Barbados is nestled in the heart of the eastern Caribbean; it has white sandy beaches, calm blue waters, and sharp cliffs that attract tourists from around the world. But, like its neighbors, it also faces security challenges that are making its security forces become ever more vigilant. Drug trafficking, illegal weapons trafficking, and other criminal activities are keeping the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) very busy at sea and on land to neutralize criminal actions.
Created in 1979, the BDF is responsible for the defense of Barbados and such other duties as the Defense Board determines. The military organization has three components: the Barbados Regiment (land force), the Barbados Coast Guard (maritime element), and the Barbados Cadet Corps.
Colonel Glyne Grannum, chief of staff and commander of the BDF, spoke with Diálogo at the “Caribbean Regional Seminar on Countering Transregional Transnational Threat Networks (T3N)” celebrated in Bridgetown, Barbados, from March 21st-23rd. Among the topics discussed, Col. Grannum stated they are making progress on regional security cooperation in order to jointly confront threats networks. He also spoke about the BDF’s mission, goals and priorities for 2017.
Diálogo: What is the importance of the seminar being held in Barbados, and of the BDF serving as its co-host?
Colonel Glyne Grannum, BDF commander: The BDF takes particular pride and benefit from co-hosting the seminar in Barbados with the Regional Security System (RSS). We recognize the importance of the security of the Caribbean region, the security of the RSS’ area of operation as well as the security of the entire hemisphere because the issues we face are transnational threats that migrate freely across all our porous borders. The seminar is a huge opportunity for us to be able to meet, exchange ideas, and discuss policies and strategies to counter the T3N. We are honored to have such a great group of people from the Perry Center come here and share their views on transnational threats as well as the Caribbean states, their military forces, police forces, other security services, like customs and immigration, and Ministry of Defense officials. The seminar really helps to illustrate and harness the different points of view and experiences of all persons involved in defense, because the security community comprised of the forces and agencies of all the countries participating essentially comprises an alliance needed to counter transnational security problems.
Diálogo: What does the BDF expect to gain from this seminar?
Col. Grannum: First, to reinforce the positions of our fellow member states and international partners in defense in the hemisphere to strengthen their strategies and programs to counter the T3N. Doing so benefits Barbados as we, too, redouble our national strategies. Second, will be the development of our middle- to senior-level officers who need exposure at this level and need to better understand the transnational issues, so ultimately they can better participate in future events like security operations, programs, and strategies to secure our country.
Diálogo: What is the BDF’s main focus?
Col. Grannum: Our main focus is the defense and security of Barbados. In fact, our function involves working as part of the modern joint interagency family of security forces and services. One of our main objectives is to improve operational cooperation and effectiveness with the Royal Barbados Police Force through the provision of military assistance to the civil power. Our mission also includes –as a member of the RSS and as a member of the wider Caribbean community– to be able to conduct similar joint and combined operations with regional partners to deal with domestic and transregional security problems. At the same time, we don’t want to lose sight of the need to perform civil defense operational tasks, as we are in the middle of a very active hurricane zone. Our role is very broad in terms of dealing with many multidimensional and intertwined threats and environmental risks. We will continue to deal with security challenges, transnational organized crime, and also be ready to deal with the effects of terrorism in the region and humanitarian assistance tasks.
Diálogo: What is the focus of your military efforts as Chief of Staff of the BDF?
Col. Grannum: In addition to the focus of the BDF as a whole, our military effort includes maintaining a presence in our maritime domain with the ability to monitor and interdict illegal activities. On land our focus is to be ready to support the civil power, the police force, in all aspects of operations and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief throughout both land and sea domains.
Diálogo: The BDF was established in 1979, how do its main components –Barbados Regiment, Barbados Coast Guard, and Barbados Cadet Corps– work together?
Col. Grannum: They work together very well. The Force Headquarters is the superior authority of the three units. There is a very high measure of interoperability between the Barbados Regiment, as the land force, and the Barbados Coast Guard, as the maritime component of the force, in terms of providing security services across the island of Barbados. Very efficient and very effective interoperability has been one of our main strengths over the years.
Diálogo: What is the BDF’s role at the RSS?
Col. Grannum: The RSS has seven Member States: Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and of course, Barbados. The RSS Member States forces apply a collaborative effort for the security of the region. The BDF’s role as part of the RSS is to contribute militarily, jointly on land and at sea, and to be ready to participate in deliberate operations or quick responses, to deal with security challenges in any of the Member States. Since its creation in 1982, the BDF has participated in numerous humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations as well as a number of security operations that brought tactical resources from seven Member States together. The BDF also has the distinction of acting in a more deliberate way as part of a wider cooperation and treaty arrangement with CARICOM [the Caribbean Community] for example, participating in operations in Haiti (1994 - 1996) and the Cricket World Cup (2007). More recently the BDF was a part of the RSS’ assistance humanitarian assistance and disaster response missions to Dominica after the passage of Tropical Storm Erica (2015) and to the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force in Saint Kitts and Nevis for security operations (2016).
Diálogo: What is your biggest concern in terms of regional security in Barbados?
Col. Grannum: Regional security has been dominated for many years by threats of narcotrafficking and the shipments of marijuana and cocaine from South America to North America and into Europe, and the effects of the increase of criminality with violent gang crimes in particular. We should not lose sight either of the public health effects of drug and arms trafficking where there are very negative effects within communities and states. In the immediate future, and as was documented in open media sources, there seems to be an increase in cocaine production in some of the South American growing regions. Drug trafficking, as well as the smuggling of illegal weapons and potentially people across our borders will likely remain the most significant threats which we must actively address and confront.
In regard to terrorism, we know the global environment is still unstable as we have seen horrific events play out in Europe, in parts of Africa, and in the United States. Lone-wolf attacks by individuals that are either inspired by or in some cases directed remotely by terrorist organizations and ideologies to commit horrible attacks, unfortunately continue. Our focus is on the prevention of any terrorist attack in Barbados and in the wider RSS and Caribbean region. Our efforts must include the continued sharing of information and resources to prevent and respond if necessary, to give the communities we serve the confidence that their security forces are aware of the global threat and are prepared for it. Cyber attacks are a third area of concern requiring focused attention and urgent operational readiness.
Diálogo: How do you cooperate with neighboring nations to defeat T3N?
Col. Grannum: The BDF has a very strong partnership with all RSS and non-RSS neighboring countries. We cooperate fully with the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force and their Coast Guard for maritime security threats, and have a very good working relationship with the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. I am very optimistic that the working relationships with all countries in the region will grow stronger in the face of the security threats which may arise in the future.
Diálogo: What are your/the BDF’s priorities for 2017?
Col. Grannum: We are scheduled to co-host Exercise Tradewinds 2017 in June of this year. The first phase is going to be held here in Barbados, focusing on HADR response, counter terrorism and counter transnational organized crime operations at the operational and tactical levels. Trinidad and Tobago is hosting the second phase of the Exercise. Our priority at this time therefore on readiness to participate in Tradewinds as a vehicle for overarching force mission readiness. Beyond Tradewinds, our focus will be on national HADR efforts to deal with the annual hurricane season which runs from June to November.
Diálogo: Is there anything you’d like to add for our regional readers?
Col. Grannum: For a long time, the BDF has enjoyed rich and robust partnerships in terms of the community of the military, police and other security agencies, not just within the RSS, and beyond within CARICOM, but extending in depth across the entire hemisphere. We are pleased that the Perry Center could bring this seminar to Barbados. Our purpose and determination is well set in terms of delivering our national and collective alliance missions to deal with the modern transnational threats as they exist, whether those threats are from terrorist organizations, violent extremist groups or drug trafficking organizations. I think we have enormous networked capabilities to rely on by leveraging national resources in harmony with our neighbors. Our regional collaborative efforts will achieve success in dealing with the threats.