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May 30, 2008

New recruits, new commander for B.D.F.

Story PictureToday was a big day for the nation’s military as a new Minister of National Security welcomed new recruits and their new boss. News Five’s Kendra Griffith reports from Price Barracks in Ladyville.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
This morning the B.D.F. soldiers were at their sharpest as they assembled to commemorate the passing out of recruit intake number fifty as well as the installation of a new force commander.

After sixteen weeks of training, two women and sixty-four men made it to today’s graduation ceremony. Nineteen year old Roy Garcia beat out his fellow recruits to take tops honours as Champion Recruit.

Roy Garcia, Champion Recruit
“I feel proud ah myself.”

Kendra Griffith
“What do you think was it about you that made you top the class?”

Roy Garcia
“I study really hard and ah try to do mi best eena di training.”

The best marksman was Joel Salazar,

Kendra Griffith
“What are you looking forward to now?”

Joel Salazar, Champion Shot
“Go ahead, apply my marksmanship, try my best and try to go higher in the Belize Defence Force.”

Lissani Ciego dominated the physical training,

Lissani Ciego, Champion Physical Training
“Dah just wah individual effort weh yoh have to shub hard everyday and everyday. The things weh yoh do outside, yoh have to do less out yah, like sleeping; yoh have to sleep less, eating; eat less, drinking; drink less things like that.”

Eighteen year old Ryan Dominguez was the champ in field craft.

Ryan Dominguez, Champion Field Craft
“Yoh have to be able fi fire off any two platoon weapon at any time, to kill the enemy without being seen, killed or heard. From I mi young I mi always want be a B.D.F. and my ma try help me push to it and I just push to it. She give me di courage.”

Carlos Perdomo, Minister of National Security
“I urge you to serve our nation and to serve our democratic traditions as previous and other current members of the force have done and continue to do so, day in and day out. You recruits join the ranks of a most prestigious and well respected Belizean institution. Continue to work hard to add your little grain of sand to the cement mix that will make the B.D.F. stronger and prouder.”

Over two decades ago, Lloyd Gillett and Dario Tapia participated in a similar event when they became members of the Belize Defence Force. Today both men have risen through the ranks to become Brigadier General, the highest position in the force. Gillett arrived first and three and a half years ago was named Commander. Having reached the retirement age of forty-five on May second, this morning he passed on leadership of the force to Tapia.

Brigadier General Dario Tapia
“I Brigadier General Dario Tapia do swear that I will bear true faith and allegiance to Belize and will uphold the constitution and the law and that I will conscientiously, impartially and to the best of my ability, discharge my duties as the Commander of the Belize Defence Force and do right to all manner of people without fair or favour, affection or ill will. So help me God.”

According to Brigadier General Tapia, his assumption of the post of commander of the B.D.F. is a testament of the impact the force can have on the lives of those who chose the military.

Brig. Gen. Dario Tapia
“I said I was going to do my three years of compulsory service as per the contract I signed. When I joined, I joined as a recruit. I wasn’t an officer cadet, I eventually got selected to be an officer cadet and sent over to the royal military academy at Sandhurst and from there on my career started to take off.”

Brig. Gen. Lloyd Gillett
“I think that’s a wonderful institution that can do that for somebody, change their life completely. There is equal opportunity, there is incredible diversity and once you work hard, you are able to get ahead in the B.D.F.”

This morning both Minister of National Security, Carlos Perdomo, and General Gillett expressed confidence in General Tapia’s ability to lead the nation’s military.

Brig. Gen. Lloyd Gillett
“I am sure that he will continue with the development of the force so that Belize can enjoy, security, stability and prosperity.”

Carlos Perdomo
“General Tapia, having been helpful in laying a strong foundation for the force in his twenty years of service will move the force into a new phase of implementation.”

Brig. Gen. Dario Tapia
“I would love to see, even by the time my tenure ends, I would have laid the foundation for a rotary wing capability, in other words helicopter. I want to have state of the art communications where we are able to communicate countrywide day or night. All these things that make a very good army, I would want to ensure that even if it doesn’t happen with me that things are here for the next one to inherit.”

What Tapia has inherited is a fighting force that is more recognised and respected locally and internationally. Gillett leaves his post with a sense of accomplishment.

Brig. Gen. Lloyd Gillett
“I feel contented that I did my best during my time as the commander. I try to improve the intelligence infrastructure, the equipment, the physical infrastructure of the force.”

Carlos Perdomo
“General Gillett’s stewardship over the last three and a half years has enabled the force to go from strength to strength. He has kept it at a high level of mission readiness. It performs ably when called to the task. It steadfastly transformed itself from one capability to the next with a minimum of fuss and is a strong cohesive fighting force for the good.”

But although he’s left the military, Gillett did not stray too far. He took up the post of C.E.O. in the Ministry of National Security.

Kendra Griffith
“How are you looking forward to civilian life?”

Brig. Gen. Lloyd Gillett
“I am looking forward to growing my hair.”

Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

General Tapia is thirty-nine years old. He is married with two children.

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