4 helicopter pilots and 13 maintenance personnel for BDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 06 July 2017 00:00

For the first time in the history of the Belize Defense Force, they have 4 trained pilots and 13 trained technicians who are able to flying the helicopters which were generously donated by the Taiwanese Government. The BDF now has 3 helicopters that they can deploy for air support, and they also have trained Belizean soldiers who are able to operate and maintain these choppers.

The 4 new pilots are Captains Adrian Ramirez, Radford Baizar, Kenroy Smith, and Mark Babalola. The engineer technicians who will keep the helicopters in perfect working condition are Captain Derricia Castillo, Warrant Officer Class 2 Evaristo Cho, Staff Sergeant Emmanuel Cob, Sergeant Moises Tosh, and Corporals David Moh, Kieron Ciego, Kevon Gongora, Yassir Mendez, Miguel Mendez, and Steven Reymundo.

Those 17 soldiers have been in a year-long training to learn how a rotorcraft operates, and how to fly them with a high level of proficiency. It was paid for by the Government of Belize at a total cost of just under 3 million dollars. The BDF worked with their long-time partners at Belize Aviation to get American specialists such as John Fullerton, an experienced maintenance instructor, and William Malo, an instructor pilot who has experience with training military units all over the world.

William Malo, who has taught helicopter flying to troops in places such as Iraq, Pakistan, and Thailand, among others, said, “Over the year, we’ve gone through everything on this aircraft, all the systems, all the safety systems, how to fly the aircraft, crew coordination, all the emergency procedures. And then, the last part of the training was actually flying on the border to all those outposts, and letting them fly in there, and take troops in there. I’m really confident in their abilities…They are a little bit more advanced than intermediate, because this training process is day, by day, by day. You are constantly learning.”

Among the first cohort of trained pilots, the BDF also has its first instructor. That pilot will take on the task for preparing the rest of the soldiers who sign up to be a part of the BDF Airwing. He is Captain Radford Baizar, who only just graduated, and apart from flying the helicopters, he has been schooled on how to train incoming pilots.

BDF Commander Brigadier David Jones told the press that he thinks there will be many soldiers who will now want to sign up for the BDF Airwing. He added that he was very pleased that the BDF was able to outfit their own helicopter air-support during the time that he is the head of the military.

The 2 UH-1H Helicopters, which the BDF now owns and is able to operate, were donated by the Taiwanese Government back in April of 2016. The third helicopter in the BDF’s possession is the Bell 407 chopper which was found abandoned in Northern Belize, which the Government has legally confiscated.

They are possibly the BDF’s most prized assets not only financially, but because it fills a vacuum created when BATSUB (the British Arm Training and Support Unit Belize) downscaled their operations in 2011. BATSUB provided the BDF the much needed air-support to move troops in an out of the jungle as necessary. After 2011, whenever the military needed an airlift, they had to hire private companies, at great costs to the Government of Belize.

The BDF Commander says that the Taiwanese Government has committed to assisting them with parts for the helicopters whenever they are needed, and if there are any major repairs needed, a maintenance contract will allow for the helicopters to receive any specialized servicing.