Belize Table of Contents
Police constable assigned to Belize Defence
Force maritime arm
Courtesy Steven R. Harper
As of 1991, the BDF had approximately 700 active-duty personnel. An additional 500 Belizeans served in the Volunteer Guard. The law allows for the establishment of obligatory national service whenever normal recruitment falls, but applicants have regularly exceeded openings by at least three-to-one, and enlistment has been entirely voluntary throughout the force's existence. The prospect of a steady job in a country having relatively high unemployment attracted the recruits. Service salaries, which were at least equal to those generally available in the private sector, also contributed to the abundance of recruits. The BDF, moreover, offered several training programs that imparted skills useful in civilian life.
The BDF drew recruits from all races and all areas of the country. The size of the defense force was about 0.3 percent of the total population and therefore did not drain the country's available work force. As of 1991, an estimated 24,000 men and 23,000 women were of eligible age for active duty. As of 1989, there were twenty-five women soldiers, with spaces for ten more.
The 1977 Defence Ordinance set forth terms of service. The minimum age for enlistment was eighteen. Enlistments were for various terms and included both a period of active service and a subsequent reserve obligation. Under law, service was not to exceed twenty-two years of active duty. Enlistment in the Volunteer Guard was for four-year terms; in a state of emergency, volunteers could be called to permanent service, as could reserve forces. The governor general awarded officer commissions.
Up until 1990, a British loan service officer held the position of commander of the BDF. In June 1990, however, the first Belizean officer, a lieutenant colonel, assumed command. At the same time, the government created the position of BDF chief of staff, which was also filled by a Belizean officer. Both of the nation's top officers had received training in British military schools.
Recruits underwent a fourteen-week training program focusing on basic weapons skills, marching drills, military tactics, and physical education. Since independence, the BDF's training unit has offered an average of four basic training courses per year. Most training was undertaken at Price Barracks in Ladyville, near Belize City, but additional facilities were available at Camp Oakley, Mountain Pine Ridge, and Hill Bank. Officers, senior noncommissioned officers, and specialists were trained in Britain, Canada, or the United States.
Data as of January 1992