Command and leadership

The Command of the Guyana Defence Force is vested – especially, explicitly and exclusively –under the law, in the Chief of Staff. The Defence Act [at Section 169] empowers the President to appoint an officer to command the Defence Force where it states:

The President shall appoint an officer, being a member of the Force, in whom command of the Force shall be vested and, subject to the terms of such appointment, such officer shall have command of that Force.

I have, in the exercise of the powers conferred on me by the Defence Act, appointed Brigadier Godfrey Bess to perform the functions of Chief of Staff of the Defence Force, with effect from Wednesday 1st July 2020.

The Defence Act [at Section 9 (2)] vests the Chief of Staff with operational responsibility for the Force where it states that “responsibility…for the operational use of the Force…shall be vested in the Chief of Staff subject to general or special directions of the Minister. The ‘Minister’ means Minister of Defence who, in the context of the Constitution of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, is the President of Guyana.

The Chief of Staff is a member of, and subject to, the Guyana Defence Board which, in accordance with the Defence Act [at Section 9(1)] shall be responsible “… under the general authority of the Minister for the command, discipline and administration of, and all matters relating to, the Force.

The Chief of Staff is tasked, therefore, with exercising the functions of command and the issuance of authoritative orders in respect to the operations of the Force, subject to the directives of the Defence Board and the Minister responsible for Defence.

Command is a formal military function, requiring the commander to instruct and influence his subordinates to achieve a specific mission.

The Chief of Staff is not merely the holder of the highest rank and most prestigious appointment in the Force. He is required to exercise command continuously in order to achieve the objectives of the Defence Board and directives of the Minister in order to accomplish the Force’s mission. He must communicate, coordinate and, most important collaborate with his subordinates.

The Chief of Staff has to work with the general staff – Adjutant General, Inspector General and Quartermaster General – and with his specialist staff officers and the commanding officers of line units to collect, collate and interpret information in order to make the correct decisions.

Command is the authority which the Chief of Staff exercises, lawfully, over subordinates by virtue of his high rank and unique appointment in the military service. Command includes the authority and responsibility for effectively employing the Force’s assets, and for coordinating and controlling military forces for the accomplishment of the Force’s mission.

Leadership, unlike command, cannot be mandated by law. It is an essential element in military command, however, and involves motivating the Force’s manpower to achieve success in its operations and missions.

The Chief of Staff, in this regard, is expected to possess the qualities of intelligence and prudence and to set the ‘Values and Standards’ expected of the Force and its members.

The Chief of Staff will be expected to encourage his officers and soldiers to achieve the Force’s objectives to ensure the success of its exercises, operations and missions and to improve the Force’s effectiveness.

The Chief of Staff will be expected, also, as a guardian of national defence, to provide leadership to the Force to safeguard Guyana’s airspace, secure its sea space and exercise surveillance over its airspace and land space. He is tasked with leading the Force forward to preserve the country’s patrimony, protect its territorial integrity and to promote national defence and security.

The Chief of Staff is the custodian of the Force’s ‘colours’ – the sacred symbols of solidarity and service to the nation – as will be displayed in the physical, formal handing-over ceremony later on. He is the custodian of the Force’s ‘Values and Standards’ and is now charged with ensuring that his officers’ conduct themselves with the five values of duty, discipline, identity, integrity and loyalty:

 Duty, obliging them to display dedication in the performance of their functions;
 Discipline, for maintaining organisational cohesiveness in all circumstances;
 Identity, determining how officers relate to their comrades, their corps and to the people of their country;
 Integrity, prescribing honesty in officers’ relations with their superiors and subordinates; and
 Loyalty, binding officers to the service of their country.

Leadership is a personal, moral and intellectual quality that is founded on clear and coherent concepts, rational objectives, viable measures and the availability of adequate resources which enable and encourage disparate elements of the Force – air, land, sea and services – to work together as a team.

The Chief of Staff’s task is not only to command and lead but, also less glamorously, it is to manage. Management includes the traditional textbook functions–of planning, organizing, staffing, coordinating and controlling. It involves more than handling inanimate materials; it is a process which requires motivating human resources to achieve the Force’s mission.

A military manager must determine the Force’s short-term tactical, and long-term strategic, objectives and determine the direction of its development, communicate with units, coordinate activities, control events, to collaborate with Government agencies and to work willingly to achieve its objectives. He must be clear-headed and courageous in making bold decisions and in accepting responsibility for the consequences of those decisions.
Management includes responsibility for recruitment of new entrants and the discipline, health and morale of military personnel. Management is a role performed by an officer who is appointed to command a corps, unit or department.

Management of the Defence Force, this year, will be challenging. The Chief of Staff is assuming command of the Force as Guyana celebrates the 50th anniversary of having become a Republic, the Force celebrates its 55th anniversary and the country embarks on a Decade of Development. This will be the most transformative period in our history. The country will develop over the next ten years, to become:

 a ‘petroleum state’, possessing substantial petroleum reserves in our EEZ;
 a ‘green state’, emphasizing the preservation and protection of our environment, expansion of energy generation from renewable sources and the sustainable management of our natural resources;
 a ‘digital state’, promoting increased communications integration and interconnectivity; and
 an ‘education nation’, enabling universal primary and secondary education and easier access to tertiary education.

The Decade of Development 2020-2029, which I launched on 1st January this year, will include investments aimed at the continuous retooling and strengthening of the Defence Force. Emphasis will be placed on strengthening the technical corps – Air, Engineer, Intelligence, Signals and Coast Guard – and on expanding the Militia and intensifying field training in long-range jungle operations.

The Chief of Staff is expected to build on the Force’s achievements over the past five years. It is anticipated that he will continue the progress initiated by the Guyana Defence Board and our Government in reorganising and re-equipping the Force, improving its responsiveness throughout all Ten Administrative Regions, and intensifying defence cooperation and defence diplomacy with friendly countries.

‘Officership’ is a special quality that the Chief of Staff must foster. Today’s ceremony has a two-fold purpose in this regard. First, it is to present the Instrument appointing a senior officer to perform the functions of the office of Chief of Staff and, second, to promote Colonel Godfrey Bess to the rank of Brigadier to perform those functions.

The Defence Act [at Section 13 sub-section (1)] states: “The power to grant commissions in the Force shall be vested in the President.” Such a grant of a commission is neither a ceremonial nor decorative gesture. It constitutes part of the system of authority and hierarchy within the Force and entrusts its recipients with the responsibility of preserving, protecting and safeguarding Guyana’s patrimony, political independence and territorial integrity. It is a call to service to our country.

The Defence Force’s Career Development Rules allow for continuity of command. The Rules which govern the appointment and promotion of the most senior officers reduce the influence of bias and subjectivity and foster the development of a meritocracy. It rewards experience, intelligence, performance and prudence, thereby enhancing morale and ensuring greater efficiency.

The Force must not return to the days of subjective appointments and promotions. An objective, non-partisan system of succession planning must be maintained in the interest of ensuring a professional leadership capable of fulfilling the Force’s mandate.

The Chief of Staff is guaranteed of the support of the Defence Board and the Government. He is expected to be guided by the doctrine of total national defence which impels all the elements of national power – diplomatic, economic, military, political, social and technological – will be deployed in support of national defence.

The Chief of Staff must continue to restore public confidence in the Force. He must be assured of the confidence and full support of the entire Force in maintaining public trust.

The substantive Chief of Staff, Brigadier Patrick West, has proceeded on pre-retirement leave. This creates the need to appoint a senior officer to perform the functions of that office. The person identified to command the Force, in the interim, is Brigadier Godfrey Bess.

I record the appreciation of the Guyana Defence Board to Brigadier West for his service to country and to the Defence Force. He assumed the leadership of the Force during a period of transformation. The Force, during his tenure, has been reorganised and reequipped to become a more professional organisation. The Defence Board wishes Brigadier West a happy retirement, content in the knowledge that his achievements will be recorded in our country’s military history as a period of consolidation and transformation.

The Guyana Defence Board congratulates Brigadier Godfrey Bess on his appointment. We wish him success in executing the functions of the office of Chief of Staff of the Force. I thank you.

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