Country Listing

Guyana Table of Contents


Mission, Organization, and Capabilities


Figure 8. Guyana: Military Ranks and Insignia, 1991

Responsible for protecting Guyana from external threats, the GDF also concerned itself with internal security, border defense, civic work, and other activities. Some observers viewed the GDF primarily as a partisan internal security force, noting in particular the deployment of its best units to the capital. Yet the military was also a deterrent to the genuine external threat resulting from the border disputes with Venezuela and Suriname (see fig. 7).

In the 1960s, the GDF carried out military operations to counter both external and internal threats. In 1969 the GDF quelled an insurrection in the interior led by ranchers who the government believed had been armed and aided by Venezuela. That same year the GDF expelled Surinamese soldiers from a disputed area in southeastern Guyana.

The GDF maintained a high level of involvement in civic action and national development. Training and logistical support to the agriculture, mining, fishing, and construction sectors received the greatest emphasis. The GDF provided medical support to civilians as needed, and its telecommunications and aviation resources were used during emergencies and in relief operations.

The armed forces were a single unified service comprising ground, naval, and air components. This structure gave the army operational control over the naval and air elements. The president of Guyana was commander in chief of the GDF. The GDF was organized into approximately twenty corps whose activities ranged from training to intelligence to catering and musical performance. Service in the GDF was voluntary, and its membership was overwhelmingly Afro-Guyanese. Women were accepted into the service but constituted only a small percentage of the total force.

The land component of the GDF, by far the dominant service in size and importance, in 1990 had an active strength of approximately 1,400. The principal combat units were two infantry battalions, one guard battalion, one Special Forces battalion, one support weapons battalion, one artillery battery, and one engineer company. The composition of the two infantry battalions was standardized in 1980. Each of these two units consisted of a headquarters company, three rifles companies, and a support company.

Army matériel included armored reconnaissance vehicles, artillery, and surface-to-air missiles. The GDF generally used equipment of British, Soviet, or United States design (see table 9, Appendix A).

The air wing of the GDF was created in 1968. In 1970 it was redesignated the Air Command, GDF. The 200-member Air Command was headquartered at Camp Ayanganna in Georgetown. In the early 1990s, its five aircraft and five helicopters operated from Georgetown's Timehri Airport. The command's primary missions were transportation, communications, and liaison. Secondary missions included counternarcotics, and maritime patrolling. All aircraft were civil registered.

A naval section of the GDF was created in 1968 and consisted of four small patrol craft. During the 1970s and 1980s, the naval component gained additional vessels although it remained the smallest element of the GDF, with four vessels in the early 1990s. Officially known as the Maritime Corps, the naval section numbered 100 personnel in 1991. Based in Georgetown and New Amsterdam, the navy had no marine force or aircraft.

Service in the GDF was voluntary, and the privileged treatment accorded the armed forces was the primary reason for joining the service. Quarters and food were good, and pay was often better than in the civilian sector. A military career offered the advantages of medical care for personnel and their families, a retirement plan, and survivor benefits.

Uniforms were based on a British model. GDF dress for men consisted of tropical khaki shirts and trousers. Short canvas leggings were worn, and the standard headgear was a red beret decorated with the national arms. There was also a ceremonial uniform consisting of a white coat and dark blue trousers. Women had several uniforms, including a khaki blouse and slacks worn with a fatigue hat and a light khaki blouse and skirt worn with a green beret (see fig. 8).

Data as of January 1992

Country Listing

Guyana Table of Contents