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Dec 9, 2013

Joint Operations Center Inaugurated at Price Barracks

Belize’s armed forces have been the recipients of very significant Christmas treats recently, courtesy of the US and Canadian governments. Coming on the heels of approximately five million dollars in military equipment, vessels and specialized gear donated in the past month, today the BDF and Coast Guard unwrapped a gift that will keep on giving – a Joint Operations Center located at Price Barracks. The center will be a main intelligence and operations base for various law enforcement agencies, primarily the BDF, the Coast Guard, the Police Department and the Belize Customs and Immigration units. Today, the very impressive center was handed over to its grateful recipients. Mike Rudon was at Price Barracks and has the story.


Mike Rudon, Reporting

The new Joint Operations Center, located within a fenced, secure compound on Price Barracks, will serve a critical intelligence and operations function. It is the result of over two years of teamwork and partnership between the BDF and the governments of Belize, Canada and the US.


Margaret Hawthorne, Charge de Affaires, US Embassy

Margaret Hawthorne

“The primary purpose of the JOC is to exercise of operational command and control. The JOC will enable operators to plan and execute maritime interception. The JOC will also help the B.D.F. to determine and prioritize operational priority intelligence requirements. Collect and share operational information, interpret operational information and integrate all other tasks performed by the Ministry of National Security.”


Stuart Savage

Stuart Savage, Canadian High Commissioner to Belize

“The JOC has build and provided this handsome building by the US government and the Southern Command, excellent job and beautiful work you have done here, I compliment you on that. I am pleased that Canada is able to participate as well by providing some of the internal functioning apparatus and infrastructure by providing information technology equipment, furniture, computer, severs, video conferencing technologies and others that will be able to communications between agencies and other supporting allies like Canada and the U.S. in supporting Belize’s efforts to respond with the forces that you face every day I this region. We counter candidate to continue work with Belize and the US and to optimize our cooperation in the existing exercises so that we can get this center up and running to its fullest capability as soon as possible.”


The JOC will be fully manned by personnel from the BDF, the Coast Guard, the Police Department and other units. There is a fusion center in the works to integrate members of all law enforcement agencies in Belize, but in the absence of that the JOC will serve the same purpose as a central operations base.


David Jones, Commander, BDF

David Jones

“That fusion center will send information direct to this facility. To the Joint Operation Center, this Joint Operation Center’s director will decide how this operation will be conducted based on intelligence information received. They in turn will execute the mission by sending information to the joint enforcement team. This will be a team comprised of members of the Belize Defense Force, the Belize Coastguard, immigration or custom department depending n what the operations are will be dependent on what law enforcement agency of military organization will be going towards the target on that operations. So if customs is necessary, customs officer will be in the operation, if immigration is necessary they will be in the operation.”


John Borland

John Borland, Commandant, Coast Guard

“The Coast Guard is going to have eight people permanently attached in the JOC. Their duties range from battle captains, to duty officers, to clerks, to signalers, and to operation analyst. There is going to be one Coastguard assigned to be the Coastguard liaison officer of the maritime affairs or maritime operations. It is going to be a two year thing for the eight of them. We also have a team of navy seals that will forms a part of the Joint Enforcement Team that we spoke about earlier on. The twenty-four hours stand by to deploy for any special operation. The joint enforcement team will be combined of a cross section of forces not only Coastguard seals but um the BSAG and elements of the anti-drug units and depending on the nature of the crime we will be having the customs and immigration departments along as well.”


The officer selected to direct the JOC is Major Charlton Roches, a veteran soldier who has been in operations for a long time. He is confident that while there will be challenges the benefits of working together will be great.


Charlton Roches, Director, JOC

Charlton Roches

“I have been working with these other agencies over that time period and we faced a number of challenges and it faced with reaction time, resources, because as you all know we are tight with cash as the security forces. So by having those individualks linked from the respective departments and to some extents some of the resources too as well, we should be able to reduce those challenges that we had prior.”


Roches says the main challenge will be human nature, having highly trained personnel from different units working together in a closed space. But there are also other challenges. The JOC is a first of its kind in Belize, and will be operated with extreme military precision and discretion. All staff will go through polygraph testing and will be forced to maintain strict protocols of secrecy. It’s all about taking law enforcement to an unprecedented level – which is critical, but not without hurdles.


David Jones

“Where more training is needed is in the staff function, where they have to run this facility. Now that they don’t have any experience with. Thankfully we have had some visits provide by Canada by the US and also by Colombia. Where myself, the C.E.O., the Commandant Coastguard and the director has visited all different facilities, we visited JOC in the US, JOC in Columbia and we are about to visit some more next year to look at fusion centers how those are run. But the director is fully aware how this facility is suppose to run and how it is suppose to execute its functions. Now what needs to happen is the training for the staff that will come in here. Because we need to integrate the members from the customs and immigration unto how a military operation is run.”


According to Jones, both the US and Canadian governments have committed to offer training to staff at the JOC. Mike Rudon for News Five.


The price tag for the Joint Operations Center, built and equipped, is in the region of three million dollars. It will be operational in early 2014, after additional operating equipment is installed.


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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