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Jan 26, 2018

B.D.F. Graduates 89; Gets New Commander

At Price Barracks in Ladyville this afternoon, it was out with the old and, especially, in with the new. The national army is now forty years old and has had seven Belizeans in charge. Today, an eighth accepted his new responsibilities under the watchful eye of Governor General Sir Colville Young. He will lead a Force swelled by eighty-nine new recruits who especially distinguished themselves in their final parade, held under torrential rainfall. But that pales in comparison to the real dangers awaiting them on the job, and their nation will count on their discipline and personal growth after four months of training. News Five’s Aaron Humes reports.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

It was a very wet afternoon at Price Barracks, but nonetheless an historic one. The Belize Defence Force marked its fortieth anniversary since formation in 1978; welcomed eighty-nine male and female recruits to its ranks; and installed a new commander, Brigadier General Steven Ortega, who takes over from the now retired David Jones.

 

Brigadier General Steven Ortega, New Commander, Belize Defence Force

“It’s a blessing and it’s really an honor to be named the eighth Belizean commander of the Belize Defence Force. It’s really a blessing and a privilege to be placed in this position.”

 

Steven Ortega

General Ortega takes charge of a Force more disciplined and specialized than ever before. The new recruits went through four months of intensive training designed to transform their thinking and entire way of living. They have now been pronounced fit to serve their nation.

 

Brigadier General Steven Ortega

“Recruit training is where we convert the civilian into the military person. So it’s difficult in the beginning; as you noticed, [Minister of Defence John Saldivar] mentioned how many was there previously and how much we are left with – only eighty-nine. So it takes quite a bit of discipline, especially in terms of the physical demand and the mental portion of it. You have to do all the physical work – you’re up early, you go to sleep late; plus you have all the classes, medical classes, skill at arms which is weapon handling; map reading and all the various different kinds of classes that you have to do such as signals, etcetera. Immediately upon passing out from recruit training, they are now fully trained soldiers as most soldiers are out here; some have special skills. But they are now qualified to go out to all the CP’s, OP’s, to do patrols along with all the other senior members.”

 

Minister of Defence John Saldivar addressed the new soldiers this afternoon. At an earlier event he spoke of the transition, both in command and in strategy.

 

John Saldivar

John Saldivar, Minister of Defence

“One of the last acts of the outgoing General was to formulate the Strategic Defence Strategy which will now fall on the new General to implement. That strategy is going to address properly the issues that are currently facing us with respect to our national security. I am very happy with the selection of Colonel Ortega, now to be General Ortega, to head the B.D.F. and his deputy Colonel Loria, and today at the ceremonies we are going to be just happy to be able to see the smooth transition from one General to the other.”

 

The new man in charge says the B.D.F. will be prepared to face challenges old and new.

 

Brigadier General Steven Ortega

“I can see us maintaining the professionalism that we have and improving on what we have. We have a lot more collaboration with our international partners, especially with the threat situation that we face now from transnational criminals. And not only that but if you notice the new phenomenon now of tsunamis; so natural disasters, as you know we are one of the primary agents for the government [in terms of recovery, search and rescue; so those are some of the duties I see us trying to implement and improve on what we have so far.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

The overall champion recruit is Elroy Anthony of Carmelita, Orange Walk District. Top female recruit Shamira Armstrong hails from Santa Elena, while champion shot Dennis Myers is from Dangriga. The top soldier in physical fitness training is Orvin Choc from San Jose, Toledo. A number of senior soldiers received long service with good conduct medals and distinguished service certificates. Most prominent among them is Captain Lionel Olivera, who a few years ago was the first attorney with military experience called to the Bar of Belize.

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