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Nov 25, 2016

11 Years of Service for the Belize Coast Guard

The Belize National Coast Guard celebrated in grand style today for their eleventh anniversary. They have grown significantly since they opened their doors back in November 2005. And today they announced some of the projects that are in the pipeline and major investments to be made over the next year or so. The festivities culminated in a live obstacle course demonstration. Andrea Polanco was at today’s celebration and has all the highlights. Here’s her story.

 

Andrea Polanco, Reporting

Coast Guard Officers braved the rains this morning without- umbrellas – as they stood at attention in their crisp white uniforms to help celebrate a milestone in the Belize National Coast Guard’s young existence. Today they celebrate eleven years since being established in 2005. Over the years, there has been significant growth and successes, not just in numbers, but also in operations and acquired assets. This anniversary signals a long way from where they started off with only fifty coast guards to presently three hundred and fifty officers.  They’ve also increased their boats from five to fifteen; making the Belize National Coast Guard one of the best military bodies in the region.

 

John Borland

John Borland, Commander, BNCG

“Today, we are a year into our long term strategy which forecasted a strength of three hundred and sixty-five men and women at this point. We are a little shy of this figure, but you have got to admit that we have come leaps and bounds in a relatively short period of time. Our plan is to grow the Coast Guard to a desired end strength to seven hundred; that is based on an orbat that has been approved at the National Security Council level. But it doesn’t stop there with these impressive figures in personnel growth. Everything else seems to be growing in tandem; training four our men and women continue both locally and overseas. The technical and tactical proficiencies of our officers and enlisted ranks continue to excel. Our assets, resources and infrastructure continue to increase in accordance of our development strategy. Our spectrum of operations has extended from coastal and external waters to beyond the limits of our territorial seas and into our exclusive economic zone. We have pushed drug trafficking from our shores to the fringes of our area of responsibility. Statistics show that the volume of drugs that is trafficked through the Belizean sea space is almost negligible compared to what it used to be in the years prior to the coast guard. The Coast Guard is now constantly on patrol. Our operational readiness is on par with any our sister forces locally or regionally.”

 

But as the Coast Guard grows and nets big successes, there are still challenges ahead. The need for more officers, the right equipment and gears to tackle growing maritime threats aresome of those challenges. The plan to address human capital is to take in fifty recruits each year. The Coast Guard also wants to upgrade the fleet of small boats. And as it relates to larger vessels – well the Minister of Defence brought that good news. John Saldivar committed to acquiring two boats valued at around twenty four million Belize dollars to aid the Coast Guard in their maritime operations to secure Belize’s waters.

 

John Saldivar

John Saldivar, Minister of Defense

“I am also happy to be able to report that work has recommenced on the construction of the Hunting Caye Forward operating base. Plans are already in effect for the acquisition of two future large patrol boats in the form of two sea class one hundred foot offshore patrol boat. These boats will be acquired at a cost in excess of twelve million US dollars. These national security cutters, as they will be called, will be multi role and multi-missioned assets that will perform a wide range of law enforcement, military and humanitarian missions.”

 

Commander Borland says that we can expect some big projects as it relates to infrastructure developments- some of which have already started.

 

John Borland

“Infrastructure development continues where we are in the process of doing the landfill of a long overdue project in Big Creek which we call Coast Guard Sector South; where a one hundred and fifty men will be deployed on a year deployment down in the south with their share of assets and resources to police the southern sector. Then there is a patrol base that we intend to construct on northern Ambergris or almost straddling the Mexican frontier that is to complement the station in San Pedro who continuously deploys eight men to that area to do foot patrol to take care of the rise that we have seen from time to time in crime and violence in that area. And then way down in the south, the people in the south clamoring and asking for the Coast Guard presence beside the Forward Operating Base in the Sarstoon. So, we intend to establish a station near to Punta Gorda but outside of Punta Gorda; approximately a mile north of Rio Grande.”

 

The Coast Guard unveiled their newest addition – an obstacle course. This is the first of its kind to be constructed for the Coast Guard by Coast Guards. A few years back they were told that their compound was too small to hold an obstacle course. One was constructed a while back at Price Barracks to be shared between the two military groups. But it was too far for the Coast Guards to have daily access. So, they built their own. And Coast Guards gave a demonstration of what they do in the obstacle course, following a series of challenging physical obstacles which include running, crawling, some jumping and lots of climbing – all elements to test their endurance and other skills.

 

John Borland

“We have a team of men and women who are not engineers but I like to call them the assault pioneers in the Coast Guard. You give them an order and they will give you a product. They will fulfill the mission. Obstacle courses are not unique to any military or law enforcement force. Obstacle course are meant to build confidence, to build flexibility, speed, agility, endurance, upper body strength; trying to simulate the terrain to which you fight as near as you can. It is build that confidence and robustness; that mental toughness, that the men are not only confident in themselves individually. The obstacle course is designed for them to work as team, so that they are confident in their team members. The way we train is the way we will fight. So, this is for us a tremendous achievement and it really will be and is right now the pride of the unit. The obstacle course and your gym area always the pride of your unit. I very, very big on physical fitness, physical robustness that we will need to get to fifty five years of service as fighting menthat are ready to serve.”

 

It is a proud day for the man at the helm- Rear Admiral John Borland. He has been the commander of the Belize National Coast Guard for six years – a little over half its existence. How does the commander run a ship that is free of the national scandals and controversies? He says that he leads by example.

 

John Borland

“Be the example for your men; know your people and take care of their welfare. You know, care about them, be there to provide guidance, direction and ensure that you operate in an organized and structured environment. Of course, we have our set of issues with discipline here and there; but it is nipping it in the bud, it is on the spot correction. And constantly being there for the people who need you; not tucked away in your office hiding from your problems. You know, a great leader once said, ‘Leadership is about solving problems. The day your men stop bringing their problems to you, you stop being their leader.”

 

Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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