Chief of Defence Staff awarded in King Charles III’s birthday honours list

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Colonel Telbert Benjamin (Photo contributed)
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Kenicia Francis

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An eminent local military leader who has dedicated three decades of his life to the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF) has been officially recognised in His Majesty King Charles III’s 2024 Birthday Honours list.

Chief of Defence Staff, Colonel Telbert Benjamin, has been awarded Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George for his services to the ABDF.

He has been at the helm of the country’s military operations for four years and has served the ABDF for nearly 30 years. 

Colonel Benjamin has held the top position since March 2020 when he took over the reins from Brigadier Sir Trevor Thomas who retired after more than 40 years’ active service in the military. 

Since joining the force in 1995, Colonel Benjamin has held various appointments, including Platoon Commander, Tactical Advisor to the Commissioner of Police, and Commanding Officer 1st Battalion.

It’s a significant recognition for his long-standing service and commitment.

“It was rather humbling, and a bit of a surprise because in this profession we really don’t look for those things. Something that my wife and I have been discussing is how to proceed with it based on the correspondence received, the options are there to do it either here in Antigua or in London. For me this is really a commendation to the ABDF because obviously it has come as a result of the work that I’ve done here and so it’s a commendation to ABDF and to the members of the organization,” he said.

The father of two is a graduate of the University of the West Indies, Webster University and the United States Army Command and General Staff College.

He has been deployed across the region on multiple occasions including in Grenada in 2004 after Hurricane Ivan, to Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake, and to Dominica in 2015 following the passage of Tropical Storm Erika.

In a few days’ time he will mark his 29th anniversary with the ABDF.

“Me coming into the organisation from State College was a big surprise for me because at the time many students from State College didn’t necessarily look toward the Defence Force as an option. My work with the soldiers has been the biggest thing for me over the last 29 years,” he said.

“I’ve worked with some really good people who’ve helped me along the way. I’ve worked with a lot of regional colleagues as well and, in particular, my work across the training environment is among the biggest successes for my career so far.

“Being able to work not only with our Defence Force here but also with the regional security system, its training institute supports the development of regional leaders. That, for me, has been a major part and of course working once again with RSS in terms of operations, whether it be disaster response or supporting national security related matters.”

Colonel Benjamin also spoke about how much things have changed in the ABDF over the last three decades.

“When I joined the Defence Force, computers were foreign to the organisation. I think the force had probably two or three very large desktop computers; we had a very limited Coast Guard. We only had a few people who were transferred from the police force at the time, and we were beginning to recruit for that purpose,” he said.

“We were extremely internally focussed on Antigua and Barbuda. We have now become more outward looking at supporting our agencies nationally as well as regional. We have obviously within the last four years added our air component to the organization and we are continuing a build out of our communication systems that will support maritime and aviation security pieces. So, the force has grown tremendously over the last 29 years.”

The King’s birthday honours are appointments by some of the 15 Commonwealth realms of King Charles III to reward and highlight good works by citizens of those countries. They are awarded as part of the King’s official birthday celebrations in June.

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