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Jan 29, 2008

U.S. ambassador hands over equipment to B.D.F.

Story PictureThe value of the assistance probably amounts to less than what the U.S. government spends in Iraq and Afghanistan in a few minutes … but fortunately, Belize is at peace and the latest aid from Uncle Sam is decidedly non-lethal. News Five’s Kendra Griffith has the story from Ladyville.

Robert Dieter, U.S. Ambassador to Belize
“The people of the United States provide the means to our State Department to work with you so that you can fulfil your mission to the people of Belize.”

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
On behalf of his country’s citizens, this morning U.S. Ambassador to Belize Robert Dieter handed over the first shipment of a one million dollar donation to the Belize Defence Force.

According to B.D.F. Commander, Brigadier General Lloyd Gillett, the equipment, which includes field packs, first aid kits, jungle hammocks, jerry cans, generators and mine detection boards, will be used by the recently established Light Engineering Company.

Brig. Gen. Lloyd Gillett, Commander, Belize Defence Force
“The Light Engineering Company will be our first response to assist affected areas of Belize during times of natural disasters. Along with this equipment will come about five hundred thousand dollars worth of training.”

Kendra Griffith
“Commander, why after almost thirty years, the need to form a Light Engineering Company?”

Brig. Gen. Lloyd Gillett
“During the development of the national security strategy, we found out that there was a need for a capability of a light engineering company to provide support to the civilian authorities during times of disasters. We have been hit by some majors over the years and the B.D.F. is a part of the initial response to these hurricanes. We found that we were equipped for fighting but we weren’t well equipped to deal with these contingencies.”

Capt. Lionel Cuthkelvin, Commander, Light Engineering Co.
“These equipments are just the beginning of more to come. In due time the Light Engineering Company will be equipped with vehicles, the tools and relevant equipments required to do the various jobs of an engineer.”

Financing for the items and training is provided by the U.S. Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative, G.P.O.I.

Robert Dieter
“It is a five year programme that began in 2005 and it is addressing key gaps in global peacekeeping capacity by training some seventy-five thousand peace support troops worldwide, increasing the number of the constabulary police units deployable to international operations and facilitating deployment of units by helping to provide equipment, transportation, and sustainment in the field.”

Kendra Griffith
“Does the Defence Force have any responsibilities under this G.P.O.I. agreement with the U.S.?”

Brig. Gen. Lloyd Gillett
“The U.S. is providing the equipment and we would have the Light Engineering Company available for deployment, but these deployments will only be authorised by the government of Belize. And so if the government decides that it wants to help a sister country that has been affected by a disaster, then the Light Engineering Company could do that task. If the government decides that it wants to support some peacekeeping mission around the world, then we’ll have the equipment and the company trained and ready to support that type of deployment.”

The G.P.O.I. was not the only one feeling generous as today the Foreign Military Financing Programme also donated a Cessna engine valued at seventy-two thousand dollars to the B.D.F. Air Wing. Major Raymond Shepherd is the Commanding Officer for that unit.

Major Raymond Shepherd, Commanding Officer, B.D.F. Air Wing
“We do routine adjacency zone patrol along the border with Belize and Guatemala. We also conduct from time to time search and rescue missions and this is primarily for persons lost at sea. We also conduct anti-narcotics operations and this is where we do routine air surveillance around the country in an effort to detect marijuana cultivation.”

The engine was installed into the Cessna 182. The other planes in the Air Wing are a Slingsby T67 and Britten Norman Defender. Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

The handings-over did not end at the Williamson Hangar. This morning at Price Barracks the Belize Defense Force Band received two trumpets, a saxophone, trombone and snare drum. That donation came courtesy of a Florida-based organisation.

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