In 2015, the Commander for the Belize Defense Force spoke of military tourism and how he and his unit plan to make it an avenue to assist the local economy. What it entails is the provision of jungle training to foreign military units on Belize’s terrain. Yesterday we asked Commander David Jones for a progress report on his plans to push military tourism.
“We’ve got a jungle warfare instructor course that has been running for over 20 years now but I wanted to reach a stage of a much higher level where we have international visitors coming in specifically to do jungle training here in Belize and we are moving in that direction. For the first time we’ve had training done for the United States Special Forces we are training members of the US Special Forces, we are training members of the US Marines on our jungle courses. We’re training the Germans now on our jungle courses so we are going to open the school even bigger come next year because one of the biggest factors of having this school well established is having helicopter support. So our pilots are being trained now and they are going to complete their training on the two helicopters we’ve got that is coming along fine; our pilots are now flying their helicopters on their own and they’re learning different techniques of how to operate them in different terrain in particular jungle terrain and by June next year our pilots will be fully functional in operating these helicopters for us and then from then onwards we can have a larger international base of guests to come in and do jungle training in Belize and that is where the military tourism can come in because we are selling Belize as a destination for jungle training and there are a lot of militaries around the world including the Dutch the Norwegians who are now showing interest to come to Belize to do jungle training so we are going to be pretty busy after the school is established.”
Currently there are several agencies in-country undergoing jungle training as was explained by Commander Jones.
“We have the US Marines who we’ve established a partnership with as well which is probably about 15 of them at the moment. They are doing continuous training with members of the regular force for the BDF. That partnership has been going strong for over two years now and that is going to be continuous because we’ve developed a 5 year plan with the United States Marines last year where we’ve programmed training that they will be doing jointly with us for the next five years, so we’re going to have them for some years to come. Apart from them we have the Louisiana National Guard who is here with us for this parade and ceremony and we’ve also got the other foreign military that we have here. The British Army has come back on a larger scale now and they’re doing jungle training in Belize at the moment. It’s probably about 400 of them doing training in Belize now and we are providing support to that training. We also have Canadian Special Forces who just arrived over a week ago for a huge exercise that is going to be culminating this month where we will have foreign dignitaries coming to view the exercise. It’s the first time this exercise is occurring in Belize, it’s called Tropical Dagger and it’s a Special Forces exercise. We have special forces from Canada who are here and we have the special forces from Jamaica who are about to arrive as well and the Belize Special Forces will be doing training. So the three Special Forces from within this region will be doing training in Belize together practicing their skills and displaying their skills to VIPs that will be coming to Belize.”
The Belize Defense Force presently enjoys cordial relations with counterparts from various countries around the world including the United States. Yesterday, an official celebration was had with the Louisiana National Guard in celebration of their 20th year of friendship.