Upholding Professionalism through Personnel Care
Lt Kol Ahmad Ghazali bin Abu Hassan (Retired; Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan)
Welfare and maintenance of morale
Morale is an important element that contributes to military combat efficiency. It is one of the key principles of war adopted by modern strategists. With good morale, troops are motivated to give their best. A positive state of morale among troops may be achieved by solving the general yet personal issues that tend to distract them from the duties at hand. These may be physical or spiritual in nature and must be addressed in a specific and systematic manner.
Welfare issues that need to be looked into
As in civilian life, the military community is concerned with the day-to-day issues that affect their family’s wellbeing. Rising cost of living, children’s education and healthcare are among the key issues that preoccupy their minds and can adversely distract their concentration in performing their duties.
Unlike civilian professions where work schedules are routine and family affairs can be better planned, the nature of the military profession does not afford one such a luxury. Professionally, service personnel are required to be in a constant state of readiness and they are subject to immediate deployment. The level of commitment required and the vagaries of the military profession structurally restrict the ability of service personnel to devote their time to family affairs. Save for routine personal family matters, common family needs of service personnel needs to be addressed by the government.
The following are the basic welfare issues that need to be looked into.
Housing. Providing adequate housing to all personnel should be the first priority. Realistically, adequate fund must be set aside so that housing facilities are well maintained, ensuring that service personnel and their families are comfortably accommodated. For those who are not provided with housing facilities, a housing allowance at realistic rates needs to be provided.
Children’s education. A clear policy to ensure that children of service personnel have access to quality education must be formulated. Educational issues peculiar to the children of MAF personnel such as the implications of frequent posting of personnel must be studied. Existing facilities designed to provide a convenient education environment for the children such as bussing, student hostels and schools within military camps must continue to be improved and enhanced. Their number must be commensurate with the actual demand on the ground.
Health. Adequate and quality medical facilities must be provided to all MAF personnel and their families. In cases where civilian medical facilities need to be utilized for the treatment of MAF personnel and their families, formal arrangements must be made to ensure that the facilities are readily available to them.
Overall family wellbeing. The range of issues affecting family wellbeing must be identified. The issues such as the impact of frequent postings, general family welfare and the psychological and spiritual needs of the families must also be addressed.
Financial stability. Deliberate efforts must be made to ensure that service personnel are trained and guided in the management of their financial affairs. Armed Forces-linked financial institutions such as LTAT and AF Cooperatives should act as effective institutions aimed at improving the financial wellbeing of personnel rather than as institutions that exploit the personnel for profit and get them deeper into debt traps.
Relative status within society and privileges. Proper recognition and respect must be accorded to AF members as a token of appreciation for their service to the country. Efforts must be made to encourage public and private sectors to accord basic privileges to members of the AF. Emulating the practices adopted by other countries; such as allowing AF personnel priority boarding at airports, providing special discounts to AF personnel in uniform and displaying other forms of minor gestures of courtesy and appreciation will go a long way in making the AF personnel feel appreciated> This helps to instill n them a sense of pride.
Factors affecting professionalism and efficiency
Good welfare will help the creation a working environment where service personnel are motivated to perform their best. To ensure that a high degree of professionalism is continually maintained, the AF should also look into the factors mentioned below.
- Quality personnel. The MAF should strive to search, select and train the right person for the right job from the very outset. The current recruitment system may have to be reviewed. Specific and systematic aptitude tests must be introduced. Based on the result of these tests, personnel should be assigned to the area relevant to his potential. This will result in effective training, cutting down on the wastage and attrition rate.
- Time, resources and quality training. There should not be any compromise in ensuring that adequate time is spent on training. Allocation of resources earmarked for training should be given top priority. Efforts must also be made to ensure that training is overseen by selected and qualified instructors.
- Pride, dedication and patriotism. Apart from good welfare and training; pride, dedication and patriotism play an important part in uplifting professionalism among service personnel. This is essentially a leadership challenge and it is up to the leadership of the MAF to rise to this challenge.