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The primary role of the military is the protection of territorial sovereignty. This does not preclude it from being involved in operations other than war to enhance total national defence. The employment of the Infantry Battalions of the Guyana Defence Force in Civil Defence Operations has over the years been perceived as an effective strategy, since one of its 3 roles speaks to “ assisting the civil powers in the maintenance of law and order,” (Defence Act, Chapter 1501, 1977). This broad role acts as a catalyst that fixes the Force as a stabilising band within the Guyanese society. As such, the GDF has always been used as a response mechanism to natural disasters, due to its readily available human and other resources pool.
On the morning of January 17, 2005 residents of Regions 3, 4 and 5 arose to what has been described as “the country’s worst natural disaster (GINA, 2015). “Flooding affected around 290,000 people (39% of Guyana’s population), (Guyana Flood 2005, 2005). Over “100 Officers and Ranks” (George, 2018) were deployed along the lower East Coast and within the Regions to assist several governmental and non-governmental organizations. More recently the Ranks of Camp Kanuku, Lethem, were involved in flood relief within Region 9, (Stabroek News, 2018). The Force’s involvement in Civil Defence Operations is not limited to the cases sighted. In both instances, the Force proved to be a ready supplier of human resources with organized management, to assist the government in delivering key supplies and emergency services. However, this paper contends that the Infantry Battalions of the GDF, the Force’s operational units, are ill prepared to deal with national disasters within their Area of Operations as they lack the requisite training and equipment to facilitate their effective employment in Civil Defence Operations.
In order to dichotomise the assumptions of this thesis an analysis of the threat in the Areas of Operations, the capacity in terms of equipment and the training of the mentioned Units will be undertaking with a view of providing recommendations to resolve the Units’ inadequacies. To this end, the discourse on the subject at hand will be derived from questionnaires, (Appendix 1), and the reviewing of literature on this subject. Therefore, civil defence will be defined as, “the system of protective measures and emergency relief activities conducted by civilians in case of hostile attack, sabotage, or natural disaster,”(Merriam Webster Dictionary, 2018). Also employment will be defined as, “the utilisation of,” (Merriam Webster Dictionary, 2018).
This essay is also premise on the assumption that the role of Civil Defence Commission (CDC) (Guyana), is “to make plans and conduct operations to deal with all types of disasters in Guyana,” (CDC, 2018). Conversely, the role of the Infantry Battalions of the GDF allows for its involvement in civil defence operations; which are operations outside of its warfighting functions. This essay further acknowledges that the response to civil defence is a role specific to the Guyana People’s Militia (GPM), (Granger, 2008) of which 2 Infantry Battalion is a part. On the other hand, the dispersal of the 1 and 6 Infantry Battalions among the communities within Guyana, coupled with its experience in dealing with natural disasters suggest that it is imperative for the Officers and Ranks to continue playing a pivotal role in civil defence. However, this will require the Infantry Battalions to have the necessary equipment, as well as the improvement in, and the provision of more training opportunities for Officers and Ranks to be trained and exercised in the disaster management.
Global warming has caused steady changes in weather patterns around the world. This has significant consequences for coastal dwelling populations especially those below sea level as in the case of Guyana which lies on the Caribbean Coast of South America between latitudes 1° and 9°N, and longitudes 56° and 62°W. The coastal portions of Guyana sit from 19.7 inches (0.5 meter) to 39.4 inches (1 meter) below sea level”, (Bureau of Statistics, 2002). Its narrow and fertile marshy plain along the Atlantic coast (low coastal plain – Appendix 2) has more than 85% of its population and is constantly inundated by flood waters. Guyana has also been identified as a “country at high risk from the effects of coastal, river, and rainfall flooding, and from the emerging and likely future consequences of climate change.” (US EPA, 2015). Flooding is the main disaster caused by land-borne floods of the East Demerara Conservancy which in turn cause river flooding of the Mahaica River and surrounding canals, as depicted at Appendix 3. This is usually caused by excessive run-off brought on by heavy rains. Secondly, sea-borne floods, or coastal flooding, caused by storm surges, often exacerbated by storm run-off from the upper watershed and the overtopping of the Atlantic Ocean along East Coast of Demerara during periods of high and spring tides. The foregoing reveals the very dangerous position Georgetown and its surrounding communities finds itself in, being contained between to large bodies of water. This contribute to flooding which mainly affects regions 2, 3, 4 and 5. “continuous heavy rainfall in Region 9 and in the Roraima State of Brazil caused overflow in the Rio Branco, Ireng and Takutu Rivers, which resulted in severe flooding in Lethem, its environs and other low lying areas of Region 9,”(Office of Climate Change, 2018), as depicted at Appendix 4.
The Infantry Battalions of the GDF are located as reflected at Appendix 5. 1 Infantry Battalion has its headquarters at Base Camp Stephenson and locations at Camp Jaguar, New River, Eteringbang, Cuyuni River, Makapa, Cuyuni River, Yarrow, Wenamu River and at Kaikan. 2 Infantry Bn has its headquarters at Seweyo, Linden Soesdyke Highway and locations at Camp Kanuku, Lethem and Camp Groomes, Linden Soesdyke Highway. Finally 6 Infantry Battalion has its headquarters at Anna Regina and locations at Camp Everard and Patro Base, White Water, Mabaruma and at New Amsterdam and Benab.
“Training continues to be the most important peace-time activity of the Force, and it will always be the lifeblood of any military institution. It is the cornerstone of our readiness; therefore, if it has an incorrect focus or is badly conducted, it will be ineffective and the Force will be incapable of performing its role,” (Lovell, 2010). Training is further defined as “teaching a person a particular skill or type of behaviour through regular practice and instructions,” (Oxford, 2009). It is against this back drop that a generic compendium of courses have been developed by the Force to which all Units subscribe on an annual basis. These courses are conducted by Training Corps, STAIN and All Arms, through the “two common military syllabi; one for junior officers/SNCOs and the other for junior NCOs/Other Ranks,” (Force Training Doctrine, 2010). This is listed at Appendix 4. Training is also conducted at external academic institutions such as University of Guyana, the Technical Institutes, and with statecraft and international partners in other disciplines. In reviewing the Force Training Doctrine also, civil defence was only mentioned twice within the entire document in the same paragraph as it spoke specifically to “Reserve Other Rank training will encompass both areas relating to infantry skills, and civil defence and community response techniques, such as firefighting. This is meant to give the requisite skills for him/her to augment the Regular Force and perform Civil Defence and essential services in the community.” (Force Training Doctrine, 2010).
“Units of the Force must always be in a high state of readiness for operational action and so the interspersion of individual with collective training has to be planned.” (Force Training Doctrine, 2010). A review of the Annual Reports for 2017 of 1, 2 and 6 Infantry Battalions have revealed that at 1 Infantry Battalion at total of “4 officers and 152 ORs”, (1 Infantry Bn, 2017), were trained on All Arms and STAIN Courses, “a total of 8 ORs were approved for academic and technical training,”(1 Infantry Bn, 2017) . Additional to this training is that in addition to the ranks trained above 1 officer was approve to participate in training in Barbados at Caribbean Disaster Relief Unit. This represents less than 1% of the Battalions strength being trained in Civil Defence Operations. 2 Infantry Battalions Training regimen posited that 3 Officers and 51 ORs were trained in a variety of courses during 2017 (2 Infantry Bn, 2017). That is, 1 Offr was trained overseas, 2 on the Platoon Commanders Course and 47 of the 51 ORs on All Arms and STAIN Courses. The remaining 4 ORs were trained at external academic institutions, ( 2 Infantry Bn, 2017). That is, 20.5% of the Unit was trained. In the Final analysis 6 Infantry Bn’s training was no different from the other two battalions. A total of 3 Officers and 83 Ranks were trained on All Arms and STAIN Courses. A further 1 Offr and 11 were trained at academic institutions. This is 42.7% of the Unit was trained. No training was done in direct relation to civil defence at 2 and 6 Infantry Battalion.
In analysing the foregoing discourse on the Infantry Battalions, that is, 1, 2 and 6 Infantry Battalions of the Guyana Defence there appears to be a commonalty in the training at the lower level, that is, during All Arms and STAIN Courses. Ranks can subscribe to a variety of Courses ranging from clerical to engineering, promotional and even courses at external institutions. However, training for a role within civil defence operation was not captured within none of these Course that were conducted last year. This is so since civil defence was not programmed as part of the training syllabi of these Course. (Training Corps, 2017). Additionally, it was also revealed that no significant training in civil defence was done to equip the ranks for such eventualities over the reviewing period, yet ranks were involved flood relief in Region 9 last year (Mendonca, 2018). At the senior level, that is, the Officers and Senior Non Commissioned Officers, a similar situation ensued as minimal training was done in this regard. No training in civil defence was offered to either the Officer or Senior Non Commissioned Officers on the Courses pursued internally or at external academic institutions. A total of 11 Offrs and 297 ORs were trained within the Battalions which represented 41.5% of the total strengths of the combined battalions of which only 1 person was trained in civil defence.
Therefore, it is the author’s view that the strength within the training of the Force lies with the commonalty of the syllabi at both the junior and senior levels which synergises the Forces doctrine across the Units. Further to this is the extensiveness of the training received which cover areas from clerical to more technical subjects such as first aid at the junior levels. At the officer level training is not limited although there are some key areas of training. Therefore, officers and ranks of 1, 2 and 6 Infantry Battalions were taught the same doctrine and have the same training opportunities available to them. However, there appears to be an inherent weakness in the training of these Units, as training for a role in civil defence is minimal despite the frequent involvement of these Units in flood relief, for instance. Training is also heavily biased towards warfighting where Open Country Warfare is used as the baseline to teach other doctrines. This is despite Guyana’s use of “international diplomacy as the means to resolve conflict with her neighbours.”(Granger, 2018). Nonetheless, training opportunities are provided through continued statecraft and international partnership. There is an urgent need for the Force to collaborate with organisations such as CDC to better develop its effectiveness in response to flooding through specialised training and understanding the dynamics of civil defence operations. This relationship holds endless possibilities, for instance the training of Platoon and Company Commanders as shelter managers, and the training of operations staff as emergency centre managers. In the final analysis, however, the Force needs to develop doctrine to include techniques, tactics and procedures specific to it involvement in civil defence. This is lacking and can be considered as a threat to the Force’s continued involvement in civil defence operations.
The Infantry Battalions have limited equipment that can be used in disaster relief within it Areas of Operations. Analysis of the Assets Register of these Units for 2017 suggest that 1 Infantry Bn has boats (2 x Boats at Eteringbang and 1 x Boat at New River). There was no boat in the stores, however, there was one outboard engine. (1 Infantry Bn, 2017). They also had the most vehicles (2x Trucks and 4 x pickups) at headquarters and 1 x ATV at New River and Eteringbang respectively. The 2 water pumps in store were unserviceable and the other 3 were in used at the various locations. (Peters, 2018). There were also 20 Camp Cots of which 8 were unserviceable and 15 rechargeable lamps of which 10 were unserviceable. This sums up the equipment state of 1 Infantry Battalion. At 2 Infantry Battalion there were 2 x pickups at headquarters and 1 x vehicle and boat respectively at Lethem, (2 Infantry , 2018). 6 Infantry Battalion was also limited in its equipment capacity to deal with civil defence operations. There were 2 x pickups at headquarters, 1 x pickup and ATV at Mabaruma and 1 x pickup at New Amsterdam respectively. At headquarters also there was 1x generator. This Unit does not have any boats, (6 Infantry Battalion, 2017). Outside of these general equipment there was a deficiency of individual kit and equipment for ranks of these Infantry Battalions as well. This is reflected in all of the Annual Reports for 2017. 1 Infantry Battalion suggested thought the kit was adequate it was not durable (1 Infantry Bn, 2017). This point is furthered exasperated by 2 and 6 Infantry Battalions who posited that “the Unit received minimal quality of kit and equipment during “HOMEGUARD”. However, a deficiency still exist at the Unit.”(2 Infantry Bn, 2017). 6 infantry Bn on the other hand, suggested that “the Unit was unable to acquire adequate uniforms, webbing equipment and DMS in 2016 and 2017 which was as a result of a deficiency in the Force.”(6 Infantry Bn, 2017).
A strength of the Infantry Battalions appears to be the mobility assets that are available within the Regions. This can provide access to areas that are difficult to traverse especially the use of boats during flooding. However, there are no inherent storage of equipment such as beds, cots, water pumps etc that can invoke a prompt response by the Infantry Battalions. The will have to depended on statecraft partnership in order to be effective. Further to this is that, given a protracted deployment, these Battalions will also require some of the same equipment being utilised to assist with relief. This will have to be drawn from other units. An opportunity will see 1, 2 and 6 Infantry Battalions being the custodians of a pool of equipment in storage bonds within the areas highlighted earlier in order to effect response. A threat to this process, however, will be the allocation of finance specifically for this process as these monies could be utilised in other cycles of the disaster management process.
This Service Essay was premised on the continuance of the Infantry Battalions of the Guyana Defence Force involvement in civil defence operations as projections of increase effects of climate change on the survivability of coastal dwelling states are bleak. As such, there is the increase need for decisive action in civil defence within Guyana since there can be economic, social and other consequences. This is likely to disrupt the day to day lives of the citizenry within these communities, so affected. When one look at the flooding of Guyana in 2005 the “magnitude of the damages caused by the floods was estimated to be equivalent to 59% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the year 2004,” (Office of Climate Change, 2018). This represent moneys that could have been utilised in other areas of development or even in preventative measures against flood. Further until such time as the CDC and or the GPM is capable of providing human resources, in quantity, in the various Regions of Guyana the Infantry Battalions, to include 2 Infantry Battalion which is a regular Battalion that is part of the GPM, will be utilised.
As it stands, the military has limited capacity and technical training to meet civil defence challenges. However, there is always a readily available force of professionals. The Infantry Battalions of the GDF can play a significant role given there disposition in the Regions, however, improvement in training and equipment of these Units are needed to enhance its effectiveness when used as a response to civil defence challenges, especially flooding. Notwithstanding the areas that have been reviewed in this paper there is also the legal aspect and the structural framework that will be required to guide the GDF’s involvement. This will have to be carefully developed in order to allow for interoperability of the GDF and civil society organisation during periods of natural disaster. No doubt laws will have to be enacted as the domestic use of the military often time comes with its own challenges. Therefore in order to improve operational success when the Infantry Battalions of the Guyana Defence Force are employed in civil defence operations they will require training specific to this role and the requisite equipment.
Critical to the issue of civil defence and the employment of the Infantry Battalions of GDF, is effective responses. This can only be achieved by well-planned structured approach in mitigating such circumstances. Therefore the Infantry Battalions will have to have clearly defined role and responsibilities to cater for their involvement in civil defence. The Infantry Battalions will also require technical training individually and collectively, and with institutions such as the CDC to allow for its employment in civil defence operations. These Battalions will also require a holding of equipment specific to the purpose of response. Finally, the legal development of common best practices and the Integration of the military into the National Disaster Management Structure will be required.
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