General Jones assumes Command of BDF Print E-mail
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Written by Shane D. Williams   
Thursday, 07 February 2013 00:00

MinisterOn Friday, February 1st, military commanders from numerous countries assembled at Price Barracks for the change in command of the Belize Defense Force. After four years as Commandant of the BDF, Brigadier General Dario Tapio transferred leadership of the force to 22-year veteran, David Jones. Jones became familiar to the public in recent years for his work as an explosives expert dealing with grenade attacks or discoveries. However, he has long been held in high regard by soldiers of the BDF for his communicating and organizational skills. Jones will be responsible to lead the force through a time of transformation.

After congratulating Brigadier General Jones for his assumption of command and thanking General Tapia for his years of extraordinary service, Minister of National Security, Hon. John Saldivar, said, “As we go forward, the role of the force will have to be reviewed.” Saldivar said that in 35 years there has been a gradual transformation of the force from simply a combat unit to an operations based organization with multiple responsibilities. Because of that, the man power of the force has been stretched extremely thin. In recent years, the force has had to provide soldiers to aid in domestic security due to the increase in crime and gang violence. They were instrumental in the establishment of a new correctional facility located at Mountain Pine Ridge. Saldivar commended the force for being able to provide such support while continuing to effectively fulfill its “primary objective of defending and safeguarding the territorial integrity of Belize”.

Brigadier General Jones already understands that he is responsible to lead a much more complex force. It is likely that more will be asked of the BDF as the Ministry of National Security develops new strategies to combat crime. Saldivar said, “The future of the BDF cannot be separated from that of the general social condition of the country.” Jones said, “There is already a shift on some of the focus in training because we've been working a lot on the streets with police; therefore, some of the law enforcement duties are now being taught to our recruits.” The force also faces frequent confrontations with civilians near the border. Jones said, “Our recruits are also being thought human rights law because we encounter a lot of civilians along the border and that is a responsibility different from why the BDF was formed.”

While urban violence and border intrusions are the most visible challenges faced by the Belize Defense Force, Jones said that “the biggest challenge now is the scourge that we are seeing surfacing along the border with narco-trafficking, particularly close to the Mexican border with Guatemala”. Jones said the force will have to improve on intelligence gathering in order to decrease trafficking of narcotics through Belize. He said, “The US Army is working close with us; the Canadians are working with us but we need to work closer with our regional partners particularly Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.” Saldivar said that soldiers will be deployed to a new conservation post along the Western Border and a new operations post along the northern border for quicker response to illicit activities.

The change of command festivities were held simultaneously with the celebration of the force’s 35th anniversary which saw the passing out of Recruit Intake 56. Minister Saldivar challenged the recruits of intake 56 to “continue the BDF tradition of serving with honour, courage, pride and determination”. He also expressed a “heart felt thank you to the spouses and families of BDF soldiers for their selfless sacrifice to the nation”.