The new recruits of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force were charged with protecting the country; particularly at sea, from illicit activities that threaten national security.

Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Minister of National Security the Hon. Brent Symonette delivered the message as he addressed the Graduation Ceremony for New Entry 45 at the HMBS Coral Harbour this weekend.

Mr. Symonette admonished the 52 marines to render “patriotic and exemplary service” as they protect the country’s 100,000 square nautical miles.

“Your accomplishment is built on the commitment you made, and which you have kept. It is built on the demands made of you, which you have met. It is built on the sacrifices you made and the challenges you confronted head on,” he said.

New Entry Training is an intensive marine recruit training programme designed to develop and improve leadership potential, professional skills, academic standards and physical fitness among young recruits entering the regular force. New Entry Training consists of 16 core subjects conducted over a period of 16 weeks, according to the Defence Force.

Training includes Defence Rules and Regulations, Maritime Law Enforcement, Coastal Navigation, Small Arms, Survival at Sea, Rules of the Road (for Maritime Traffic), Parade Drills, Land and Sea Expedition.

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force Mission Statement is “To become a self-sufficient, multi mission maritime organisation with the operational capacity to respond to threats to national security, as well as perform humanitarian tasks inclusive of maritime search and rescue, disaster relief assistance, and peacekeeping in cooperation with regional partners.”

In this vein, Mr. Symonette underscored the importance of the 28-year-old military agency to the country’s national security.

“For decades, a persistent illicit drug trade and unrelenting flow of illegal immigration into and through the country have compounded the country’s national security problems, challenged law enforcement on land and sea, taxed our strength and fortitude as a nation, and burdened our national budget and resources,” Mr. Symonette said.

He added that poachers continue to violate the country’s “territorial integrity”, to deplete marine resources, and to give no thought to the fisheries management and conservation laws and initiatives.

“Grave new problems are being packaged with the old, making our national security problems at sea and on land increasingly complex,” he said. “In a country which produces no guns and which has strict laws governing the possession of firearms, the increase in violent crime using guns, particularly murder and armed robbery are undoubtedly to the traffic in arms.”

The New Entry 45 was also reminded that they have committed to being part of the country’s defence against the myriad national security challenges facing the country.

The Bahamas has stepped up cooperation with its partners namely, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the United States of America, Mr. Symonette said.

He also advised the marines who they have joined the institution at a time when the Government has implemented a strategic plan to strengthen the Defence Force, with the acquisition of modern technology.

“Assets are critical to our modernising the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. The strength and effectiveness of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force overall is dependent on the dedication and commitment of the men and women of the Force,” he said.

“An effective Defence Force needs men and women who set high standards for themselves and are persons of integrity. An effective Defence Force requires officers and marines who are an example to emulate.”

The ceremony was rounded out with drill displays, performance by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force Band and presentation of certificates. The Best New Recruit award went to James Carey