President David Granger: Chief of Staff, Brigadier Mark Phillips; Finance Secretary Dr. [Hector] Butts; Mr. Saul from the Ministry of Finance; Senior Officers and Commanders of the Guyana Defence Force; Officers; Soldiers:
I am very happy to be here this morning to join the Chief of Staff in congratulating you on a successful Exercise Home Guard.
The members of the Defence Board join me in expressing their thanks for the hard work that you have been doing, the training that you have been doing and the results that you have obtained during this exercise.
We were with you last year in Bartica and we wish to come every year to see your annual training exercises. Just like the athletes who go to Rio in Brazil, you cannot achieve high standards without training and in the army, you have to train over and over again in order to achieve and maintain its high standards.
Soldiers, the Guyana Defence Force’s mandate is to protect the citizens of this country; to defend the territorial integrity of this country. The Force, if it is to achieve its mission of mastering the art of war, must train and in Guyana we must train in a diverse landscape. Many of you have grown up on the low, flat coastland; it’s very different from where you are now, this undulating savannahs. We also have wetlands behind the coastal zone, riverine areas, there are forests; we have mountainous areas.
You have to learn to operate in all of these areas; not only the coast but also the savannahs, the wetlands, the mountainous areas, the forested areas and I am very happy that Home Guard has done just that; moved you into different terrains, different landscapes so that you can master all of the different ecological zones in this great country.
Your mandate in the Guyana Defence Force demands a high quality of leadership from your officers, warrant officers and other commissioned officers, from every soldier, from every unit. You have to have the ability to operate anywhere in Guyana, by day or by night, whether the sun is shining or the rain is falling.
Over the last fifty years the Guyana Defence Force has been able to train its troops in the art of defence and this area – the Tacama Training Area which is the home of the Colonel John Clarke Military School, is our main training area and it was opened over sixty years ago and the original name was Harewood Camp in honour of Lieutenant Colonel Ernest Harewood, who was the first Commanding Officer of the British Guyana Volunteer Force.
In fact the first time I came here myself was in 1960, before the Chief of Staff was born, and now we have a much improved environment. When I came here there was no concrete, we slept in hammocks and the earth was our floor and of course who would forget those dessert roses. They were there sixty years ago, I’m sure they are still there now.
But this training area is important to Guyana. It is bigger than many islands in the Caribbean; it’s over 350 square kilometres and it has been used for generations to train our officers and soldiers. British troops who came into this country between 1953 and 1966 came here to train so it is possible that you can achieve very high standards in this same training area.
Home Guard is very important to us; it is an operation, it is an exercise authorised by the Guyana Defence Board. Its aims are to instruct you in your current tactical doctrine so that from year to year you can see if there are any mistakes and whether any improvements need to be made.
It is also necessary to inculcate the values of duty and discipline and I hope the Chief of Staff has given each one of you this little green book called “Values and Standards of the Guyana Defence Force. Never leave home without one. It is your Bible and this Exercise Home Guard gives you the opportunity to reflect and to practice the values and standards of the Guyana Defence Force.
Your sense of duty to your unit and to each other and to your country and your sense of discipline undergoing the hardships of living in the open for several days at a time, so when the need arises you will be fully prepared.
And finally, Exercise Home Guard allows the commanders of the corps of the various units to improve their plan so that next year you can take a step forward and not remain where you were in 2015 or 2014; but like in every other field defence is competitive and you have to keep abreast with the likely aggressors who would like to come into our territory and seize this country.
So this is one of our finest training areas for our airborne troops who are not on parade today; I expect when I come to Home Guard 2017 I will see them dropping from the sky.
The artillery you saw here, the infantry which many of you represent: engineers, the Coast Guard and the other supporting arms, the logistical services and the medical services, but Home Guard must be expanded to include all arms of the Force, so that it must take not one or two days, not even one or two weeks, but a whole month at a time.
Exercise Home Guard is important, it ensures that the Force is tactically trained and adequately equipped to defend this country should the need arise and just like an athlete without training, you won’t discover your weaknesses, your disabilities and your inefficiencies and it is by training that is, that we could make sure that the Force is improved. But beyond that, Exercise Home Guard is a re-affirmation, a reassurance to the Guyana Defence Board that you are properly commanded and properly equipped.
And today, we have with us members of the Defence Board, the Prime Minister himself; Vice President Carl Greenidge; Minister of State and representatives of the Ministry of Finance, who are all members of the Defence Board.
Exercise Home Guard, through the training that you have received, and the tactical prowess that you have displayed so convincingly and so competently, are sources of comfort to our citizens.
I am confident that the Guyanese population could rest assured knowing that the Guyana Defence Force is trained and is watching over them.
Once again, allow me to congratulate the Chief of Staff and the officers who participated in Exercise Home Guard; we are proud of you.
May God bless you all!