By RICARDO WELLS
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE Royal Bahamas Defence Force welcomed its largest batch of recruits at a passing out parade at the Coral Harbour base on Friday.
The all-male class of 108 recruits marked the largest in the 35-year history of the Defence Force
Minister of National Security Bernard Nottage said the size of the new class was engineered by the government to meet their primary target of 2,000 active, serving marines.
“This grouping of 108 new members is important to being able to have the human resources to deal with the challenges that we are faced with today,” said the Bain and Grants Town MP.
“It has been very necessary for us to expand the fleet of vessels that we have to decentralise our force throughout the Bahama islands to guard against things like gun smuggling, drug smuggling, trafficking of persons,” he added.
Mr Nottage explained that due to the RBDF’s concentration on protecting the country’s borders and associated crimes, a high demand will be placed on personnel in the coming years.
According to State Minister of National Security, Keith Bell the Sandy Bottom project and the $232m investment derived from it for the RBDF will allow for the upgrades and establishment bases and the acquisition of nine boats for the marine corps.
“We will need a significant amount of personnel to man these new vessels, to man these new bases,” Mr Bell said. “What you saw here today is just the beginning of the government’s drive to not only make sure that we meet those numbers, that we meet the demands of protecting our borders, but also that we carry out our mandate as embodied in our charter of governance.
“The Defence Force is mandated to be the defence of our territorial sovereignty so we have to ensure that we put them in the position to do just that.”
The Sandy Bottom project represents the single largest capital investment the government has ever made in the Defence Force since its start in 1980. The project will ease the implementation of the Force’s decentralisation programme over the next two years.
The latest recruitment entry marked not only the largest in the marine corp’s history but also the first class overseen by a female Commander. Training officer Cheryl D Bethel is the first female Commander in RBDF history.
Cmdr Bethel insisted that her advancement in rank signified that accomplishment for women is in the realm of possibilities in a “man’s world”. She added that the joys of being the first female Commander were endless and that the joys of overseeing such a “highly skilled, intelligent, talented class” made the job even better.
The best recruit award went to Douglas Palacious; the Training Officer’s Award (Academic Award) to Tiano Williams; Fitness Award to Ricardo Mason; and the most improved recruit was Wayde Anderson.
The recruits are expected to assume their new posts in the coming weeks, with many expecting deployment to front line service by RBDF commanders.