BDF Gets New Commander
Today, command of the BDF was handed over from General Dario Tapia to the General David Jones.
It was an elaborate ceremony in which dignitaries and members of the high command all the security forces who collaborate with the BDF, along with other distinguished guests witnessed General Jones' ceremonial installment.
After the 2 hour event, 7News spoke with the Minister of National Security, and the new commander, and both men underscored what the change meant to the direction of the BDF.
Here's how they described it:
Hon. John Saldivar
"It was a very impressive ceremony, a very important and symbolic ceremony as we see the retiring of general Tapia and the assuming of command of General Jones. A very important time in our country's history, it is timing that we are getting new blood, new direction for the BDF also."
"Sir, tell us what's your impression of the outgoing commander's performance for the 4 years that he has lead the Belize Defence Force?"
Hon. John Saldivar
"In the one year that I have been associated with him, I've been very impressed. I've also been very impressed with his leadership of the BDF but also with the BDF in general - the level of discipline and commitment that I see in our soldiers."
"In terms of our new commander, do you think he fits the bill? Do you think he is up to the task of ruling this prestigious organization?"
Hon. John Saldivar
"I believe the BDF is rooted in tradition and it has been expected for some time that General Jones now would assume and so it has been something expected by the Force; by the members of the Force and we expect great things from him. He recently came back from a course in London in which he excelled and we expect great leadership changes from him."
David Jones, BDF Commander
"It's a very special feeling. It's something that I've been looking forward to from a young age because I've work at the lowest level and now I am at the top, I have a lot of ideas and now I have the authority and permission to carry them forward what I would like to see the direction of the Force goes. We are doing well but there is a lot of room for improvement and I am at the position where I can make those improvements now. 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. There is a lot of evidence that there is more narco-trafficking happening along there and now we need to work closer with our regional partners particularly Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. The US Army is working close with us, the Canadians are working with us and we are just cooperating more because there is a lot more need for intelligence gathering and there is a lot more need for capacity building and getting the BDF ready. We have a lot ahead of us, there is a lot of challenges ahead but we are ready and poised to meet those challenges."
"The training continues. We expect to have another recruit intake this year because as the people get older in their service, people retire, so we expect to have another intake this year. I regards to the training, there is a shift on some of the focus because we've been working a lot on the streets with the police and some of the law enforcement duties is being taught now to our recruits in training and especially human rights laws because we encounter a lot of civilians along the border - we encounter Guatemalans and other nationals along the border, so human rights laws is being taught in our training so that when the recruits finished from training they have the tools and the ability to work with these different challenges which is different from how the BDF was actually formed."
Brigadier General Tapia assumed command of the BDF over 4 years ago. The 41 year old Jones is a 22 year veteran of the BDF. He gained public renown as an explosives and demolition expert - but has received extensive leadership training, culminating in a Master of Arts Degree in International Security and Strategy. He has trained at the Royal College of Defence Studies in the UK 2012 and the Command and General Staff College in the USA - among many other courses.