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Coast Guard Has New Commandant

Coast Guard Has New Commandant
December 01
19:26 2019

ON-Thursday, 28 November 2019
The symbolic lines: “Sir, I relinquish command!” and “Sir, I assume command!” on Wednesday marked the dawn of a new era for the Belize National Coast Guard Service, which changed leadership from Rear Admiral John Borland to Captain Elton Bennett as outgoing and incoming Commandants respectively.

For Borland, the change came after 10 years with him at the helm, and this was the second change of command that the 14 year-old elite maritime arm of Belize’s national security configuration has seen thus far.

The new commandant is not spending too much time celebrating his promotion. He already has a priority list of things he wants to get done under his watch.

“One is for us to improve our operational competence at sea, and this will require us to explore the prosecution realm of operations. Currently the Coast Guard does not prosecute its cases. We hand over to a competent authority for them to prosecute. If we are able to prosecute our own cases, for those offences of fisheries violations, we’ll be able to improve our operational competence.”

Bennett also wants to sharpen the Coast Guard’s communication competence. He will establish a strategic communications office at the Coast Guard’s headquarters that will manage the dissemination of information and form a better rapport with the media.

Bennett informed that his promotion was no surprise because he was groomed for the position from the time he joined the Coast Guard. He explained that there is a succession and career development plan in place in the Coast Guard for officers to reach this level. In fact, he said that he has already met with all the officers and has developed an eight-year plan so that each of them knows exactly what course he or she will attend and how his or her elevation will evolve over that period.

“The Coast Guard is not led on personality. We have a strategy. We have a vision and a mission and we have the Coast Guard Act that we go by. What we don’t want to have is an organization that shifts and sways with the different personalities that come to command. That’s not good. What you want is to ensure that we continue on that strategy and move in that direction,” Bennett assured.

The time for the change of command had come, Minister of National Security, John Saldivar told the gathering, even though Borland was not yet due for retirement. “We opted for this change in command because we felt that it was an opportune time for us to have new leadership of the Belize Coast Guard but also a new direction at the Ministry of National Security.”

Saldivar explained that it became necessary to create what other countries call the Chief of Defense staff, that is responsible for coordinating the agencies in the Ministry of National Security that are responsible for the defense of Belize (the Coast Guard and the Belize Defense Force).

Borland then, will be Belize’s first Chief of Defense and will act as the country’s most senior advisor to the Minister of National Security and the Prime Minister. In that new capacity, he will be responsible to formulate and execute strategies, policies and programs to ensure the highest level of national security and operational competence of Belize’s armed forces.

In passing over the reins to Bennett, Borland had only commendable remarks for him: “The future of the Coast Guard belongs to my successor and his command team; a man who is equally adept, capable and competent; a man who has been my greatest ally; my friend, my brother, my mentor at times,” Borland said. “I would trust no other person with a job as important as this and as vital to the survival of this nation. So today it is with no regret or reservation that I relinquish command of the Belize Coast Guard into the sure and steady hands of Captain Elton Bennett. Sir, you have command!” Borland said emphatically.

Bennett also recalled that his predecessor was his first Reporting Officer and has been so for the past 15 years. He thanks Borland for all that he has done to enhance his career, even before the inception of the Coast Guard Service.

“You have shown me the ropes; you have ordered me to the front lines, and you have protected me when necessary. I wish you fair winds and following seas, Sir!” Bennett told Borland.

Bennett started out his career as an aircraft engineer in the Belize Defense Force’s maritime wing, and in 2002, he became an officer after he attended the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst, England. He was Commission Officer as a Platoon Commander, and thereafter attended courses overseas to become a maritime officer. He was seconded to the Belize Coast Guard Service in 2005, when the institution was only a year old. He rose through the ranks and was appointed as Vice Commandant in 2009. Through the years he furthered his education and military training at several military schools abroad. He holds a Master’s degree in Defense Studies from King’s College in London.

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