What Is Wrong With The Barbados Defense Force?

The Barbados Defense Force is the name given to the combined armed forces of Barbados. The BDF was established August 15th, 1979, and has responsibility for the territorial defense and internal security of the island.

There are three main components of the BDF:

  • Force Headquarters — provided administrative and logistical support for the entire force
  • The Barbados Regiment — this is the main land force component, and encompasses both regular and reserve units.
  • Barbados Coast Guard — this is the maritime element, with responsibility for patrolling Barbados’ territorial waters as well as drug interdiction and humanitarian and life-saving exercises.
  • Barbados Cadet Corp — Military youth organisation. Includes Infantry and Sea Cadets
Source: Wikipedia


Increasingly as the crime situation deteriorates, our Barbados Defense Force (BDF) will be called upon to play an increasing role in domestic and regional security duties. They are many who believe that the small size of Barbados should make an army unnecessary in our neck of the woods. Two reasons which are readily offered by those anti-army are 1). the threat of a military to democratically elected governments and 2). the high cost of maintenance by countries with limited resources . Over the years we have witnessed our BDF being called to assist the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) on routine patrols, participating in disaster efforts, ceremonial duties at national events to name a few. BU sides with the view that the BDF has been used to absorb mostly young males as a strategy to keep them employed over the years. In recent times the BDF has been unable to attract applicants which meet the basic enrollment qualification. It has become a source of concern in certain quarters. If the BDF is to replenish soldiers who retire, resign, dismiss or leave through other means recruits will have to be found, and soon.

We can always rely on a member of the Bajan blogosphere to offer a view, read on:

At the launch of the Barbados Defence Force’s week of activities, Commanding Officer of the Barbados Regiment Lt Col Clyde Parris has lamented the shortage of applicant to join the force –particularly from young men. The Commanding Officer also commented that even cadets are opting not to join up with the BDF. This is a very interesting situation, and one that appears to call for much deeper analysis than just a superficial look. The real question that should be asked of course is why so many are leaving the BDF. In fact, it would be useful if we can have some figures from the Force as to the exact numbers of soldiers at all levels of the organisation that have resigned in the last five years. The fact that cadets, who have been closely associated with the BDF over the years are reluctant to join may well be a clear indication that all is not well in that body. Passing strange that in a society where jobs are hard to come and where the challenges that face the military are largely ceremonial, we should have such a dearth of applicants to join the BDF and even stranger, that such large numbers at both low and senior levels are rushing to resign. The problem may well lie – not with those reluctant to join or remain with the BDF- but with those inside who manage and Command that organisation. It is also interesting that Colonel Parris commented on the ‘large numbers’ joining the Cadet Corps at this time. What is different about that organisation? Is it not part of the Defence Force? Maybe The Colonel needs to look inwards.One hopes that the proposed reforms to this organisation promised by the new Government will seek to address the real problems that reside in that institution.

Submitted by a Commenter

Is it conceivable that the BDF may have to turn to our Caribbean brothers and sisters as a source to bolster its recruitment effort?

Related Story

Caribbean & Crime: Prosperity Under Threat

22 thoughts on “What Is Wrong With The Barbados Defense Force?

  1. David,

    Again Bush tea is forced to take a different view from yours….
    A country that chooses NOT to have a ‘Defence Force’ in this world is like a homeowner that chooses not to build a fence and gate, or to lock his doors and windows.
    …and the more successful the home in question (highest on list of small developing countries?!?) the more important that you have a good lock.
    There are lots of reckless idiots out there…

    So I disagree that the only role for our Army is to ’employ some boys from the block to keep them employed’

    With respect to the problems faced in recruitment and retention, I would suspect that this is all a matter of management. This was certainly not always the case… In the early days of the Barbados Regiment I recall that many soldiers appeared to be permanent fixtures at Garrison.
    We have not heard a lot publicly about the management style of Colonel Parris, but if he runs the army anything like we have read that Colonel Nurse ran the prison then I certainly would not be surprised that soldiers would be leaving in droves.
    Was Mr Nurse not transfered from the Army to the Prison?

    David, as I said before, the problems we face in Barbados can be reduced to one thing -BAD MANAGEMENT. The Army, Police, CBC, Media everywhere….
    Bad management produces bad results and Good management produces good results….(for those who hate it when I quote the good book – You can always judge a tree by its fruit)

    Our mistake here is that rather than cut down the trees that do not bare fruit as Jesus suggested, we allow those trees to blame everyone else for their lack of results and we attempt to solve the problem by importing fruit from elsewhere …

    Can we have some statistics? what is the turnover rate? Do they do exit interviews?

    How can it be good to have such large numbers of ‘ex -soldiers’ wondering around in our society?

  2. What can the ‘Defence Force’ defend anyway? Can’t we use resources currently in use at the BDF to bolster the Barbados Police Force? Which is of critical importance to maintaining law and order?

    But to the point, what is happening at the BDF where they are not able to attract members while at the same time the Cadet Corp, the traditional breeding ground for the BDF continues to attract in high numbers?

  3. The So-called defense force is a total waste of time and taxpayers money. It was set during the tom adams administration to protect the Barbados Labour Party from a perceived threat from Burnet -Alleyne which never materialised.

    If I were the new PM I would disband it. A small potion of it would remain for ceremonial duties, that is all.

    The resources now at its disposal would be transferred to the Royal Barbados Police Force who really need them. The financial disburstment to it would be drastically cut and redeployed to the Royal Barbados Police Force.
    After suitable periods of training the majority of personnel would be transfered from the defence force to the Royal Barbados Force to bolster their numbers.

    In short I would spend money beefing up the capabilities of the Royal Barbados Police Force and little on the so-called defence force.

    Joint army police cooperation does not work. If you you want further proof just take a look at Jamaica, Trinidad, and Guyana. Why should we in Barbados import failed strategies to “fight” crime? Give the Royal Barbados Police Force what it needs to get on top of the crime situation in Barbados. Better equipment, better training, better facilities and most of all BETTER SALARIES. Oh, before I forget deport many of these illegal Guyanese who are a source of crime in this country.

    DISBAND THE DEFENCE FORCE IT IS NOT STRUCTURED FOR CRIME PREVENTION WORK. Increase the capabillity of the Royal Barbados Police.

    Carson C. Cadogan
    Eagle Hall
    St. Michael

  4. The Defence Force/Cadet Corps can be used for setting up a national youth service. This compulsory induction of all youth into a disciplined structure would break the cycle of school leavers furnishing the blocks with fresh criminals. A national youth service may not eliminate the block culture but it certainly would smash its power by severely limiting the number of recruits.

  5. Carson C. Cadogan // February 26, 2008 at 7:26 am

    If I were the new PM I would disband it. A small potion of it would remain for ceremonial duties that’s all.
    That is exactly why you are not the Prime Minister. You have not the slightest clue!

    Today’s developing countries have far more to protect that before. The very presents of a paramilitary force in today’s global climate can make a difference between “life as we know it void of political and social unrest”.

    The role of our defense force is not to fight wars, but to offer “formidable resistance” in the face of external or internal threats or unrest.

    Until a larger tactical force redeploys, a well-trained local force with intimate knowledge of our terrain and points of entry can make a difference in sustaining our democracy or our surrender to tyrants.

    The financial burden shared, is a small token towards the preservation of peace of mind. The very election process we so proudly past, void of any disruption, threats, or civil disturbance is a testimony to our faith in democracy and the cost we pay to preserve such.
    Our Prime Minister can rest assured that even in the absence of a popular mandate the office is safe and secured. Mischievous and divisive elements are the reasons Grenada, Jamaica, Dominica and Guyana have all been faced with a potential collapse of Government. Saved the armed forces presents for their stability.

    A sustainable force with the capacity to rapidly deploy and reinforce is key. Foreign elements, such as Al Qaeda, pirates and mercenaries are guarded against.

    Time will Tell

  6. The People’s Democratic Congress (PDC)strongly supports the establishment and maintenance of a small, well trained and equipped, modern and professional military force for Barbados. Such a military force must have land, air, marine and naval components quite capable of dealing with the defence, security and protection of the country’s sovereignty, and territorial and coastal/maritime integrity, rights, and resources, as against any threatening or actual internal or external aggressions. In this regard, therefore, any Government of Barbados must certify that as often as possible such a force is able to secure and maintain the necessary number of personnel, the appropriate amount of financial, technological, communications and resources allocations, and the adequate levels of military and non-military (disaster relief, first aid, voluntarism, etc.) training and experience that would altogether enable it to properly perform its very fundamental military role and function in the local, regional and international scheme of things.

    As well, we in PDC strongly support the establishment and maintenance of a well trained and equipped very patriotic national peoples militia for Babados. Such a militia would, among other things, perform the role and function of instiling in and educing out of its members a strong sense of patriotism, civic-mindedness, and due respect for and acceptance of those democratic, constitutional and human rights institutions and processes of the country, and a profound regard for and acceptance of the rule of law being an important plank in the administration of justice in the country.

    However, as far as the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) and its component organizations are concerned, right now, a substantial amount of work and development have to done by themselves and, among others, the Government of Barbados, to make sure that they re/present the type of image, culture and organizational standing that is very consistent with PDC’s thinking, as briefly out lined above. For certain, it is time enough that many of the outdated and rundown mess hall, barracks and other facilities at the St. Ann’s Fort, Garrison Headquarters of the BDF, are upgraded and modernized. It is also time enough that there should have been established fully staffed and properly managed Air Force and Marine Divisions of the BDF. Very importantly, as well, the time has come also for BDF-led National Independence, Remembrance Day and other parades to take on such great displays of national military hardware, national military aviation and naval hardware, and national military technology, prowess and achievement rather than just being oriented around military attachments in military colours in, or under, ceremonial and ritualistic marching orders in salute to a very uninspiring, but indeed, very revolting constitutional monarchical anachronism.

    And the time has really come for the Government of Barbados to take a greater and deeper interest in and to play a greater role than now in the overall planning and development of the BDF as a PROGRESSIVE NATIONAL MILITARY institution within the Government of Barbados, with a view of making sure that the many publicized military personnel, technical and other organizational problems and issues that are found within the BDF, that these are resolved properly and effectively, and in a timely manner, to the benefit of the smooth and efficient functioning and development of this disciplined force. Rather than the government continuing to view this BDF as some part-time SOCIAL (ROLE) AGENCY that has contained in it a MILITARY element, and in which esp. certain segments of the masses allow themselves to be placed in to develop a greater sense of social camaraderie and belongness, and to whom very lofty but superficial promises about, say, pensions schemes being developed for relevant former and present full time soldiers of the BDF (what about pensions for part-time soldiers too?), which by now should have been ABSOLUTELY functioning, are often times casually tossed out by Prime Ministers – who are the ministers politically reponsible for the BDF – and other ministers of government, apparently whenever it suits them, at recruitment passing out parades, military church services and other events.


  7. We in Barbados need a defence force because they can defend us from various types of terrorism. I would put them in charge of anti terrorism ,external or domestic, where they can train and educate other government departments or even the public about possibe threat awareness

  8. Disbanding the BDF is pure insanity, if another island decides they are not taking us over economically, but use Bush’s concept of force, what then? They should be used and without hesitation as an adjunct to the RBPF, legislate and enforce accordingly to prevent any potential abuses…

    If you take a peep over by me, you’ll learn that China just poured 840k worth of equipment to the BDF and a pledge to teach them Kung Fu later this year.

    Talk about kicking butt?

  9. ….in fact Ian, The BDF is TOO IMPORTANT to be left to operate in the second rate manner in which it seems to be going.

    Here is an opportunity to build STANDARDS in the small society through training, discipline and self reliance.

    Here is an opportunity to focus large numbers of our young people etc… instead we have everyone looking to get out, and reluctant to join….

    The security aspect, important as it is, is a good secondary reason to have the BDF.

  10. Hello to all barbadians….
    As a former sergeant in the U.S. Army and my parents being Bajan, I am relieved that Barbados has a Defence Force to protect the country from any threats whether it is internal or external.
    This is a very dangerous world that we live in folks. There are terrorist organizations, drug cartels, rogue states and nations that will invade others for strategic or to gain ones’ resources.
    Barbados is no exception to the rule. Barbados must maintain a well-trained, highly motivated army equipped with the lastest and most sophisticated miltary hardware.
    Of course, I am not speaking about tanks, stealth fighters or aircraft carriers(laugh). However, looking at the BDF as a multifunctional, multicapable force…I am sorry to say it is not. The regiment has no armored personnel carriers, just Landrovers which offers no protection for the modern infantryman in a combat situation. The primary weapon of choice is the M-16 rifle which has its limitations in close-counter operations and can only put so many rounds down range. There are no indirect systems such as mortar or howitzers. Also, every modern army in this day and age, has an air arm. Caribbean neighbors Jamaica, Guyana , T&T, Belize and the Bahamas have both rotary(helicopters)and fixed wing aircraft. Aircraft are one of the most important pieces of equipment in any nation’s arsenal. They provide fire support, reconnassance, troop transport, medivac, SAR amongst other duties. Barbados needs a compliment of similar aircraft to consider its military to be READY. So, the ground forces or air arm do not get good marks in my book.
    The Coast Guard, I am happy to say, is moving in the right direction. Having aqquired new offshore and inshore PCFs and a new base, they can be more effective in fulfilling their missions and objectives.
    On a final note, the Barbados Government and the Defence Board need to sit down together and strongly analize the military. In terms of retention, soldiers must have incentives. If living conditions, salaries, room for promotion or advancement and overall lack of commitment arent there… the organization will fail miserably.
    Please take care of the BDF.
    Thank you.

  11. So David,

    Is the independence parade really scrapped?

    I have to say that Bush tea personally would support such a step by the PM. Just going through this ancient routine year after year, doing the same stupid parade was becoming a bore.

    I am sure that we can come up with much more creative and relevant ways to celebrate independence after 40 years….

    On another note, the fact that the PM would come out with such decisive action is a good sign to Bush tea’s mind. … seems that after walking quietly for seven months that big stick is about to swing…

  12. The people are waiting for the Prime Minister to lead BT.

    We stop attending the parade a long time ago and based on the attendance on TV many others too. We have a healthy respect for tradition but if it can be swapped for something better we are all for it. The BU household will definitely be stepping out come Independence Night because we want to be part of histry.

  13. Now we hear that the PM does not intend to scap but to reenact the Independence Day parade. Another occasion where the media got it wrong.

  14. As a former member of the BDF I can proudly say that it has served me well and will continue to serve many others in the future. However, the problem with the BDf is it’s management. Those in charge have lost the vision of the force “Country First”, but it has become a dumping ground for those looking for personal prestige. The non-commissioned officers and privates within the force are demotivated because there are too many double standards portrayed by the commissioned officers. There needs to be a cleansing of the force; what is happening now is similar to that of in-breeding, which results in the degredation and quality of the offspring. Government need to analyse the retention rate of the BDF and investigate the circumstances surrounding the quick exiting of those personnel. It’s a shame that we have highly skilled members on the street with grudges. Does anyone know the true implication of such?
    The BDF just like the police force as Red Plastic Bag cleverly put it – is the immune system of the country and to disban it would be a big mistake. In fact the BDF does more for security in times of crisis than any othe rorganisation. Cast your mind back to the period when the Sanitation Service and the RBPF went on strike. The BDF loyally stepped up to the mark and cayried out those duties without which the country would have paid a high cost trying to restore health and order back to our beloved shores.
    The world is moving at a fast pace and we in Barbados need to keep up and get rid of our small island mentality: we have grown as a nation and a people and we need to continue to protect our Sovereignty. Hence, no matter how small our country is we need to maintain that vital resource we have within the BDF. The BDF can be enhance through up-to-date equipment and training; running around in our country side and performing exercise which I see as only being good for physical fitness is not the way of modern day warfare preparation. We need to get with the times, so that in the event that we may have to join forces with our allies to preserve our democracy and freedom, we won’t look so primitive with our out of date equipment or lack there of.

  15. I want to join the BDF, probably the coast guards(i like the open water and sailing), any advice from anyone. I heard training is tough and rigorous.

  16. Here is what is interesting about all of this talk. Being a member of the Cadet Corps years ago, no one ever approached me about becoming a member of the Defence Force. It is a matter of preception. The Defence Force needs to work on recruiting and marketing or maybe sending some of it members on a transfer program to some U.S. Forces to learn how they recruit and retain. The military in the U. S. has bonafide school trained recruiters who visit schools and events and set up talks to let young people know how they can impact their country. Time to stop looking inward and try something different to make the Defence Force something to be reckoned with.

  17. In which lustrum or decade did the BCC (1904) become the” natural training ground” for BDF? After what they did to our Officers? I do not think so,sir. The BCC is about training model citizens ,please do not be misled by similarity in uniforms, as the BCC has long worn the garlands of excellence.

  18. “Weeding out bad officers”

    Did anyone read the article in Sunday March 7 Sunday Sun by Tony Best?

    Am I the only one concerned about this situation? How is it that it only comes to light now that the Americans publish a report? Did our authorities not notice this before?

    Who is guarding the guards?

    • The head of the BDF was in the news last week espousing a case that the BDF can play a major effort to the national development of Barbados. He cited the fact that quite a number of soldiers did the CXC general exams recently and there was close to 100 pass rate. While BU is not disputing his argument, we wonder at the timing of his interview and whether it was a PR ploy to deflect the Nation article.

  19. Pity about the recent Sports Programme football team fiasco,but they did get something right:the ambulance that rushed to the Market Hill accident scene(Mass Casualty) got there long befofe it was over.

  20. i wonder if those who think that the BDF should be disband ever knew that in order for the elegant GAIA -that we boost about-to exist that in case of an emergency you are to have a response team on hand to deal with and tragedies weather on land or sea. So who will we depend on, the sheep in Fair Valley when it happen on land or the seagulls off of Oistins that always on the bouys. You tell me!

The blogmaster dares you to join the discussion.