BATSUB closes down and gives B.D.F. a parting gift
British Forces Broadcasting Radio signed off permanently in August. It was only one component that saw the end of an era of symbolic British support to Belize. BATSUB has been either shipping off to the UK or donating much of its machinery to the Belize Defense Force (B.D.F.). On Friday, BATSUB made another sizable parting gift to the BDF. News Five’s Andrea Polanco Reports.
Andrea Polanco, Reporting
On Friday the British Army Training Support Unit made a sizeable donation as their last parting gift to the Belize Defence Force. The equipment which included trucks, trailers, fuel bowsers and boxes of outdoor camping gears was officially handed over by British High Commissioner, Pat Ashworth:
Pat Ashworth, British High Commissioner
“This is really the last part of the equipment that BATSBUB has as it draws down, these are excess. So we have given these Bedford Fourton trucks plus some bowsers, petrol bowsers and some of these trailers as you can see, in order to assist the B.D.F. to go out into the jungle, in Pine Ridge those kinds of things as well. Super vehicles, these are exactly the kind of things needed in a place like Belize.”
“Okay. What’s the value of the donation, more or less?”
“Well today is around two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.”
B.D.F. Commander, Dario Tapia says the donation is a significant boost, that will reinforce the services of the military.
Brigadier General Dario Tapia, Commander B.D.F.
“Well certainly the donation given to us by the British Government is certainly timely. Too often we hear that we don’t have enough vehicles to move our troops or going in those remote areas that the vehicles we have are inadequate so certainly will help us in able to get to where want to get with these 4-ton. As I mentioned earlier, the 4-ton are very good trucks we have been using them since the force was formed. I as a soldier, and even as an officer, when I got deployed, those can take you anywhere, anywhere you want to get in the country because they are good, they are strong vehicles and certainly have proven its worth for the Belize Defence Force.”
“You also mentioned earlier, the significance of the fuel bowsers as well?”
“Yes. I am glad that we have managed to get some fuel bowsers, because too often especially when in times of disaster and you deploy troops they go with a full tank and then we don’t have a proper container to take fuel so that we can sustain operations so those bowsers certainly will become handy. I know that Orange Walk Camp currently does not have its own fuel dispensing mechanism so perhaps one of these trucks can end up in Orange Walk so that the vehicles don’t have to come all the way here to Price Barracks to get fuel.”
BATSUB Commander Robert Lindsay leaves Belize on November 14th; but some programs will remain intact:
Lt. Col. Robert Lindsay, Commander, BATSUB
“Absolutely, clearly seeing the significant reduction in the size of BATSUB over the last year and also the amount of training that we’re doing. But we still are training here and we have a small contingent remaining here. Say, for example, next year we’re expecting two companies to come and train here in February and later in the year. And there may well be a few other elements coming here as well.”
“And with regards to your facilities, will this still be made available to the B.D.F?”
Lt. Col. Robert Lindsay
“I hope so. We, for example, are currently discussing with them as to how they might be able to use our swimming pool in the future. Although BATSUB is going to keep the facilities here for potential further use by British Forces in due course, we certainly work very closely with the BDF and anything we can share with them we are.”
So, what’s the future of BATSUB in Belize? Well, Ashworth says hopefully by the end of 2012 BATSUB’s status will be clarified:
“What we hope is that decisions can be taken within a year maybe towards the end of next year. As we draw down our forces from Afghanistan, then there are opportunities there fro people to come and train in Belize. You’ll recall one of the reasons why the draw down took place, was all the training that the British Army is doing at the moment is specifically for Afghanistan, most of it taking place in Kenya. So I hope that by the end of next year we can come to some decision, which I am confident will be the right one.”
In summing up his perspective on the work with the B.D.F, having served alongside them for over two years, Lindsay believes the threats to Belize have evolved, and that the B.D.F has also grown to safeguard against those threats:
Lt. Col. Robert Lindsay
“It is quite clear that the main threat to Belize has changed over the last few decades and the main concern now is xateros, drug smugglers, illegal loggers, encroachment, those sorts of things, as opposed to territorial threat or that would be my reading of the situation. And therefore, the focus that the B.D.F. has on working closely with the police, on working closely with the Coast Guard, on patrolling along the border, all of those sorts of things are really key to the maintenance of the security and stability within Belize. I think the B.D.F. are doing a good job and I would commend them for it.”
The week countdown to the withdrawal will not include six to eight British Service Men who will remain in the country. Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.