there are any items missing, you can always replenish your items at the SAF eMart using your army credits.

SAF has also launched its delivery services for the eMart, which now makes it easier to purchase your equipment and expendable items.

However, the SAF has labelled some equipment such as helmets as controlled items which are not available off the shelf. Instead, you would have to contact your unit to replace your missing or defective controlled item.

Here is the breakdown of the credit allocation for NSmen (in case you’re wondering how many eMart credits you are entitled to):

Type of SAF serviceCredit allocation
Army113 credits every 2 years
Airforce115 credits every 2 years
Navy105 credits every 2 years

4. Reservist Deferment

By now, you should have a brief understanding of how does the reservist system in Singapore work. However, what if you are unavailable during the call-up period for your reservist? You can actually apply for deferment from your reservist activities.

Nonetheless, not all reasons will be accepted. In fact, MINDEF will only grant deferment in exceptional circumstances. Some valid reasons for deferment include:

  • new employment or newly established business,
  • examinations,
  • marriage and honeymoon,
  • birth of a child, or
  • compassionate grounds (for example serious illness or death of next-of-kin).

You also have to back up your deferment application with supporting documents. Take for instance that you are intending to defer your reservist because of your marriage and honeymoon. You would then have to provide documents such as your marriage certificate from the Registry of Marriages, the wedding reception receipts and receipts for your honeymoon.

After you submit your deferment application, this will be escalated to your unit’s Commanding Officer for processing. Even if your deferment is successful, there is a possibility that you may have to undergo a make-up training session depending on the demands of your unit. Deferring your reservist activities may also delay the completion of your ORNS training cycle, so may be better not to defer your reservist training too many times.

On the other hand, if your deferment application is unsuccessful, MINDEF will issue you a letter detailing the reasons for your rejection. You can then evaluate the reasons and decide if you wish to appeal the decision, which can be done through the NS portal.

5. Pay in the Reservist System

You may be asking how does the reservist system in Singapore work in relation to pay?

Don’t worry, you will get paid during your reservist. As long as your reservist is on a workday, you will receive your Service Pay or Make-Up Pay, depending on your employment status.


If you’re employed, MINDEF will reimburse you with a Make-Up Pay equivalent to your regular income. Your compensation will be for your loss of income during your training period that falls within working hours. However, you cannot claim any overtime even if it the training extends beyond the normal working hours.

How would this pay be disbursed to you? Either your employer will pay you directly and subsequently claim this from MINDEF or you may receive NS Pay from MINDEF itself.


Things are a little more complicated if you are self-employed. You would need to file for a Make-Up Pay that can be calculated in several ways.

The first method is the Income Tax Option. Using this method, MINDEF will assess your pay based on the Trade Income shown in the Income Tax Notice of Assessment for the year of training.

Secondly, there is the Average Income Option, which MINDEF determines by the average net self-employment income earned in the six months prior to the training.

The last option is the Replacement Option.  This is where you can claim for replacement fees in engaging a substitute while you are away. The Replacement Option is more relevant to individuals such as doctors or drivers as they have to engage locum doctors or relief drivers to cover their duties during their absence.


But what if you’re an unemployed NSman or pursuing a full-time education?

In such a case, you will not be able to claim any make-up pay.

Not to worry though, you will still receive a Service Pay, which depends on your rank and vocation. You would have to pro-rate your Service Pay based on the duration of the ORNS activity you are participating in.

Let’s calculate how much you’ll earn if you are a 3SG NSman earning a monthly Service Pay of $990 and are going for five days of reservist training. In this example, you will be given an NS allowance of 5/30 days X $990 = $165.

6. Using Personal Electronic Devices in Camp

How does the reservist system work in relation to use of personal devices in camp?

In relation to the use of your smartphones, how does the reservist system in Singapore work?

In recent times, MINDEF has eased the rules on the use of personal electronic devices in army camps. You can now choose to use your electronic items and smart devices in designated zones.

Your camera-enabled smartphones, personal tablets, Kindles and laptops can be utilised in non-sensitive green zone areas. These green zones include places such as cookhouses, gyms and medical centres.

However, the situation is a little different for red zones, which include offices with classified information and unit operations rooms. In those areas, you can still use smartphones which have their camera disabled. You can disable your camera by sandblasting, grinding or removing it.

Thus, if you are carrying a camera-equipped mobile device such as a smartphone or iPad in camp, you have to deposit your items in specific lockers before entering the red zones.

7. Overseas Trip Notification as an NS Man

If you are planning a holiday overseas, you have to apply for an exit permit if your overseas trip is for more than six months. 

This is a change from the previous policy where NS men had to submit a notification of their overseas travel if their period of travel was longer than 14 days but less than six months.

Following a comprehensive review, MINDEF and the Ministry of Home Affairs have decided that removing the notification requirement would not compromise operational readiness due to the presence of other exit control measures. This is particularly since the exit permit requirement for servicemen still applies for overseas travel for six months or longer.

But what happens if there is a clash between your overseas travel and your reservist activities? MINDEF makes it clear that you are not automatically exempted from participating in your reservist. You would actually need to obtain approval from your unit before going on your overseas trip.

In fact, if you fail to turn up for your reservist without a valid reason, you may be subject to investigation and disciplinary action.

8. Down PES in the Reservist System

How does the reservist system in Singapore work if you downgrade your PES status?

If you have developed a legitimate medical condition after your ORD, you can downgrade your PES status to exempt you from certain activities. This is to prevent you from doing reservist activities that would be injurious to your body, given your medical issues.

You can find the different PES statuses in the table below:

PES StatusMeaning
PES AFit for all combat vocations
PES B1Fit for most combat vocations
PES B2Fit for some combat vocations
PES BPFit for obese training
PES CFit for combat support vocations
PES DTemporarily unfit for assessment and pending further review
PES EFit for administrative duties only
PES FMedically unfit for any form of service

So what exactly do you have to do to down PES? A summary of the steps are as follows:

  • Consult a specialist from a public hospital or private clinic
  • The specialist would conduct the necessary medical tests and checks to determine your condition.
  • Obtain a clinical diagnosis from him/her about your medical condition.
  • Book an appointment with your unit camp medical centre
  • At the appointment, provide the MO with the supporting medical report and documents from the specialist
  • The medical board will then review your case, together with the supporting documents
  • Your unit will then notify you if your PES change is successful

It may seem daunting at first because there appears to be a lot of steps to down PES. However, it’s definitely worth it, especially if it protects you from further injury during your reservist activities.

9. Awards

When considering how does the reservist system in Singapore work, NS awards are something to take note of.

If you perform exceptionally well during your in-camp training, you may be recognised by being given SAF awards. Some of these awards come with attractive benefits.

For example, earning the SAF NSmen of the year award would entitle you to $100 worth of credits that can then be used to redeem certain vouchers. This sum of money is also a token of appreciation that acknowledges your hard work in keeping Singapore safe. That, in some books, is more important than any monetary incentive.

10. Completion of Reservist Training

Now for the moment that we’ve all been waiting for, the completion of our reservist training.

Once you hit the statutory age of service (being 40 and 50 years for WOSEs and Officers respectively), you are released from your reservist obligations. You then officially become part of the MINDEF Reserve.

You no longer have to return to camp for reservist duties or to take IPPT. Neither would you have to inform MINDEF for overseas travel for less than 6 months. Furthermore, you can expect to receive a medal, a gift such as a watch and a letter of release to mark the end of your reservist.


By now, you probably know how does the reservist system in Singapore work. Hopefully, this article has made reservist in Singapore less daunting and provided you with some key pointers on your reservist journey.

With that, enjoy your time serving the nation, while you still can!

Also, here are some additional lifestyle tips to become happier and more successful in Singapore.

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