By Makeida Antonio
Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF) personnel have greatly benefitted from regional and international military conference which concluded yesterday.
Chief of Defence Staff Colonel Telbert Benjamin said one major benefit for Antigua and Barbuda coming out of this meeting is increased training and educational opportunities for military personnel.
“One of the things that we have gained from this is the ability to tie into resources that are already in play in the region, in particular, the schools that are operational in Jamaica. Immediately, we have two students who are in the military academy in Jamaica, we have two more who are heading out to one of the other schools in Jamaica and so what we are looking for is to build capacity so that we can host,” Colonel Benjamin said.
There will be an increase in capacity to handle missions such as humanitarian assistance and search and rescue response because of collaboration with the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS).
Colonel Benjamin revealed that the project aims to build a Search and Rescue facility at the training area in Crabb’s. He said that he hopes this development will make Antigua and Barbuda the hub for military training in the region.
“The focus for Antigua and Barbuda going forward is going to be building capacity in the areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Through the National Office of Disaster Services, we have a search and rescue facility at the Crabbs training facility. So, it is expected that in the medium term, Antigua will become the hub for training the region in terms of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in particular urban search and rescue.”
This is the second meeting which is a hybrid of both a virtual and physical meeting and was the same format since the first one in 2020. The organisers of the three-day Second United Kingdom – Caribbean Chiefs of Defence Conference in Antigua and Barbuda ensured that all participants were fully vaccinated to protect each other and the rest of the population.
“Everyone who came to this event is 100 percent vaccinated and some persons who came here are double vaccinated. All that we have done, we have maintained bubbles throughout the event. From the hotel that we utilised to the opening ceremony that we had, giving them an opportunity to see a bit of Antiguan culture from a distance to the conference that we had, all of it was held in a pocket to ensure not only the safety of those who have come but also our own population, following the designated protocols from our health authorities,” Colonel Benjamin added.
In terms of other countries in the region, cybersecurity was one critical area that was identified to be tightened in this new technological era. Lieutenant General Rocky Ricardo Meade from Jamaica noted that some cybersecurity training does occur at the Caribbean Military Academy, however, there will be an increase in securing virtual boarders through partnering with U.K. to train more young people in the military.
The military officials believe that meeting with UK will help collaboration by building capacity in human resources and human development to mitigate transnational threats such as human trafficking and narcotics. Additionally, the UK now has a mechanism that is ready to assist with hurricane response in the Caribbean. Talks were had with the head of CDEMA and this will take the form of a long term initiative among the stakeholders involved.