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Today the Belize Coast Guard celebrated its eighth anniversary in grand style in San Pedro, inaugurating its forward operating base and also passing out thirty new recruits. The facility, which will be known as the Northern Forward Operating Base, features a fully equipped command center, accommodations for sixteen personnel, a fuelling station and a docking berth for two large vessels. Coast Guard personnel permanently stationed in San Pedro can now be deployed instantly on operations from the Belize-Mexico border to the northern limits of Belize's territorial seas. The structure is built to withstand a Category Five hurricane and was funded by the US Southern Command to the tune of one point five million US dollars. A fitting feature of today's celebration was the passing out of thirty new Coast Guard recruits. These successful members of a twelve week intensive recruiting session have brought the numbers of the Coast Guard to one hundred and eighty strong. Among the invited guests were the Governor General of Belize Sir Colville Young, who inspected the guard of honor and US Deputy Chief of Mission in Belize, Margaret Hawthorne.

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8th Anniversary of the Belize Coast Guard (6 photos)
Today marks the 8th Anniversary of The Belize Coast Guard. To celebrate, they inaugurated their new San Pedro Coast Guard Station Building, and graduated their 4th recruit intake trainees. Congratulations Belize Coast Guard!

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New Coast Guard Station in San Pedro

At today's Coast Guard graduation ceremonies, Station San Pedro was inaugurated. The base came as a result of partnership between Belize and the U.S. South Command. CEO in the Ministry of National Security Ret'd Lt. Col. George Lovell and Charg� d' Affairs at the US Embassy, Margaret Hawthorne highlighted the importance of the forward operating base.


The building, I was told, was built at a cost of US 1.5 million dollars and can withstand winds that are associated with a category five hurricane or storm. The building can accommodate 16 personnel. It has a diesel generator and a 5000 gallon fuel storage capacity for both gas and diesel. There is also docking facilities as we see out here, that two ready vessels strategically located to enforce its mandate of law enforcement and military operations can be berthed. The area of operation for this station extends way beyond San Pedro, Ambergris and as far north as the Chetumal Bay and our northern border on the Rio Hondo with Mexico. It also goes all the way south to the area of Caye Caulker. The unit that will be operating from this station will be responsible for a host of missions, ranging from drug and weapon trafficking, illegal migrants, contraband, fisheries protection, environmental protection, boat safety and disaster relief operations."


"This forward operational base here represents the combination of years of teamwork and cooperation between the Belize Coast Guard, the Government of Belize and the US Southern Command. The FOB will provide a security presence in the transit zone for narcotic trafficking and provide maritime safety, search and rescue, law enforcement and environmental protection capabilities in Belize's most north easterly sovereign territory. The United States and regional leaders believe that this investment will yield major long term security progress in our region and will enable the Government of Belize to address transnational threats of terrorism and illicit trafficking of humans, weapons, drugs and merchandise."


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Belize Coast Guard inaugurates new facility and graduates 30
The Belize Coast Guard held a very special ceremony on Friday November 29th to mark their 8th anniversary. The event, which was threefold, was held one and a half miles southwest of San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye at the newly inaugurated facility. It entailed the Belize Coast Guard's 8th anniversary celebration, the graduation of the 4th intake and inauguration of the Belize Coast Guard northern Forward Operational Base (FOB) on the leeward side of the island. According to Chief Executive Officer in Belize's Ministry of National Security Lieutenant Cornel (Retired) George Lovell, since its establishment on November 28, 2005 said that the Belize Coast Guard has accomplished yet another milestone as it moves its mid-term goals. Lovell explained that having over 14,000 square miles of waters to patrol, the Belize Coast Guard can boast that they have Belize's water under control. "The Coast service is an essential element of our national security. The protection of Belize's maritime spaces and commerce from threats, both foreign and domestic, through the provision of maritime security, safety and protection of our people, industries and natural resources has been, and continues to be, the Belize Coast Guard's main goals."

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Belize Coast Guard Strengthens Presence in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye
The Belize Coast Guard is emerging with a stronger presence in the country with the enrollment of more recruits and expansion of its operations. This past week the military organization celebrated its 8th anniversary in grand style in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye. On Friday, November 29, 2013, the Belize Coast Guard (as part of their 8th anniversary celebrations) inaugurated its northern Forward Operating Base on Ambergris Caye and also held the graduation ceremony of its fourth intake of 30 new recruits. The facility which is located on the leeward side of the island at the end of the canal entrance to the San Pedro Marina features a fully equipped command center, accommodations for 16 personnel, a fuelling station and a docking berth for two large vessels. Coast Guard personnel who will be permanently stationed in San Pedro can now be deployed instantly on operations from the Belize-Mexico border to the northern limits of Belize's territorial seas. The structure is built to withstand a category five hurricane and was funded by the US Southern Command to the cost of $1.5Mil US.

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On Friday, November 29, The Belize Coast Guard hosted its 4th Graduation of 30, its 8th Anniversary and the Inauguration of the San Pedro Station.

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Coast Guard Making Major Moves On San Pedro With 1.5 M USD New Building

On Friday, the Coast Guard inaugurated a new forward operating base on San Pedro. The event was timed to coincide with the Coast Guard's eight anniversary and the passing out of another intake of recruits, its fourth. Like everything else Coast Guard, form its right handed salutes to its Seals, the event was draped in red white and blue, as are the plans for what appears to be a very bright, very resource rich future:..

Admiral John Borland - Commandant, Belize Coast Guard
"This station will offer us a platform from which we can launched continuous and sustain operations in an area which remains very sensitive as its known as an area for drug trafficking and other forms of organize crime."

Margaret Hawthorne - Charge D' Affairs, US Embassy
"The program was established in order to build the capacity of our partner nations with the main purpose of enhancing their sovereignty and its design to lay the foundation for a regional security network."

George Lovell - CEO, Ministry of National Security
"And projects have also been approved for the construction of sector south in Big Creek and that is expected to start in 2014. We also expect to get some weapon systems and both training for our professional development of our officers and enlisted personnel. Communication and surveillance equipment and other specialized equipment to support the maritime operations. By the end of 2015, the strategy called for an increased in strength to 365 personnel. We will increase from where we currently are to about 20 of these type of boats that you see out here today."

Admiral John Borland - Commandant, Belize Coast Guard
"Our 30 new recruits, the day really belong to you and your families. You are now fully fledged members of the Coast Guard. You are now a part of a small but elite force. Small, but packing a potent punch. You withstood the rigors of 12 weeks of insanity and you should be proud of your achievement."

George Lovell - CEO, Ministry of National Security
"Treat those that you come in contact with, with fair and with respect. Remember this because although you may not know the person you are dealing with, they may be family members, friends, neighbors of the community that you serve and live in and who knows, even prime ministers."

The base cost 1.5 million US Dollars to construct.

The land for this new base is on the leeward side of the island and can withstand a category five storm. The coast Guard has 14000 square miles to patrol.

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The Belize Coast Guard received added reinforcements today in the form of 30 new recruits. The new Coast Guard officers - known as Recruit Intake #4 - were officially inducted this morning at a graduation and inauguration ceremony that was held in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye.

Amandala was there to witness the 3-tier event, which encompassed the acknowledgement of the Coast Guard's 8th anniversary; the graduation of Recruit Intake #4; and the inauguration ceremony for a brand new Coast Guard forward operating base, 1 � miles southwest of the island - dubbed as "Station San Pedro."

The surveillance post, which is built to withstand hurricane force winds, is strategically located on a plot of land that is situated on the leeward side of the island town - at the entrance of the marina channel of 'La Isla Bonita.' The land - which was initially acquired from the Belize Port Authority - also accommodates a diesel generator and two full-sized fuel tanks that have the capacity to hold 5,000 gallons of diesel and gasoline to service the Coast Guard's fleet of Boston Whaler boats which will be attached to the station; while the structure is capable of housing up to 16 Coast Guard personnel at any given time. It also includes a command center with state-of-the-art equipment and tracking devices, and a docking facility for up to two large vessels. The specified area of operation for the new base extends way beyond Ambergris Caye - as far north as Chetumal Bay, and as far south as Caye Caulker.

The 16 officers who are posted at the station will be engaged in maritime and intelligence operations, and will be on the lookout for contrabandists, drug traffickers, and others who conduct illicit activities in Belize's waters.

The new station - which was constructed at a cost of about US$1.5 million dollars - was made possible courtesy of the United States Southern Command, which has made various notable donations to Belize's security forces in the recent past.

Deputy Chief of Missions for the United States Embassy, Margaret Hawthorne, was on hand for the ceremony, and in her address to the audience, she commented on the Coast Guard's new building and its purpose: "This Forward Operational Base (FOB) here represents the culmination of years of teamwork and collaboration between the Belize Coast Guard, the Government of Belize and the US Southern Command. The FOB will provide a security presence in the transit zone for narcotics trafficking, and provide maritime safety, search and rescue, law enforcement and environmental protection capabilities in Belize's most northeasterly sovereign territory. The Coast Guard continues to seek opportunities for education and training, bilateral exercises, and operations with the regional neighbors and partners in order to confront transnational threats and illicit trafficking, thereby contributing to overall regional security."

She said that the US and Belize enjoy a very strong bilateral relationship demonstrated through continued cooperation in defense and security matters, hence the base represents an important step in their commitment to realizing a safe and secure Belize.

The Commander of the Belize Coast Guard, Admiral John Borland, later remarked on the passing out of the new Coast Guard personnel and the development that the Belize Coast Guard has been able to achieve over the past 8 years. Borland told the new officers that they are now part of a "small elite force." He said, "The Coast Guard is being built on a 15-year strategy that started in 2005. This strategy - which was approved by the Coast Guard and subsequently the National Security Council - is broken into a short regional and long term plan. The strategy calls for a force that will be 365-strong by 2015 with 20 intercept vessels, 6 forward operating bases, three sectors with sufficient logistics and maintenance support to maintain our forces and assets combat ready - ready to meet any threat that might manifest itself in our area of operation, the maritime domain.

"One thing I am sure of is that quality cannot be mass-produced. Good men and women cannot be produced on a commercial scale. It requires intestinal fortitude, endurance for pain, mental and physical toughness and the ability to get back up every time after you hit the dirt. 400 people applied; 220 were invited to the recruiting drive; 80 were invited back for training and 30 of you made it. That's almost as tough as being in the SEALs."

Borland also made sure to encourage the new officers to focus on their newfound mission and the core values that they have been taught while in training.

The CEO in the Ministry of National Security, Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) George Lovell, outlined the degree of training that the recruits endured, and described the new intake as "yet another milestone of the Belize Coast Guard."

Lovell said, "They are the few, the proud, that survived out of 80 that entered the hallowed halls of the Coast Guard training company. Their training included physical fitness, swimming, drills, first aid, seamanship, law enforcement, weapons training and marksmanship.

"A typical day - just for your information - included being up at 4:00 a.m. in the morning; PT at 5:00 a.m., and fatigue which is generally getting the compound and their environs clean at 6:00 a.m. They then go and have breakfast at 7:00 a.m., followed by a hard day of training, building discipline, teamwork and learning the tools of military trade."

From the 80 individuals that started the vigorous 12 weeks of arduous mental and physical training, only 2 females and 28 males succeeded. After the ceremonies, Admiral John Borland told us why. He said: "We had a target to graduate 40 recruits annually. The training is not for anyone because it is terribly hard and the transition from a raw civilian to become a military person that absorbs the military routine is rough. You have to transform your physical body, your mental state, so it really takes a toll on one's body. Most people are out before the first week of the training. By the end of the third week of training, it gives us a clear indication as to who will survive the military training, but we do our best to retain our recruits.

"It is a very strict and rigid selection process�. As it relates to female to male recruits, yes it is disproportionate. Even if we should go by the policy for recruits in the military - females make up 15% of the military, we would not have the amount of females we want. We certainly welcome women in the Coast Guard. At one point, we had three in the squad but in the third week of the training we fell to two. However, we have a female officer waiting to be promoted to Commission Officer. She is Kaina Martinez, who represented Belize in the last Olympics."

With the amount of assistance that the US has offered to Belize's military, there has been much public discourse regarding the "Americanization" of Belize's security forces - namely the Belize Police Department, the Belize Defence Force, and the Belize Coast Guard. With that in mind, the question was put to the head of the Coast Guard, Commander John Borland.

He responded: "I wouldn't say we are being Americanized, but our doctrines have to start somewhere and develop some direction. Most of the military units in the world are based on 18th century German doctrines. What is happening between the American and Belizean military is that we share common goals and common threats as it relates to drugs and other challenges, and so we are in the fight together. The Americans are our biggest allies, no doubt about that, and there is no way the Belizean military would be able to continue to grow at the pace we are growing. Like I said, the threats are mutual and there is no intention from the US to Americanize our military."

As the Belize Coast Guard commemorated its 8th anniversary, Borland told us that he is proud to see how the Coast Guard has grown over the years, and that he is also proud of the new intakes, whom he said "constitutes a step further in the growth and development of the Belize Coast Guard." He mentioned that he is glad to see that foundations are being put in place to guarantee the longevity of the Coast Guard.

According to CEO Lovell, there are future plans in store for the Belize Coast Guard, including projects that have been approved for the southern sector, such as a new building at Hunting Caye and construction of a Southern Forward Operational Base at Big Creek, which will commence in 2014.

By 2020, the Belize Coast Guard should have six operational bases at various areas in Belize, in addition to the establishment of an air station, which is part of their long-term strategy.


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