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GDF BENEFITS FROM SUICIDE SUBJECT MATTER EXPERT EXCHANGE

Several members of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) are now in a better position to recognize the signs of suicide and are equipped with the skills to help prevent it, following a successful three-day Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with members of the Florida National Guard (FNG).

The sessions started on Monday March 7 and ended on Wednesday March 9 with the objective of assisting the GDF to develop a tactical programme that applies to military operations, concerning suicide prevention and Force resilience.
Lieutenant Stephanie Matos and Staff Sergeant Erica Hodge, Master Resilience Trainer and Suicide Intervention Officer all of the FNG, respectively, conducted the sessions, which were highly interactive.

“The information which we imparted, was well received and we were initially extremely surprised at the kind of communication we are getting back. They want this information and we are also learning a whole lot from them,” stated SSGT Hodge during a break at one of the sessions. “The suicide rate in Guyana is high and we believe that the education and awareness is needed. We have gathered that the stigma of suicide and depression is a social disease. However, the soldiers here are very receptive and we can see and feel that,” Lt Matos noted.

Some of the topics dealt with included warning signs of suicide victims, dealing with the victims and prevention techniques and working with families of victims. The FNG team recommended a string of measures which Junior Leaders and First Line Supervisors in the GDF could employ to prevent suicide. These included that they know their soldiers, to the point where recognizing behaviour change is easy to observe. They noted too that creating a climate which encourages ranks to ask for help if they need it, was essential. Additionally, encouraging peer support as well as

Great emphasis in helping soldiers to integrate into the Unit/Organization, were also among the list of recommendations. 
Officer Commanding of the Force Welfare Department, Ms. Deon Heyligar noted that given the fact that the issue of suicide is stigmatized culturally, the SMEE is timely and is really a call of urgency as it relates to the need for information to empower soldiers about this prevalent issue that is affecting society . “As a Force we continue to look out for our soldiers so that they can access help when they need it so they can be resilient,” she said. Culturally, suicide is stigmatized but because of the nature of the military environment, our soldiers need to always have the information so they are in the know,” she stated.

Warrant Officer Class Two D’Urville Maynard, of the Guyana People’s Militia stated that he has learnt a lot from the seminar. As a Middle Manager, Maynard is tasked with being engaged with his soldiers and represents the first level of welfare intervention for them. He stated that given the training, he is now equipped with the skills to recognize depression and extend some kind of first line therapy to win the trust of any of his soldiers who exhibit any such tendencies. “I want to be able to uplift the soldier’s morale in my Battalion and help give them that continued will to live. Depression is real and can affect us all. Before it has to reach that far we can help to do something. At the end of it all it is very important that we know our soldiers.”

The SMEE was held at the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard Ship Hinds, Ruimveldt.

 

Two Officers in local pilot school

Captains Daryl Britton and Bernard Cunjie are pursuing flight training at the Air Services Limited flight Training School (ASLFTS) at Ogle. Upon the completion of their training, the officers, who are fully sponsored by the Guyana Defence Force, are expected to obtain a Commercial Pilot’s License.

Captain Britton says that the hours of watching movies that featured planes, fuelled his love for aircraft. “My high school subject choices were geared toward this career path, and, at the Board Interview prior my enlistment as an Officer, this path was my expressed choice.” He says. “I view my involvement in this training as the realisation of a dream. I am happy that through the GDF, the Government and people of Guyana have given me this opportunity. Indeed, nothing is better than doing what you love. It is rewarding and I look forward to serving the GDF and Guyana as a qualified pilot, he added."

For his part, Captain Cunjie says that the training will enable them to serve as specialist. “We have been chasing after this opportunity for six years and now we welcome the challenge,’ he says." Cunjie, who grew up in the environs around the Ogle Airport, confesses that he and others would get away from school to go to watch the planes fly out of the then aerodrome. “I never thought that I’d become a pilot, especially since the training is so very expensive. But, I chose to enlist in the GDF and serve my country, and, after learning of the various career paths available to me as a serving member of the Force, I chose this path.”

The Officers agree that the environment is new and challenging, but say that their training as Officers is helpful in some ways. “We have embarked on this training with a level of discipline and maturity that helps us focus and apply ourselves in practical and measured ways,” says the 29 –year old Britton. “Military exposure to leadership and being involved in operations gives us a small edge. Our military exposure makes us more responsible in terms of how we apply ourselves.”

Commanding Officer of the Guyana Defence Force Air Corps, Lieutenant Colonel Courtney Byrne, says that the training of the two Officers is occurring at a time when the GDF is seeking to build capacity with regard to its air assets. “The Commander in Chief, His Excellency President David Granger, has committed to the recapitalisation of the GDF’s Air Corps. To this end, we expect to acquire assets such as fixed and perhaps rotor-wing aircraft. In this regard, we cannot wait for those assets to be acquired, but must train personnel and have them available for when those assets are on the ground,” he says. “The Air Corps has suffered significant levels of attrition over the past ten years and the training of these two officers is geared toward ensuring that we have the skills necessary for our longevity. We are currently staging in order to meet the forward thrust and to realise the Commander in Chief’s vision for our role in national security and defence.”

According to Lt Col Byrne, localised training is not only cost-effective but works to the benefit of Guyana, since the pilots are training within local conditions using the topography, geography and climatology of Guyana. Additionally, he says, on the completion of this training the pilots will be almost ready for launching into local operations. Localised training also nullifies the need for re-certification as is usually the case with pilots trained overseas.

The Guyana Defence Force has the constitutional role of defending Guyana’s territorial integrity. With the increased economic activities in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and in hinterland regions, it is only natural expect the GDF Air Corps be more involved in ensuring a safe and secure environment for Guyana, her citizens as well as the investors.

 

GDF Lance Corporal off to Olympic Qualifiers

Lance Corporal Desmond Cort Amsterdam, is one of two Guyanese boxers who has been selected to participate in the 2016 AMBC Olympic Qualifiers, slated for March 9-20 in Argentina. Amsterdam, a Light Heavyweight contender, along with Middleweight Dennis Thomas of the Guyana Police Force, are due to wing out on Tuesday, March 8.

Amsterdam has been boxing since the tender age of six and is proud to be representing Guyana at these qualifiers. “I am proud to have been selected and I am going with the intention to qualify!” he says. In his weight division, he has an amateur record of 17 wins, with three being by knockout. The young pugilist's last major exposure was at the recently concluded Goodwill Games which Guyana hosted. At that event, he bested opponents from Jamaica and St Lucia, to clinch the Champion Title in his category. Once Amsterdam and Thomas qualify, they will be representing Guyana at the Olympics.

GDF Boxing Coach Terrence Poole says that Amsterdam’s prospects are good. “He has trained consistently and hard, and fights well. The fact that he has made selection, means that we are certain of his ability to deliver himself with his usual grit and confidence, and win the bouts which he’ll have to fight,” he says.

Amsterdam credits his success as a boxer to his experience, training, discipline and determination. “I train hard. When in training, I am focused on developing and enhancing my strength and techniques. My focus will be sharpened during the qualifiers as my goal is to be on the team that represents Guyana,’ he says.

According to Poole, Amsterdam may be involved in as many as five bouts in order to secure the victory that places him firmly on the team. “The number of bouts will be dependent on the number of entries in each weight division,” he says. “Only the top two or three in each weight division will go through to the Olympics. Poole recalled that Guyana’s most recent qualification at this level occurred in 1996, with John Douglas of the Guyana Police Force, while Bert Braithwaithe was the last GDF boxer to have represented the GDF and Guyana at an Olympic Qualifier.

 

Chief of Staff Brigadier General Mark Phillips, along with all the other Officers and Ranks of the Force extend best wishes to both Amsterdam and Thomas.

-ENDS-

 

GDF hosts partner agencies on infectious diseases information exchange.

Twenty participants, drawn from several local agencies benefitted from information shared during a Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) conducted at the Civil Defence Commission (CDC), from Monday, February 29 to March 3.  The SMEE, a Guyana Defence Force and United Stated Southern Command (US-SOUTHCOM) partnership activity, focused on vector-borne infectious diseases.

The participants, including a four-man team from the US National Guard and led by Lieutenant Ethan Reid, spent the last five days discussing in part, the history of vector-borne infectious diseases, the circumstances and conditions that lead to outbreaks and their spread, the identification of symptoms in persons suspected to be infected, initial patient/case management of persons with an unknown illness, and elements of Advanced First Aid. Zika, Dengue, Chikungunya, Ebola and Malaria, were the particular vector borne viral diseases under the microscope, and all participants agreed that the experience was one in which they all learned from each other.

Addressing the activities during the five-day session, Lt Reid noted that all the local participants displayed a high level of knowledge regarding several aspects related to vector-borne diseases. He lauded the demonstration of readiness and procedural correctness of the Ministry of Public health as it relates to responding and treating with citizens affected by vector-borne diseases. “I was privileged to see the system at work during a chance visit to the Ministry of Public health. Form my observations, The Guyanese system is following guidelines and protocols established by the World Health Organisation. That is a good thing. It means that your policy makers understand the environment and how to engineer the necessary responses and implement mechanisms for providing solutions to the population,” he said.

However, the absence of sustained communication between local stakeholder agencies was flagged as an issue that needs immediate corrective action. “While the overall system is procedurally sound, there must be stronger and sustained communication between the stakeholder health and emergency operations agencies, which also includes communities and their leaders. Communication within agencies must be   clear, task oriented and geared toward efficient outcomes. The same can be said for inter-agency communication and communication between agencies and the communities. Learning of the presence of vector-borne infectious disease in a community, the identification of symptoms, treatment interventions for victims, eliminating proliferation and growth centers of vectors and sustaining individual, community and national response will succeed only to the extent that communication and education strategies are robust and efficiently handled,” he said.

CDC’s Alana Walters said that activities such as the SMEE are a necessary element in Guyana’s efforts to build capacity. ‘These for provide us with the opportunities to learn from our US counterparts and also share with them information on how we approach such issues, in this case, a public health matter. Through discussions, we understand our strengths become aware of whether or not there are deficiencies in our processes. This can only redound well in our everyday efforts at finding solutions for our citizens.”

The SMEE is one of several which are usually conducted by the GDF in collaborations with its partners in US-SOUTHCOM. Bilateral Affairs Officer, Captain Christopher Hill said that the US teams are usually drawn from the Florida National Guard and various teams share various areas of expertise.

Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Mark Phillips, indicated that the SMEEs function as capacity building mechanism. He noted that while most are geared toward military –specific issues, some, like this one, lend to the broadening of knowledge of persons from outside of the GDF, and a strengthening of the capacity of the Force’s partner stakeholders in national development.

The agencies which participated in the SMEE included the GDF, the Ministry of Public Health’s Vector control Unit, The Environmental Protection Agency, The Red Cross, and the Civil Defence Commission.

 

GDF shines at 46th Republic Day Parade

The hoisting of the Golden Arrowhead 180 feet above ground , coupled with the  precise and unified strides of the men and women in uniform ,breathed fresh air into the celebrations to commemorate Republic Day 2016.

This year’s activity was held at Durban park , an area located behind the 1763 Monument and that is under development.

In just over an hour, nostalgia and a seeming awakening of nationalism was evident in the faces of the thousands who gathered and cheered with pride as parade marched on in full military style. Next was the marching on of the flag party who proceeded to the  base of the flag and performed the drill to raise the flag. The crowd cheered  and some sections shouted , “go Guyana go” as chins raised as they followed the flag’s ascension up the pole.

The activity closed with a Beating Retreat by the Military Band.

This year Guyana celebrated 46 years as a Republic.