By Aaron Humes: Belize’s national army, the Belize Defence Force, has its ranks grown by eighty to over 1,500 men and women after a full passing out ceremony took place on Friday in Price Barracks, Ladyville.
While according to Minister of National Security John Saldivar, more than one thousand 3 hundred new law enforcement personnel have been appointed since 2012 when he took office, just 427 of these are soldiers. In 2015 160 soldiers were added in two intakes. And it could have easily been more: as many as 40 prospects dropped out before Friday’s final ceremony.
Recruit training, the Minister said, is by design and intention is tough, both mentally and physically, and only the strongest will survive.
The new soldiers will be deployed to target areas; most of them will join troops established at Price Barracks, and others the southern border, which is top priority. The ones doing duty in the south will be based at Fairweather Camp in Punta Gorda town.
Champion Recruit of the sixty-first intake squad of the BDF is G. Lanza. Other awards went to the Champion Physical Fitness, Recruit F. Rodriguez; Champion Shot, Recruit A. Lopez; Champion Field Craft, Recruit I. Coc; and Best Female, Recruit S. Gonguez.
The recruits started their rigorous training in October 2015, in disciplines ranging from: marksmanship, combat, scouting and survival skills to prepare them for the demanding life of a soldier.
In related news, Ground was broken for the Forward Operating Base (FOB) at the Sarstoon River in early December.
But a few weeks ago, members of the Belize Territorial Volunteers which have been calling for the base to be built reported that they saw no work ongoing at the chosen site.
It now appears that, according to Force Commander Brigadier General David Jones and Minister of National Security John Saldivar, work on construction has been commenced and is ongoing.
Commander Jones has not been down to see the work but he is informed that it will be completed within 2 months, at which time soldiers from the special boat unit and sister service the Belize Coast Guard will be attached to work there.
Minister Saldivar said he is scheduled to visit the Sarstoon in the coming weeks to witness the ongoing works.
As for other operating base, there are plans for bases in Sebada and Caballo in the West, dependent on a road being constructed there and future ones in Consejo, Corozal, and one in Blue Creek, Orange Walk, giving the BDF tight control over what is happening along the western border, along the northern border with Mexico and along the southern border along the Sarstoon with Guatemala.
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