The Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore visited the Marana area April 8 to inaugurate his country's Air Force Peace Vanguard detachment at Pinal Air Park.

Nearly 300 community and military leaders listened to remarks by Tony Tan Keng Yam during his brief visit to the United States to officially launch the Peace Vanguard, a training unit comprised of 118 Singapore Air Force personnel and eight Boeing Apache helicopters.

"To all the Republic of Singapore Air Force servicemen who are here halfway across the world from home," Tan said during his speech given in one of the park's hangars, "I want to remind you that your training here is important, both for you professionally and for Singapore.

"Our training in the United States has allowed [us] to develop a full range of operational capabilities, and also benefit from training with the United States Armed Forces," Tan said.

The Peace Vanguard will be trained by United States Army squadrons at the Pinal Air Park northwest of Tucson in use of Apache AH-64D Longbow helicopters, built by Boeing in Mesa, to help strengthen Singapore national defense.

Most Peace Vanguard personnel, along with 140 family members, live in Northwest Tucson where their children receive language schooling. They participate in regular community and cultural festivals, according to the Singapore Ministry of Defense, and are developing plans to help organize a shelter for abused children.

Singapore's government has four other detachments in the United States which has helped improve relations between the two countries and helped Singapore establish national security. Tan admonished the Iraqi government for its "persistent defiance of international law," acknowledging Singapore's support of the United States in actions against Iraq.

"Singapore recognizes the importance of what the U.S.-led coalition is doing in Iraq, and supports the coalition's efforts for the immediate disarmament of Iraq.

"In the Asia-Pacific, North Korea is engaged in a dangerous game of nuclear brinkmanship, which could have significant consequences for the regional strategic landscape in the years ahead," he said.

Tan met personally with local community leaders, expressing his gratitude for their key involvement in the establishment of the Peace Vanguard.

"I thank the U.S. Army and the Arizona Army National Guard for the wholehearted commitment and support that you have given to the Peace Vanguard program," he said. "I would also like to thank the communities and the mayors of Marana, Tucson and Oro Valley for the warm hospitality which you have extended."

Following his official remarks, Tan offered interviews to the American and Singaporean press.

"I'm delighted to be here this morning," he said. "I wish I had more time. This is the first time that I've been to Tucson and I did not know that the desert is so beautiful."

"The town of Marana has 115 to 120 pilots, mechanics and families that are here on two-year missions," said Marana Vice Mayor Herb Kai. "They shop and play and do things in Marana. We support having them trained here, which helps our economic base in Marana."

Singapore, a city-state of over four million people located on the island at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, maintains an active military presence throughout the world.

Tan, who is also Singapore's Minister of Defense, attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a doctorate degree from the University of Adelaide. He has maintained a variety of posts in the Singaporean government, including Minister of State, Minister of Education and Chairman of the People's Action Party. He met with Vice President Dick Cheney and several cabinet members during his visit to the United States.

Singapore Air Force pilots performed a helicopter fly-by at the event following the American and Singapore national anthems. Pinal Air Park, located seven miles northwest of Marana, serves as a military training facility for the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard and accommodates private aviation at the adjacent Evergreen Air Center.

Those attending the ceremony included Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup, Oro Valley Mayor Paul Loomis, Singaporean Ambassador H. C. Chan, Marana's Vice Mayor Herb Kai and Boeing officials.

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