Did Former B.D.F. recruit’s Training Go Too Far? Army Investigates Leaked Videos
Two disturbing videos of recruits training for the B.D.F. have been obtained by News Five. The first, in its entirety, captures the rigorous and extreme training program, including tear gassing for those aspiring to join the force. The second video contains the images of a young man being shoved into a trench even as he cries out in obvious pain and says he will comply with what was asked of him. The question tonight is if the more seasoned officers conducting the training went too far. Duane Moody has been following this story and files the following report.
Discipline and character – mentally and physically fit and able to cope and operate under extreme and harsh conditions – are expected of those who want to become an infantry soldier with the Belize Defense Force. But how far is too far when pushing recruits to their limits? A leaked video to News Five captures the disturbing images of a young recruit in distress – crying as he is being manhandled by several B.D.F. training officers before getting shoved into a trench in the forest.
Michael Rivas, B.D.F. Soldier
“(Screaming) No…I feel bad…Noh chance mi mien. Sorry mien. I wah do it. I wah do the thing; I wah do it. I wah do it.”
“Yo wah do it?”
“I say I wah do it.”
B.D.F. Officer 2
“Get f***ing down.”
“I say I wah do it mien.”
“What…you dah the only man run. You one run.”
“(Crying continues) I wah do it. (Continues crying).”
The recruit is twenty-year-old Michael Rivas, a resident from Trial Farm, Orange Walk who recently joined the B.D.F. from intake number sixty-two. Someone videoed the incident which captures Rivas, along with twenty-five other platoon members, participating in a tear gas training for anti-riot or public order management. The recruits were all placed in a trench and tear gassed to withstand its effects for at least thirty seconds.
“All the recruits went through the tear gas session, but that recruit assumingly has a phobia for tear gas and when he felt the burning sensation of the tear gas he ran away and went into hiding. So subsequently when he was found, he was brought again into the camp; he was told that he was going to be thrown into that training again, tear gas, but it didn’t happen. And if you say that he was pushed into the trench, there was no tear gas; the canisters were finished. So he was just placed in that trench to prevent him from escaping again.”
“So it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary?”
On the Phone: Lt. Col. Azariel Loria
“No it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, perhaps because this person is afraid of tear gas.”
An investigation into the incident has been ordered by Brigadier General David Jones. It was a final defensive exercise back in January of this year. According to training policy, which has evolved over the years due to human rights concerns, a recruit’s dignity should not be threatened. So were there any infractions to the training policy?
“When the recruit went, there was a search party that went for him; he did not want to return to base or to the camp because he was afraid of being….That was not training, they were not on training. They went to search for him because he was hiding and that wasn’t part of training anymore.”
“Sir so the way they pushed this guy into the trench, push his head down; that is protocol? That is not outside of the training?”
On the Phone: Lt. Col. Azariel Loria
“That is subject to investigation. The way how he was handled in that sense…we are trying to verify why the instructors…what were their intensions; they would have to answer to it.”
Duane Moody for News Five.