Enlisting in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) 28 years ago changed her life forever. Lieutenant Colonel Natasha Stanford, who signed up to join military life in March 1994, feels privileged to be in an environment that fosters growth and resilience, especially for women in uniform.
Today, Lt. Col. Stanford is the most senior ranking women in the GDF, serving as the commander of Base Camp Stephenson. This achievement was no easy task and follows appointments with the Training Corps, the Coast Guard, as well as a position as the head of the GDF’s Finance Department, among others.
Lt. Col. Stanford spoke with Diálogo about her military career and the importance of encouraging young generations to join the GDF.
Diálogo: You are the highest-ranking female military officer in the GDF. What does your achievement represent for the women in the GDF?
Lieutenant Colonel Natasha Stanford, commander of Base Camp Stephenson: You can rise to a respectable rank and high level in the leadership of the Force and become involved in the highest decision-making forum with hard work and commitment.
Diálogo: Why did you choose to be part of the GDF?
Lt. Col. Stanford: I chose to be part of the GDF to be of service to my country and to develop myself academically and professionally with all the relevant support from the GDF in a stable and disciplined environment.
Diálogo: What capabilities does one need to be the commanding officer of the Women’s Army Corps? Staff Officer One General 4 – Finance?
Lt. Col. Stanford: For both, it requires many years of military experience. To be a commander officer of the women’s Army Corps requires leadership in the GDF and possessing the ability to lead and empower females in the Force as well as having successfully completed the requisite training including junior and senior leadership courses.
To be a staff officer one general 4 – Finance it took years of experience in accounting and finance while serving in an appropriate appointment, such as officer commanding Finance Department. I did a successful completion of the relevant academic training in accountancy and finance at a recognized tertiary institution as well as the appropriate junior and senior command and staff training in the military.
Diálogo: What do you consider to be your greatest challenge?
Lt. Col. Stanford: My greatest challenge is being able to balance my military and personal life in light of numerous demands.
Diálogo: If a teenager came to you and asked you for advice about joining the military forces of your country, what would you tell them?
Lt. Col. Stanford: I would encourage them to join because of what I have been able to experience: a stable and professional environment that fosters their academic and professional development in a number of fields and an opportunity to serve their country. Joining the military forces will also enable one to become a more disciplined and balanced individual better prepared to face life’s challenges.
Diálogo: During your military career, do you think there have been advances for women in the GDF?
Lt. Col. Stanford: Yes, there have been advances for women including the opportunity for us to also carry out the role of defense of our country’s territorial integrity like the menfolk; women being able to undergo training on the Platoon Commanders Course and Standard Infantryman Course for officers and other ranks respectively, and women being trained as paratroopers.
Diálogo: What is your dream within the GDF?
Lt. Col. Stanford: My dream is that a military officer or other rank will not be seen based on gender but on competence, thus for promotion and appointments all members of the Force will be treated equally in this regard after being appropriately equipped with the pertinent training and exposure to perform the Force’s roles.