Island youth join the Belize Coast Guard; San Pedro’s Almita Pinelo promoted to Lieutenant Commander
Sunday, December 1st, 2019
A total of 87 recruits successfully joined the ranks of the Belize Coast Guard (BCG) on Wednesday, November 27th, and were formally welcomed into the maritime law enforcement agency during a special ceremony held at its headquarters in Ladyville Village outside Belize City. Among the proud graduating class of intake number ten were three young men from San Pedro Town, 19-year-old Noel Hernandez, 21-year-old Cade Gian Segura, and 23-year-old Zamani Anderson. The ceremony, which included the swearing-in of a new Commandant of the coast guard, also saw islander and senior officer Almita Pinelo promoted to Lieutenant Commander.
Pinelo has an outstanding career with the BCG and is a prominent example for women in the military. The new Lieutenant Commander shared with The San Pedro Sun that she is grateful and proud of her accomplishment as the first woman to achieve such rank. Pinelo encourages other females in the country that may aspire to careers in the military not to give up and to work hard for their goals. Pinelo has trained in different countries, including Mexico, where she completed a six –month course in 2017 at the Universidad Naval, Centro de Estudios Superiores Navales. She was the only female among 81 other male naval officers. In June of this year, Pinelo was an honor graduate from the U.S Coast Guard Training Center in Virginia, USA.
New graduate Anderson’s family is extremely proud of his accomplishment and stated that they gave him all their support while in training. A San Pedro High School graduate, Anderson also received encouragement from his former teachers to take up the challenge. Graduate Segura added that he was looking to do something different in his life and found an interest in the coast guard. His family is happy and proud of his achievement, and he is excited to be able to serve his country at the BCG. Segura is also looking forward to taking part in a potential dive team that the BCG plans to create. “As an island boy, I love the water and being out at sea, so the coast guard is the perfect place for me,” he said.
Hernandez, also a graduate of San Pedro High School is the third young man joining the ranks of the growing BCG. He said that it is a dream come true. “I’ve been wanting this since I was in high school and always watching them around inspired me to join the coast guard,” said Hernandez. “To the youth on the island that aspire to be part of the military, I encourage them to join and come with a strong mind and to believe in themselves.” Hernandez added that although he failed to be part of the previous intake, he never gave up. He credits his mother for always being there for him and giving him the encouragement he needed.
The passing out of intake number ten also included the instalment of an incoming new commander, Captain Elton Bennett. Bennett succeeds Admiral John Borland, who has led the military maritime institution since 2009. Borland’s work towards the development of the coast guard is regarded as one of the best in the young history of the BCG. Captain Elton Bennett humbly accepted his new responsibility. The new commander spoke about the ethics of the institution. “The coast guard is not led on personality, we have a strategy, a vision, and a mission,” he said. “We don’t want to have an organization that shifts and sways with different personalities that come to command.” Borland congratulated Bennett, highlighting his capability and competence.
Minister of National Security, Honourable John Saldivar, stated that it was an opportune time for new leadership. He explained that the change in command was triggered after the creation of a Chief of Defence Staff (CDF) position, which is responsible for coordinating the agencies responsible for the defence of a country. Admiral Borland was announced as the first CDF in Belize.
The new group of graduates is expected to report to base on December 10th to start duties. BCG currently operates bases in the Corozal, Belize, (two on Ambergris Caye), and Toledo Districts, with plans to continue expanding their facilities.
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