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Coastguard commander george passes the baton

Coastguard Commander Godfrey George (right) hands over the unit’s colours to his successor Commander Gary Beaton at yesterday’s change of command parade. See story on page 2. (Jules Gibson photo)Coastguard Commander Godfrey George has relinquished the helm after 33⅓ years in the Guyana Defence Force at the first ever change of command parade for the unit.

Lieutenant Colonel Gary Beaton yesterday assumed the office of Commanding Officer of the unit at Coastguard Headquarters, Ruimveldt in the presence of Chief of Staff Commodore Gary Best, other senior command staff, retired officers and family members.

In his remarks, Commander George said he had started contemplating leaving since 2006 and had sought to identify a successor but those he could have tapped left the unit thereby leading to an abandonment of the preparation process. He added that despite this, the development of the unit will continue with Commander Beaton who was no stranger to the Coastguard.

“While he may not be entirely conversant with the inner workings… he has some knowledge of the unit and what we need to do to accomplish our future objectives,” George said.

He said he was confident that Beaton would learn quickly in order to produce a plan to realise the operational progress which was consistent with the national, regional and international objectives.

George said the new Commander was inheriting a solid foundation with personnel possessing the appropriate attitudes and should avoid “superficial thinking.”

According to George, the Coastguard has “tremendous potential” and undesirable elements should be weeded out to protect its integrity.

“Efforts must be embarked upon to unearth and dispose of individuals at all levels who have sinister agendas that can only… embarrass or force the alteration of this ship’s course,” he declared.

Meanwhile, Commander Beaton in accepting his new post said commanding the unit was a “tremendous honour” and expressed gratitude to the chief of staff for displaying the confidence in him. He told the assembled officers and ratings that he was a “straightforward and plain-speaking” individual whose command philosophy was “mission first, people always”. He added that he would be a high bar for himself and his charges and expected them to measure up.

According to Beaton, he would always be open to ideas to better the unit since there will always be the challenge posed by a shortage of resources. The new commander urged his troops not to tell him what they think he wants to hear but to be “real and honest”.

Speaking to the media afterwards, George said the first thing he plans to do is to spend some time with his family who reside overseas before turning to anything else.

“There are some proposals … overseas and when I’m finished a vacation of three months slack time with my family then I’ll consider those proposals.”

On advice for his successor to combat the problem of piracy, George said he had been talking to Beaton and thinks he needs to establish very close relations with the fisheries department and other agencies in order to tackle the issue.

“The piracy situation is information and intelligence driven… and I think even the fishers themselves recognise the need to collaborate with us and provide us with all the necessary information that will help us deal with the situation.”
George said the fisherfolk could provide vital information and have been doing that recently.

His biggest accomplishment, George said was the recapitalisation of the Coastguard, which he could not have done alone. This included the laying out of the Coastguard base, the acquisition of the flagship GDFS Essequibo and the coastal vessels.

Meanwhile, he said his greatest disappointment occurred when several ratings went “rogue” and became involved in crime. His comment was a reference to the August last year’s multimillion-dollar robbery and killing of Bartician Dweive Kant Ramdass with which three Coastguard ranks were charged.

George became the commanding officer of the Coast Guard in 1999 and his 33 plus years is the maximum allowed service in the army.