The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) is embracing various interventions aimed at the retention of its personnel and is taking firmer steps to deal with soldiers who go Absent Without Leave (AWOL). Army policies and regulations regarding this phenomenon are managed through collaborative efforts of the army’s G1 Branch which has direct responsibility for human resources management and the force’s various units, the GDF said in a press release. Soldiers who go absent for more than 21 days are deemed to have deserted, the army said. Cases of desertion are directly administered by the GDF Headquarters, which then directs action to find the soldier, first via the soldier’s unit where the commanding officers initiate action to contact him/her; including by visiting the soldier’s home. This is done to establish whether the soldier is physically safe and then to ascertain the reason for the soldier’s absence. In most cases, the soldier returns to his/her unit and, following the relevant interviews and hearings disciplinary action is taken as necessary. AWOL solders who are brought back to the force after having been found are often charged.
Though the AWOL phenomenon is not unique to the GDF, it has dogged the force’s administration over several decades, the press release said. The GDF has taken a number of steps to examine this issue, including revisiting quality of life issues of its officers and other ranks. The army acknowledges that the welfare of soldiers is an essential component in the maintenance of morale and has established a welfare policy which gives clear guidance on the responsibility and authority for such matters.
The GDF said it remains committed to its duty to serve and will continue to do all that is necessary to provide opportunities for Guyanese who seek careers in the military.