THE Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps (SAFVC) targets Singaporean women, new citizens and first-generation permanent residents to serve in the armed forces after military training.

The challenge is to attract spritely young people, especially able-bodied young women.

Volunteers should not be restricted to being "security troopers". For example, a female dentist can serve as a dental officer during overseas medical deployments, while a psychology student can be involved in crafting academic papers in the military psychology department.

In other words, there must not be a myopic view that serving in the armed forces entails only physical activity.

SAFVC volunteers should be integrated as much as possible with the operational SAF. This can be achieved by aligning standards and benefits of volunteers with those of at least operationally ready national servicemen. This promotes bonding and seamless partnership in achieving mission success.

SAFVC volunteers should receive statutory protection for their service. Employers are legally bound not to discriminate against employees should they be called up for service. This also acts as basic recognition for the services rendered.

Also, the rank structure of the SAFVC should be integrated with that of the SAF, as this bestows respect on the volunteers.

This mirrors the practice of the Singapore Police Force's Volunteer Special Constabulary, whose rank structure is the same as that for the active service.

Promotions should be based on length of service, subject to satisfactory work rendered, instead of being tied to the volunteer's civilian status or seniority at work.

Lastly, having a two-track volunteer scheme - operations (guarding key installations) and specialist (professionals applying their expertise in the legal and medical fields, among others) - with corresponding rank structure could breed elitism, since the bulk of volunteers on the first track are likely to be non-professionals.

Having a one-track scheme would resolve this concern.

Although doubts exist over the actual contribution volunteers can make, the SAFVC forms a new platform for those who are exempt from national service to serve in a military setting. That, in itself, has to be of some worth.