A Look into Guyana’s Defense Force
By Dialogo January 24, 2013
Interview with Colonel Julian Bruce Lovell, General Staff, Guyana Defence Force
Roughly the size of England and with a population of about 750,000, Guyana makes the list of Caribbean basin countries but is located in South America, on the border with Venezuela, Suriname and Brazil. With a dense jungle exploited by drugs, weapons and even persons and livestock traffickers, the nation’s Defense Force has tough and elusive enemies to fight.
During a break at the Caribbean Nations Security Conference (CANSEC 2013), held in Miami, Florida, in December 2012, and sponsored by the U.S. Southern Command, Diálogo had the opportunity to speak to Colonel Julian Bruce Lovell, General Staff, Guyana Defence Force, about the security challenges faced by his country and the importance of training, maintenance and interaction with the Brazilian and United States militaries.
Diálogo: What are the main security concerns and challenges for your country at this time?
Colonel Julian Bruce Lovell: The first challenge that we have is being able to secure our borders in our three domains, air, land, and sea, to prevent or to reduce illicit trafficking. This illicit trafficking involves not only drugs, but also arms, human, contraband, and livestock. Although it sounds strange, we have found that a lot of livestock is being smuggled from Venezuela into Guyana. What is dangerous about this is that Guyana has been declared free of foot-and-mouth disease, so if that happens it will compromise that status. To prevent or to reduce illicit trafficking is difficult for us because we have a small force, and it is difficult to provide a persistent presence at all those locations to tackle this illicit trafficking. Our second security concern is to reduce the high levels of crime and criminality which are taking place right now in society. This is an internal issue, but there are both external and internal factors which create the high levels of crime and criminality that we see right now. For instance, one of the internal factors that contribute to this problem is caused by a general break of law and order. I will say those are the two main security concerns that we have in Guyana, to secure our borders against illicit trafficking and reduce high levels of crime and criminality in society. And in both areas we, the Military, we have a role to play. For instance, in regard to the area that deals with the high levels of crime and criminality, our role is supporting the law enforcement agencies.
Diálogo: How important then, is the collaboration with other countries in facing these challenges?
Col. Lovell: One of the bedrock principles in dealing with the challenges has to be collaboration and cooperation with other States. And if you were to ask me what the benefits of working with other nations are, I’d say perhaps that I can identify three. First of all, for a small country, when you work with other countries, especially larger countries, there is the benefit of knowledge and skills enhancement that we get from working with them. That serves to improve our professionalism, so we always welcome the opportunity to train alongside other forces. Another aspect that is especially critical for us as a small force, is that we get a chance to benefit from resources that we don’t have or that we have inadequate amounts of. And there is a third benefit… interacting with other nations gives us a chance to validate ourselves, to assess the level that we are at.
Diálogo: How does your engagement with the Brazilian Military help your Defense Force?
Col. Lovell: Our relationship with the Brazilian Armed Forces dates way back into the late 60s. This relationship is primarily built on training; they provide us training opportunities in a number of areas: infantry, logistics, maritime, and engineering. Right now we have two Brazilian instructors who are in Guyana; they are jungle instructors at our jungle school, and they keep rotating every year. We also have training in the field of sports, and right now we have a Brazilian football instructor. So, the major focus of our relationship with Brazil has been in training, but we also collaborate at other levels. We meet every year for intelligence cooperation. Every two years there is a bilateral meeting that we have, where we discuss a range of issues, not only training, but also issues related to operational matters along the borders that we have. Every year also we have a regional meeting with the Brazilian Commander of the Roraima sector. He meets with our commander of the Infantry Battalion, and is responsible for that area of Guyana. We have a very strong and enduring relationship with Brazil.
Diálogo: How about your cooperation with the Armed Forces of Suriname?
Col. Lovell: In characterizing our relationship with Suriname, I would say that we have a proper and cordial relationship with the Suriname National Army. That relationship is predicated on the concept that being contiguous neighbors, we have to cooperate with each other to deal with the common challenges that we face. So the relationship that we have with Suriname, as I said, is proper and cordial, but not as strong and deep as the one with Brazil. But certainly we do collaborate and cooperate with each other.
Diálogo: The main theme of CANSEC 2013 was the sustainment and maintenance of the resources that we currently have in this economic reality. How does the Guyana Defense Force do that?
Col. Lovell: Maintenance has to be anchored on the philosophy of make things work with less. This means that you have to value what you have. We see two strong approaches. First, we have to continue training and educating our ranks. And in terms of how to maintain, and how to engage in preventive maintenance, we have to observe a preventive maintenance schedule. That is one of the things that we have to keep drumming into the heads of our ranks. This can only come from training and education. And the second aspect has to do with maintaining bilateral relationships and what they do for us in the field of maintenance. It helps us to learn best practices and adopt them. Earlier this year we had a team from the United States Naval Special Warfare Command, and it is amazing the knowledge that they passed on to our guys in terms of how to manage and maintain the vessels they were instructing them on, in a totally different and totally new way. That is a wonderful benefit that you get from maintaining that kind of bilateral relationship.
Diálogo: Is there anything you would like to add?
Col. Lovell: We are a very small and affordable force, but we pride ourselves on being extremely professional. And we certainly welcome any opportunity to demonstrate our professionalism.
Guyana is a small country but we will fight to the last man to defend our country-we r growing -we have become more nationalistic "Not a blade of grass ' is not just a song its our mission- Strength brothers. Greetings from a Colombian Courage Guyana, Esequibo belongs to Guyana. Don't yield even a millimeter to Venezuela. A hug from Colombia. Always united to fight the expansionist aggressions of bad neighbors.