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Female Officers and Ranks conferred with the WAC 50th Anniversary Commemoration Medal

All female Officers and Ranks of the Guyana Defence Force who are in service to the GDF as at February 6, 2017, are being conferred with the Women's Army Corps 50th Anniversary Commemoration Medal.

At the Women's Army Corps 50th Anniversary Medal Presentation Parade, which was held on February 6, at Base Camp Ayanganna, one female Officer and thirty-one female Other Ranks were conferred with their medals. Here are photographs of the Medal.

One image shows the front of the Medal which shows the GDF Insignia with the words "Guyana Defence Force Military Commemoration Medal" inscribed. The back of the Medal carries the image of the Victoria Regia Lily, supported by two crossed rifles, with the words"Women's Army Corps 50th Anniversary" inscribed.

The ribbon to which it is affixed, comprises a lilac-coloured band with white edges.

 
 

COS receives visiting US Rear Admiral during Courtesy Call

On February 6, Chief of Staff Brigadier Patrick West, received and welcomed US Navy Rear Admiral Martha Herb, at the Office of The Chief of Staff, at Defence Headquarters. Rear Admr Herb, was on a Courtesy Call with the COS.
 
Earlier that morning, she had been a guest at the Thanksgiving Church Service in observation of the 50th Anniversary of the Women's Army Corps, which was held at the National Cultural Centre.
 
Rear Admr Herb also had informal interactions with female Officers, whom she later joined for their Anniversary Luncheon.
 
Photography by Private Kenneth Gaskin of the GDF G5 Branch.

COS receives Adjutant General of Florida during Courtesy Call

On February 6, Chief of Staff, Brigadier Patrick West, received and welcomed Florida National Guard Major General Michael A. Calhoun, during a Courtesy Call at the Office of The Chief of Staff at Defence Headquarters. Maj Gen Calhoun is the Adjutant General of Florida.

The Guyana Defence Force has a strong working relationship with the Florida National Guard, through which, training initiatives for GDF Officers and Ranks is executed.

 

Photography by Private Kenneth Gaskin of the G5 Branch of the GDF.

GDF wins Male and Female titles at Inter-Services Cross Country Championships

Guyana Defence Force males and females swept the top titles, when the dust settled at the conclusion of the Inter-Services Cross Country Championships on Friday, February 3. 

Among males, the Guyana Police Force finished in second place, with the Guyana Fire Service finishing third. 
 
The Guyana Police Force also copped the second place among the women's teams, while the City Constabulary team finished third. 
 
 
Photography by Private Kenneth Richards of the G5 Branch of the GDF.

First Lady challenges GDF on the occasion of the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Women's Army Corps

As the Guyana Defence Force Women's Army Corps (WAC) marked its 50th Anniversary, First Lady, Her Excellency Sandra Granger, challenged the Guyana Defence Force to expand professional opportunities for women in the Force, such that "...their career choices in the twenty-first century army be widened..."
 
The First Lady was, at the time, delivering the Feature Address at the Thanksgiving Service in observance of the WAC 50th Anniversary, which was held at the National Cultural Centre (NCC), on Monday, February 6, 2017. 
 
During the service, the auditorium of the NCC rang with the voices of the assemblage female Officers and Other Ranks, as they gave thanks.
 
Also joining the Force's serving females in thanksgiving and celebration were, Acting President, His Excellency Moses Nagamootoo and Mrs. Nagamootoo, Members of the Defence Board, Ministers of Government, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, the Chief of Staff, Brigadier Patrick West and Mrs. Margaret West, former Chiefs of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff Colonel Nazrul Hussain, other Officers past and present, Military Attache's, and other special invitees, including the US Navy's Rear Admiral Martha Herb, and Major General Michael Calhoun of the Florida National Guard.
 
Below is the full text of the First Lady's address.
 

PRESENTATION TO THE THANKSGIVING SERVICE FOR THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE
 WOMEN’S ARMY CORPS, GUYANA DEFENCE FORCE

“CELEBRATING OUR WOMEN; EMPOWERING THEM FOR TOTAL NATIONAL DEFENCE”

Georgetown, 6 February 2016

 

Chair;

Acting President Hon. Moses Nagamoottoo and Mrs. Sita Nagamootoo;

Honourable Ministers of Government;

Honourable Members of Parliament;

Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Patrick West;

Members of the Diplomatic Corps;

Officers and ranks of the Guyana Defence Force;

Distinguished Guests;

Members of the media;

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good morning.

I wish to thank Brigadier Patrick West for inviting me to make brief remarks at this ceremony marking a significant milestone in the history of the women soldiers in our Guyana Defence Force.  I am not an expert, having only served a brief stint in the National Service while I was acquiring my university education, but I believe I can profess to some knowledge of the military having spent the first twenty-five years of my married life in a GDF Compound, Camp Ayanganna.

That being said, the formation of the Women’s Army Corps fifty years ago in 1967 was greeted in some quarters with resistance.  At that time, a woman’s role was perceived to be that of the home-maker, cooking, cleaning and minding the children. At the professional level, tradition pigeon-holed her in the roles of cook, caterer, cleaner, secretary, receptionist or telephone operator. Many men – and some women – adhered to that view.

Threats to our new nation within a few months of our Independence in  May 1966 required the male soldiers to be despatched to our borders to protect Guyana’s territorial integrity, thereby creating the need for man (or should I say, woman )-power to perform the support services. There was, however, no inclination to include women in the platoons posted to border locations despite the fact that the women who completed the basic recruit course had to have the same physical fitness and skill at arms, and complete all the requirements of that course like their male counterparts.

An interesting thing then happened. The late sixties and early seventies saw the rise of feminism and womanism throughout the world.  The United Nations declared 1975 International Women’s Year and an international conference on women was held in Mexico City.

Following the first World Conference on Women, the UN declared 1976-1985 the UN Decade for Women, which highlighted the imperative of women’s rights.   The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which aimed at elimination of all forms of discrimination by holding countries responsible for discrimination that took place in their territories, was adopted by the United Nations in 1979, and took legal effect in 1981, after it had been ratified by twenty member states.

Guyana signed and ratified that Convention.

It must be noted that a “convention” does not have the weight of a “treaty.” But is a written agreement among states and organisations. Notwithstanding this, CEDAW urges:

Ø  States parties, or signers, of the Convention shall take all “appropriate measures” to modify or abolish existing laws and practices that discriminate against women;

Ø  States parties shall suppress trafficking of women, exploitation, and prostitution;

Ø  Women shall be able to vote in all elections on equal terms with men;

Ø  Equal access to education, including in rural areas; and

Ø  Equal access to health care, financial transactions and property rights.

In this context it is not surprising that ten years after the first intake of women soldiers, then President Forbes Burnham (who was the Prime Minister at the time we attained our Independence)  stated in 1977 –

“I recall that when we first recruited women into the Guyana Defence Force, the then Chief-of-Staff [Colonel Ronald Pope] thought that women should be allocated to secretarial duties and telephone operating. I gave an instruction then and I hope that that instruction has been carried out. Though perhaps women should get first choice on secretarial and telephone duties, they must understand that they are soldiers and the price…which they pay for equality and being in the Guyana Defence Force must be their ability to do anything the men can do as well, if not better.[My emphasis]

 (Ex David Granger, National Defence: A Brief History of the Guyana Defence Force 1965-2005. Georgetown, Free Press, 2005)

From my reading of this statement, it is clear that the then President, who was also Minister of Defence and Chairman of the  Guyana Defence Board expected women soldiers to be as competent, if not better, as their male counterparts in all aspects of military life.

Over the years, women soldiers functioned in the more “traditional” roles as administrative assistants, clerks, secretaries, cooks, caterers and mess staff.  They have also served as guards; driver/mechanics; musicians in the Band Corps; paratroopers; plumbers; signallers; tailors; dental assistants, nurses and physical rehabilitation assistants; pilots in the Air Corps; and  base commanders, to name a few appointments. They have served as qualified referees at boxing matches and football games. They have participated with pride in parades and carried the Force’s ‘colour’.

One female officer created history when she became the first female officer in the Anglophone Caribbean to be promoted to the rank of “Colonel.” Another officer was seconded to the magistracy and now serves as Chief Magistrate.

But while they have been allowed to participate in local training, I do not recall any female officer being sent to do advanced military training for service at the highest levels of command.  It may be deduced therefore that female soldiers hit a glass ceiling beyond which their professional progress is denied. 

No one can argue that women lack the ability to think strategically and act tactically. Consider the Amazon warriors (and I am not speaking of today’s limited over cricket heroes, though I love my team) – all females whose mythical prowess in battle was an inspiration. 

I go to my Bible and read about -

ü  Deborah,who took command and led her people to defeat of the Canaanites in battle;

ü  Jael,who when the defeated Canaanite General Sisera, having fled the battle, took shelter in her tent, let him fall asleep. She then took a mallet and drove a tent peg through his head: Sisera suffered the ultimate humiliation of a soldier. He was killed by a lone woman;

ü  Judith who, when her town was besieged and about to surrender,  went to the enemy camp and hacked off the head of its leader Holofernes as he lay in a drunken stupor; and

ü  Rahab, the prostitute whose house was ideally located on the walls of Jericho. She helped Joshua and his soldiers and we know what happened at Jericho.

Consider, the brave women in our own history, who provided succour and support to their menfolk and sometimes led the fight against slavery and indentureship.

Consider the sabra of the modern Israeli Defence Force.

Consider today’s Peshmerga women snipers. They drive fear into the hearts of Islamic State fighters who believe it would be the utmost indignity to die at the hands of a woman.

These are merely a few examples to show that women have never been hesitant to step forward and do the job that needed to be done whenever the need arose.

In his address to the Annual Guyana Defence Force Officers’ Conference on 3rd March 2016, under the theme, “Towards Greater Operational Readiness for National Defence and Security,” the President of Guyana posited that:

The philosophy steering Guyana’s national defence strategy, therefore, must reflect a long-term thinking process to respond to the multiple crises facing the country, facing the Caribbean Community and facing the continent, that is to say, at the national, regional and international levels.

He alluded to the imperative of maintaining and safeguarding Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, to the GDF’s role in international peacekeeping operations, and to the use of diplomacy and strategic partnerships in the context of safeguarding our patrimony.

The world has changed much since 1967 when the first female soldiers were inducted into the Guyana Defence Force.  Methods of warfare have evolved during this period. Today’s soldiers must be educated to confront more than advanced weaponry.  They also need to combat cyberwarfare and the belligerent use of information and communication technologies.

I believe that the time has long passed for women to be equipped to break that glass ceiling to which I referred earlier.

I believe that the hierarchy of the Guyana Defence Force is aware of the fact that more than half of our population are women.

I believe that they would not wish to ignore the valuable resources at their disposal as they plan and promote the development of a modern army.

Experiences in other countries have demonstrated women’s capacity to perform at a very high level in all aspects of military endeavour, including combat. 

Therefore,

·         Why not train the female soldiers in specialist areas, so that their career choices in the twenty-first century army may be widened and their prospects enhanced?

·         Why not begin sending female officers to Senior Command and Staff Courses so that they will be trained and equipped to lead troops into combat?

·         Why not train them to be Quartermasters-General, or to command the Air Corps and Coast Guard?

In this way, after fifty years of service to our nation, we can envision professionally-trained and equipped women participating in, and commanding infantry and special  forces battalions….heading branches of the service… and one day, becoming Chief-of-Staff of our Defence Force.

This, I believe, is how we can best fulfil the theme of these Fiftieth Anniversary celebrations, “Celebrating our Women; Empowering them for Total  National Defence.”

My warmest congratulations to the women who blazed the trail and those who continue to hold high the insignia of the Women’s Army Corps as we celebrate them and the founding of the Women’s Army Corps.

Thank you.

******