Barbadians should make no mistake about the usefulness of the country’s armed forces and its vital contribution to national security, said Attorney General Dale Marshall.
While the threat of traditional warfare is practically non-existent, Marshall stood in firm opposition to some who may feel the Barbados Defence Force has outlived its usefulness.
He also sought to dispel the notion that it has been reduced to just a disaster response agency.
“Let me say emphatically, the BDF is not merely an organization with manpower for disaster relief. What the Barbados Defence Force is, is the defender of our nation; and while some may assert with some enthusiasm that there are no external threats to Barbados, our Barbadian military is responsible for the safe and peaceful environment in our homeland which is conducive for national development.
“And while we may not be fighting a war in the sense of the Great Wars of 1914-1918 or World War two from 1939 to 1945, the contemporary security environment provides sufficient reason to maintain military organizations.”
Preferring to use the term “conflict rather than war,” he contended that national security threats these days involved “military and state and non-state actors. It comprises sometimes the use of firearms, electronic devices and it also, curiously enough comprises the media”.
The Attorney General was speaking in validation of 197 military officers before bestowing upon them special honours for their years of service.
While he acknowledged them for their swift work during crises like the Operation Urgent Fury mission occasioned by the Grenada revolution in the late 1970’s, he acknowledged the face of security threats is rapidly changing.
“Risk, danger and death not only impact personal safety and life, but there’s also the destruction of our economies through such things as cyber-attacks, social degradation as a result of illicit drugs and other forms of transnational crime, the effect of terrorist networks; and now coming into sharper focus is the destabilizing capacity of such things as climate change and the increased intensity of natural hazards.
He continued: “We are challenged with many law enforcement threats like terrorism, that require military response, natural hazards increase our security vulnerability to all forms of threats. And yes, we need the military to assist us in stabilizing Barbados during a disaster, crisis or emergency.”
Flanked by Acting Prime Minister George Payne the justice minister recounted numerous occasions when swift work by the BDF extinguished major crises.
One such event was the March 2005 fire at Glendairy Prison, which threatened the lives of prisoners and prompted a mass evacuation of the charred prison.
Receiving the second highest national honor, The Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) for courage in the face of that fire was Lieutenant Commander John Euclide Mapp. The now retired officer has been credited for saving dozens of lives at the prison as his fire-fighting team extinguished the blaze in the main kitchen and female section of the prison, which was under serious threat.
“Today’s presentation is not simply one of pomp and circumstance…. It is one of sincere and deeply felt recognition,” said Marshall.