Leadership and stewardship

The suppression of the Rupununi Rebellion and the defence of the New River Zone fifty years ago in 1969 exemplified the Guyana Defence Force’s military proficiency.  Today, we celebrate the Force’s operational capabilities which were based on supreme courage, superior organisation and superb training. 

Guyana’s military history recounts that rebels seized control of the Rupununi Region – an area larger than the Republic of Costa Rica.  It was in an attempt to secede from Guyana and establish an independent republic in January 1969. A Guyana Defence Force task force launched an operation to neutralise rebel positions in the north and south savannahs and restore central government authority throughout the Region. 

The Force was obliged to launch a lightning strike seven months later in August 1969 against foreign intruders who attempted to seize the New River Zone – an integral part of Guyana’s territory that encompasses 15,540 km2 – an area that is larger than Puerto Rico. The Force again sprang into action successfully expelling the foreigners thereby ensuring the sovereignty of our Government over its territory.

Guyana remains a unitary and indivisible state because of the courage, competence and commitment of the Guyana Defence Force in these operations. These operations involved intelligent planning, intense training and innovative tactics.  We pay tribute, today, to the leadership of those who suppressed the Rupununi Rebellion and defended the New River Zone – 50 years ago. 

These operations demonstrated the Defence Force’s ability to respond to the threats of rebellion and territorial incursion. Their successes vindicated the efforts exerted, at the time, on developing a well-trained and highly-talented corps of officers and soldiers. 

Training is the foundation of a professional and proficient Force.  It is essential for ensuring the success of military missions; for enhancing operational effectiveness and for developing physical endurance. 

Training is fundamental to military service and that is why your military service begins with a training course here at the Colonel Ulric Pilgrim Officer Cadet School.  Should training be neglected, standards would fall, troops’ morale would decline and deviant behaviour would corrupt the Force’s members and corrode the competence of the Force. 

The Guyana Defence Force is building on its traditions and techniques of training in our local terrain – in our grasslands, in our highlands, in rainforests, in our wetlands and in our waterways. The GDF is instilling, also, the values of duty, discipline, identity, integrity and loyalty befitting officers and soldiers:

– Duty obliges officers to display dedication in the performance of their functions;   

– Discipline is the primary means of maintaining organisational cohesiveness;

– Identity determines how officers view their comrades, their corps and their country; 

– Integrity demands honesty in officers’ relations with their superiors and subordinates; and

– Loyalty binds officers to the service of their country. 

The Guyana Defence Force started local training of officer cadets 50 years ago in 1969 and established the Colonel Ulric Pilgrim Officer Cadet School (CUPOCS) in September 1981. Guyana has welcomed cadets from the Caribbean states of Antigua and Barbuda, from Barbados, from Belize and St Kitts-Nevis over the past five decades.

The Standard Officers’ Course (SOC) aims at inculcating the Force’s values and standards in cadets and to develop their power of command and leadership and their service to the country. The SOC has been improved continuously and now includes an enhanced academic programme and intensified jungle, paratrooper and equitation training.

The Reserve Officers’ Course has been reintroduced after a hiatus of a decade.  Members of the Guyana People’s Militia are active and receiving training in all ten administrative regions so that they could respond effectively to the need for assistance, including in the disaster relief. 

The technical corps are being improved. The acquisition of light reconnaissance aircraft and inshore patrol vessels have augmented the capabilities of the Air Corps and Coast Guard, respectively. The Intelligence Corps and Signal Corps are being reformed to improve intelligence, surveillance and communications. The Engineer Corps is being recapitalised and has received training while working along the Brazilian Army in the drilling of wells in the Rupununi. 

Defence cooperation is being pursued with a number of friendly countries and is unlocking training opportunities for all ranks. The rewards of these investments and partnerships are evident – the Force is improving its capacity to deter aggression, defend national sovereignty and ensure a safe, secure and strong state. 

The Defence Force now has greater national reach and responsiveness.  Operation Armadillo is aimed at protecting our frontier communities. Investors, on land and in our maritime zone, can be assured that the Force will employ every means at its disposal to protect their investments. Citizens can repose greater confidence in their Defence Force. 

The Force must continuously and consistently train persons to assume leadership roles.  The Force, through its training programmes, must produce men and women who embody its core values.

I congratulate you, the Force’s newest Officers.  I am pleased to grant to you — the successful graduates of the Standard Officers’ Course No. 50 and the Reserve Officers’ Course No. 16 — the Instruments of Commission appointing you as officers of the Guyana Defence Force in accordance the Defence Act.

The conferral of the Instruments of Commission is a rite of passage signaling that each of you, singularly, is now an officer of the state. Your commissions are not certificates merely to mark the successful completion of a training course.  They constitute the lawful licence for you to exercise authority as officers of the Republic.  

An officer’s Commission demands trust, loyalty and good conduct. It requires each officer to exercise dutiful diligence and discipline and to demonstrate obedience to his or her superiors.

Officers are challenged to uphold the motto of the Colonel Ulric Pilgrim Officer Cadet School – “I serve Guyana.” Officers are required, by their conduct to exemplify the School’s maxims – Courage, Discipline, Honesty, Loyalty, Steadfastness and Worth.

I charge you with the stewardship of the Force. I urge you to be as courageous, competent and committed as those who, fifty years ago, boldly defended our motherland.


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