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Jul 26, 2002

BDF volunteers train for disaster

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In recent years the Belize Defence Force has taken on new tasks that go beyond the traditional role of a professional army. And with those new duties of law enforcement and disaster relief comes new training–even for the BDF volunteers. News 5′s Jacqueline Woods reports.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting

It was the first time that the Belize Defence Force held its annual Volunteer Battalion Camp in the Orange Walk District, and the first time that the men and women were engaged in a training exercise that focuses on internal security.

Col. Edmund Zuniga, Commanding officer, Volunteer Battalion

“We thought that in order to have an effective internal security exercise, we would want to do it in an area where people are living. And in looking at the different areas throughout the country, we found that the August Pine Ridge area would have provided us the ground as well as the community to support the exercise. In addition to that, we we’ve never been up north and it’s an opportunity for all the members of the volunteer battalion to get an opportunity to see a different area of the country.”

“Internal security is one of our responsibilities. If there’s a situation in the country and we’re called out, we must be prepared to support the regular force.”

This year the operation, dubbed Fast Blow, is based on a fictitious hurricane: Idolly. The category three storm struck the country on July twenty-third and caused major damage to the northern districts.

Col. Edmund Zuniga

“Exercise Fast Blow, which is a combination of a hurricane exercise moving into the creation of an internal security situation with unrest and so on, which our soldiers will deal with.”

Three BDF companies, Bravo, Charlie and Delta, were deployed to villages including Yo Creek, Trinidad and August Pine Ridge. The volunteers had various responsibilities that included managing hurricane shelters, supporting civil authorities and maintaining law and order. The volunteers were trained to confront any problem, no matter how hostile the situation. When members of Bravo Company received the news that prisoners had escaped and were hiding out in an abandoned building in Yo Creek, the volunteers were quickly dispatched to the scene.

While these volunteers have for the moment, given up their comforts to spend time working under harsh conditions, they say the job they do in the field is not only critical, but also rewarding.

Marcus Kingston, Officer, Min. of Budget Management

“Well actually I was a regular soldier for twenty-two years. After terminating my service, you know, they can take the soldier out of you, but they can’t take you out of soldiering. Hence the reason why I decided to continue to volunteer, because it keeps you fit, it keeps your mind active. So being a volunteer is really a challenge too, because it’s only two weeks for the year that you hard work and other things that you never do within the two hours training in the evening.”

Clifford Cooke, Officer, B.T.L.

“Well from 1975 I was a member of the Scout Unit. And being a Scout seems to have a slight resemblance to being a soldier. From then, I decided to join the BDF in 1985. I resigned in 1991 and from then on I just went over to being a volunteer, so I have been a soldier for seventeen years.”

Jane Zetina, Manager, Information Systems, D.F.C.

“I think it has done a lot in developing my leadership skills, because I have… I’m doing this now for nine years and I’ve been an officer for that period too. Definitely it has heightened my leadership skills, and it definitely helps in my civilian job.”

Close to five hundred volunteers, including reservists are part of the exercise. Reporting for News 5, Jacqueline Woods.

Exercise Fast Blow comes to an end on Sunday.

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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