The Belize Coast Guard officially change command this morning during an official ceremony that coincides with their fourteenth anniversary and the recruit intake. Reporter Courtney Menzies was at the ceremony and brought back the highlights.
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: On November 27th 2005 the Belize Coast Guard was established, fourteen years later a new commandant has stepped up to the plate. The BCG had a lot to celebrate today as they commemorated their anniversary including the graduation of their largest group of intakes. We begin first with Captain Elton Bennett’s promotion to Commandant of the Coast Guard, succeeding Admiral John Borland. This progress in his professional career came as no surprise to him as he said he knew fourteen years ago that he would hold this position.
Captain Elton Bennett, Commandant, Belize Coast Guard: “From the time I joined the Coast Guard we had a succession plan and that’s down to good leadership, from 2005 when we formed this we had a straight career development plan that will take you on different courses, that would give you different assignments in the Coast Guard to develop your leadership and I knew from then that I would have succeeded Admiral Borland as the Commandant so it came as no surprise. Our succession plan is very crucial to the leadership, as a matter of fact I’ve met with all my officers already and I have developed an eight year plan so each officer knows exactly where he will be along that eight year time frame, exactly what course he will be attending so this is really career development and it really is incumbent upon leadership to ensure that officers are developed and you know exactly where you’re going and when you’re going. My style is really mission command, once commanders understand what they’re supposed to do they will be able to competently execute. What I must say is that the Coast Guard is not led on personality, we have a strategy, we have vision and mission and we have a Coast Guard Act that we go by. What we don’t want to have is an organization that shifts and sways with different personalities that come to command. I am sure I’ve developed a really good relationship with our officers over time, I have been here since the Coast Guard started so all of them have gone through my hands whether it’s as a recruiting officer or through the officer selection board they all went through my hands at some stage so I believe I’m a father figure to the organization at this stage and I’m sure I will receive the support.”
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: While Captain Bennet’s style of leadership may not differ significantly from Admiral Borland he did inform us of what he hopes to accomplish moving forward.
Captain Elton Bennett, Commandant, Belize Coast Guard:“There are a few things that I want to accomplish, one is for us to improve our operational competence at sea and this will require us to explore the prosecution realm of operations. Currently the Coast Guard does not prosecute it’s cases, we hand over to a competent authority to prosecute. If we’re able to prosecute our own cases for those offenses of fisheries violations, vessel safety violations, we will be able to improve our operational competence so that is one thing that I’m looking at, the other one is strategic communication. Quite often the Coast Guard does not do it’s best at getting it’s messaging out and that’s one of the things I want to do; establish a strategic communications office in the headquarters to ensure that we’re able to manage information and especially that information with the media.”
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: Captain Bennett stated that he knows he has big shoes to fill but he has been groomed for this position and he is ready to take command. Admiral Borland gracefully passed on his proverbial baton after ten years as commander.
Admiral John Borland, Former Commandant, Belize Coast Guard: “The future of the Coast Guard belongs to my successor and his command team. A man who is equally adept, capable and competent, a man who has been my greatest ally, my friend, my brother, my mentor at times; I would trust no other person with a job as important as this and as vital to the survival of this nation. So today it is with no regret nor reservation that I relinquish command of the Belize Coast Guard into the sure and steady hands of Captain Elton Bennett. Sir, you have command.”
Courtney Menzies, Love FM News: As previously mentioned the largest intake class in history has also formally joined the ranks of the Coast Guard.
Captain Elton Bennett, Commandant, Belize Coast Guard:“Today we graduated 85 recruits and two officer cadets, they’ll join the fleet immediately. They’ll do a one year as Sea Man’s apprentice meaning they go under a senior Petty Officer and they work to develop their seaman ship because the recruit training is only three months long we don’t focus on enough seamanship so that one year of apprenticeship will really prepare them on the job training to become competent at what they do. The Coast Guard’s strategy calls for a 700 strong Coast Guard by 2020, we fell behind a bit and the plan is to try to get up to 700, we’re not going to make it by 2020 so we’re increasing our numbers. We don’t have training facilities so we tap into our resources from the BDF and from BATSUB in this case so it’s all dependent on the facilities that are available to us; in this case we train up at the British Army training grounds in Price Barracks and they had more room so we could have more recruits.”
Admiral John Borland is moving on as the chief of Staff of Defence in the Ministry of National Security.