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Antigua & Barbuda Defence Force

The Royal Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (RABDF) is also housed under the Ministry of National Security and Labour and is comprised of around 250 personnel split between the army and Coast Guard. The militaryís primary responsibility is external defence, though it has been involved in conducting stop-and-search operations at roadblocks alongside police officers. The Coast Guard conducts drug interdiction operations but, according to the US State Department, lacks the capacity to fully carry these out.

Parliament in 1981 enacted a law whereby the Antigua Barbuda Defence Force was established as a regular Force. Prior to 1981, it was a Volunteer Unit known as the Antigua Defence Force. Over the years, the Antigua/Barbuda Defence Force has achieved a great record in army service especially when dealing with the local community. A fine example is its joints effort with the National Office of Disaster Service (NODS). Further, the Antigua/ Barbuda Defence Force can be called upon to assist in any form of trouble, thus working side by side with the Royal Police Force of Antigua/Barbuda on a regular basis.

The Ministry of National Security & Labour was formed shortly after the March 2009 general elections. Headed by Sen. the Hon. Dr. L. Errol Cort the Ministry has purview over the Labour, Immigration, and Passport & Citizenship Departments, as well as the Royal Antigua and Barbuda Police Force, Her Majestyís Prison, and the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF). The newly incorporated Ministry is headquartered on the corner of Thames and Long Streets in the heart of St. Johnís. That building houses not only the Ministerís Secretariat, but all the Employment Units of the Labour Department, the Immigration Department and the Permanent Secretary, Robelto Isaac and other ministry staff.

The ABDF has two categories, officers and enlisted personnel, with each category having its own rank structure. Within the enlisted personnel rank structure there are seven different levels from Private to Warrant Officer Class 1. Unlike other Caribbean Defence Forces, the ABDF has only one Warrant Officer Class 1 and that individual has been appointed the Force Sergeant Major (FSM).

The FSM serves as a resource advisor to all Warrant Officers and enlisted personnel in the Force. He provides guidance on matters pertaining to discipline, accountability, and management of soldiersí problems in order to obtain better cooperation and a high standard of improvement within the ranks. The FSM also assist in reviewing the activities of enlisted personnel, with special attention being paid to the Warrant Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers within their individual units and introduce correct measures where there are well documented inadequacies.

The Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force (ABDF) as the Nationís lead agency, being ably supported by the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda ( RPFAB), marked another milestone for the successful hosting and conduct of the Caribbeanís largest and most prestigious annual military Exercise. The ABDF cohosted TRADEWINDS 2002 with the St. Kitts/Nevis Defence Force (SKNDF), in what was then viewed as the most complex exercise of its time, where the threat scenario and the requisite challenges for the regional security forces encompassed four islands ( Antigua/ Barbuda and St.Kitts/Nevis) engaging in maritime, ground and air operations. Antigua and Barbuda graciously acceded to a second opportunity for hosting a scaled down/tailored version of Exercise TRADEWINDS in 2005, as the Regionís Security Forces prepared for Cricket World Cup 2007.

TRADEWINDS 2011 was held in Antigua from 2-20 March 2011. Twenty three countries from Caricom and Latin America participated, with each country allowed a contingent of 30 personnel. Several Coast Guard vessels from participating nations with their respective crews were welcomed as an operational maritime element of the Exercise but were not included in the stated numbers. The United States Forces with limited Canadian military personnel totaled in excess of three hundred instructors and participants.

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