After serving a little over three months as the Chief of Staff (COF) of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier George Lewis yesterday handed over the command to newly-promoted Brigadier Patrick West.
Base Camp Ayanganna was packed yesterday as Lewis, who has reached the age of retirement, delivered his farewell address.
“Today is the last time I may be addressing this gathering or rather any other gathering in the uniform of the Guyana Defence Force, as I retire from this noble organisation after completing a success career,” Lewis said, while reflecting on his 34 years of service.
He said that though during his tenure at the helm of the force the GDF had to deal with some challenging issues, he believed that its members acquitted themselves well and the organisation is better off today.
He charged all the current commanders to ensure that the soldiers never lose confidence in their ability to lead them. “I implore each and every commander to listen to your soldiers. Do not let them stop bringing their problems to you and do not let them lose confidence in you,” he said.
“In your careers, you will make mistakes. The true test of your character is your ability to correct those mistakes and deal with the consequences,” he added. He emphasised that the difference between a successful and unsuccessful commander is how they deal with their mistakes.
The crowd was dazzled by the Change of Command Parade and the handing over of the force’s colours from Lewis to West, which signified the change in command.
Earlier yesterday, President David Granger promoted West from Colonel to Brigadier before swearing him in as the new Chief of Staff. West was also conferred with the National Award, the Military Service Star, in recognition of his 33 years of service to the force.
According to a press release issued by the Ministry of the Presidency, West said that being elevated to the top of the force was not something he had thought about until several years ago when he realised there was a possibility.
“I realised that I needed to broaden my horizons. So, as the Commander-in-Chief said, I completed all my required professional military education and my academic education as well, so that I can provide the relevant balance and directions, strategic and otherwise, to the force,” West said, while pledging to ensure his watchword as Chief of Staff is professionalism. He also committed to overseeing the transformation of the force in the interest of national defence.
According to the release, President Granger explained that while Brigadier Lewis had the shortest tenure as Chief of Staff, the appointment of Brigadier West is “symbolic of due process and it represents the decision of the Guyana Defence Board to ensure that officers retire when they are due to do so.”
He added that the move is also in keeping with the force’s succession policy that ensures officers are promoted on the basis of seniority and performance.
“We were pleased to follow the correct procedure. This is in keeping with the commitment of the Defence Board to ensure that there is no future disruption to the professional development of members of the GDF so that they could look forward to a comfortable and safe tenure of office, without fear of recrimination or retribution,” Granger noted.
According to the release, West enlisted in the GDF on September 1, 1984 and was commissioned on August 28, 1985, following which he was posted to the Artillery Battalion. During his 33 years of service, he held several appointments in the GDF; from Platoon Commander to Commanding Officer in both the Artillery and Infantry Units.
He holds a Master of Science Degree in Administration from the Central Michigan University, a Master of Military Arts and Science from the Command and General Staff College, a Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Management, a Diploma in Public Management and a certificate in Human Health and Global Environmental Change from the University of Guyana
At 51, West is expected to serve approximately four years as the Chief of Staff. Prior to Lewis’ three-month stint, Brigadier Mark Philips served for three years.