PROFESSIONALS - such as lawyers, doctors and communication specialists - who have completed their national service cycles can now volunteer to contribute in their areas of expertise, the Defence Ministry said yesterday.

Under the new Expertise Conversion Scheme, they will be given Military Expert (ME) 4 ranks.

"With the need to conduct a full spectrum of operations, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is seeking to expand operational capabilities, especially in niche areas of expertise," Mindef said in a statement.

Operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) will be able to take on roles such as legal advisers, dentists, nurses and radiographers in the SAF.

The scheme is mainly intended for warrant officers, specialists and enlistees who have fulfilled their NS commitments. However, those with existing commitments will also be considered on a case- by-case basis.

Interested parties can register with their NS units and will be assessed to ensure that they have the relevant specialised professional qualifications. They must also have "sound leadership qualities" and "good character attributes", Mindef added.

They will then attend training sessions over several years to hone their professional, leadership and job skills.

Depending on operational demands and availability, up to two batches of NSmen will be converted to military experts every year.

More details on the training duration will be made available after the first cohort, which is still being trained, is inaugurated later this month.

Like officers, newly converted experts must serve until they are 50. They will be required to serve in their new ranks and roles for at least three years, and can be called up for up to 40 days a year.

The new scheme is an addition to those currently in place for people who wish to volunteer or extend their service.

One of these, the Reservist On Voluntary Extended Reserve Service (Rovers) scheme, allows key appointment holders - such as brigade commanders and regimental sergeant-majors - to continue serving until 50 years of age, for officers, and 40, for specialists. Beyond that, they must serve under the SAF Volunteer Scheme.

Women, new citizens and first-generation permanent residents can also volunteer their expertise as specialists in legal, medical, psychological and maritime fields, under the recently announced SAF Volunteer Corps.

Defence analyst Ho Shu Huang said the new scheme is "an efficient form of military manpower and resource management".

"Volunteers will be able to hit the ground running with little additional training and feel appreciated as experts in their respective fields," he said.

Lawyer Ranjan Indiran, 33, who is now in a support platoon doing administrative work for his reservist training, said he will consider converting. "I don't mind serving for a longer period, as long as I'm comfortable with the work and can contribute meaningfully."