St. John’s Antigua- One of the pioneers of the recently concluded historic joint basic recruit training between Antigua & Barbuda and St Kitts & Nevis’ defence forces said there is no intention of stopping such relations from this point on.
Chief of Defence of the Antigua & Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF) Colonel Ivor Thomas said another joint training session should get underway right after Antigua’s Carnival.
“We can accommodate up to 100 I believe. We have spoken to St Kitts to invite them again and we will send invitations to Barbados and Montserrat. It is something we have been working on for a while,” Colonel Thomas said, without disclosing a specific date.
Commander Thomas and Commander of St Kitts & Nevis Defence Force (SKNDF) Commander Lieutenant Patrick Wallace organized the first joint training that commenced late January with 67 civilians and culminated with 46 graduating recruits, two of which were females.
The group from St Kitts & Nevis would be leaving Antigua for home to undergo a further six weeks of a Trained Soldiers Course while the local privates would do the course on their home turf.
“We have had exchanges in the past of lecturers and trainers but never on this level and we want to keep it up. There are many benefits of doing a joint training especially when we look at strengthening our region’s security. We must be familiar with each other’s territory and with each other and this is the starting point,” Colonel Thomas said.
The Basic Recruit Course entails studies in Field Craft, Map Reading and Navigation, Minor Tactics, Internal Security, Law of Armed Conflict, Military Drills and Skill at Arms.
“The course content includes a mixture of physical training, military studies and studies of national history with the aim of producing alert, proud, obedient soldiers who would work excellently as a team,” Colonel Thomas said.
Subject areas are tested in theory and practical with a pass mark of 60 per cent and at the end all recruits would be certified in First Aid.
While the idea for a joint training of the countries’ recruits had been discussed for years, the main hurdle was sourcing financing. The two countries pooled resources and accomplished the goal.
When the first batch of recruits graduated as Privates last Friday, National Security Minister Dr Errol Cort and chairman of the Regional Security Systems (RSS) said, “I think it speaks volumes in terms of the serious commitment of the region to closer military cooperation so I am very pleased and very proud of this particular moment because we are all aware of our challenging economic times but yet it was done.”
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who is the Minister of Defence, also expressed satisfaction over the achievement.
He congratulated the two pioneers while adding, “It is a clear demonstration of our journey towards closer integration and the collective use of our resources in achieving neutral goals.”
PM Spencer also had a bit of advice for the graduates.
“Utilize your time wisely, develop yourselves in areas that are best suited to your aptitude and interest, be building blocks in your respective nations’ development, commit yourselves to be model citizens as a positive influence to your brothers and sisters in arms, your, family friends and those around you, “ Spencer said.
Of the 46 graduates, special awards and prizes went to Recruit L Nedd who copped best performance in the physical training (PT) and Recruit D Carlos, who was honoured as best overall recruit of the batch and the ABDF. Recruit K Hendrickson, whose health impacted his physical performance halfway through the course, was recognised as best recruit of the SKNDF.