General — 12 August 2014 — by Kareem Clarke
72 BDF soldiers graduate

LADYVILLE—After enduring 18 weeks of rigorous physical and mental training, 72 recruits took their place among the ranks of the Belize Defence Force (BDF) today.

Four recruits received special honors.

The new batch of soldiers, which make up Recruit Intake #58, withstood tests which challenged their emotional and psychological strength, and having proven their competence, they marched proudly onto the grounds of Price Barracks in Ladyville, where they earned the right to be inducted into the country’s national security force.

Commander of the Belize Defence Force, Brigadier General David Jones, gave us an idea of what it takes to become a member of the BDF, and what the recruits learned as part of their training.

He said, “We do a countrywide test and exam for them to come and join us at the Belize Defence Force. There are almost 600 that sit the entrance exam. Usually about two months after, they come here and they assemble. The first three weeks is what we refer to as the stress time. They endure all sorts of stress in the first week, where they have to be up at 4:00 in the morning, then they have to be up doing their chores by 5:00; they go on physical training, they do runs, they do tasks.

“In that first week, we usually have about 20 to 30 guys that drop out, so within the first three weeks that’s when you’d have fifty, or even sixty of them drop out of the training. When training continues now, they learn field-craft; they do tactics, how to fight in a battle during war time, and how to operate in the garrison during peace time.

“They also learn first aid, so if people get injured either in the garrison or on the battlefield, they are able to help their fallen comrades with first aid.”

In his address to the recruits, CEO in the Ministry of National Security, Colonel (Ret’d) George Lovell, reminded them that since they are now moving to the “real world of soldiering”, they must preserve the BDF tradition of being professional in their duties wherever they are called to perform them.

Brigadier General Jones explained that the new soldiers will be deployed countrywide, including the Cayo and Orange Walk Districts, and at the base in Price Barracks, but mainly to Punta Gorda to go on operational duties and do patrols along the Belizean border with Guatemala.

Nevertheless, Jones also mentioned that there has been some modification to the training techniques of the BDF.

“What we’ve noticed recently is that for some reason, soldiers are weaker than before. We try to ensure that they get the proper rest, the proper diet, so that they can adapt to the challenges of the force. But what we’ve added to training most recently is in regards to human rights training, and more training in regards to law of armed conflict, because we’ve had a number of incidents along the border where our soldiers have been in shooting incidents with Guatemalan peasants, and the Guatemalans have always claimed that we are not abiding by human rights law, so we’ve incorporated that a lot more in training…we’ve added an entire week so that when the soldiers are operating along the border, they know how to treat prisoners, and they know how to treat them humanely and get them out of the jungle back to the civilian world so that the police and prosecution can take their roles”, he told us.

Four recruits received special honors for exceptional performance during recruit training: Daniel Pou, who was acknowledged with the Champion Field Craft honor; Marvin Ical, who was named the top performer in physical training; Benito Itch, who was Champion Shot; and the overall top Champion Recruit was Angelo Wright, who spoke to us about how he was able to achieve such distinction.

He said, “I feel very great. [It requires] a lot of hard work and dedication, and a lot of effort, but it all starts with intensive physical training. It is the first three weeks that are very hard. It’s hard work, a lot of stress, but you’ve got to be strong not only physically, but mentally.”

After the ceremony, there was a mock battle display by the recruits in which they demonstrated, in a highly sophisticated operation complete with explosions and gunfire, the process behind securing an area in the event of a spontaneous terrorist attack.

The recruitment process began on April 6 and ended on June 6; however, the BDF, in its ongoing effort to boost its contingents, will hold entrance examinations for Recruit Intake 59 as early as tomorrow, Saturday, August 9.

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