BY CAPT. BARNABAS MALKEN
EVERY organization has its goals and visions to achieve in a year. For Papua New Guinea Defence Force, a huge task lies head.
Since the launching of the Defence White Paper in 2013, the force is now undergoing a transformation phase by carrying out its modernisation programme.
Former PNGDF Commander (retired) Brigadier General Francis Agwi during his time as commander, had visions to bring the force forward, much of which has been achieved.
Agwi was very instrumental in writing the 2013 Defence White Paper.
Together with the defence white paper team which was led by the team leader, now PNGDF Chief of Force Preparation Branch, Colonel Sialle Diro, the team looked no further than to gain the esteemed support and wisdom of former PNGDF commanders.
Their wisdom and guidance had led to the completion of a first ever locally produced defence white paper for the force and the people of Papua New Guinea.
It is simple and something the ordinary members of the force, and people of PNG, can relate to. It was a great fanfare that the Prime Minister, Peter O’Neill, finally launched it on Nov 18, 2013. That was indeed a great day for the force.
In Jan 2014, a new defence force commander was appointed by the PNG National Executive Council. He was the former chief of Joint Operations Centre and was one of the young inspirational colonels who were very supportive in seeing the Defence White Paper being produced.
Now the Commander of PNG Defence Force, Brigadier General Gilbert Toropo took over the reins and was persistent to see that the force be transformed and revitalised.
Toropo’s philosophy is very simple. Put God first, which is a slogan directly in line with the Defence White Paper.
He dedicated PNGDF to God and seeks Gods wisdom to lead this force. Since taking up office, he has been hard at work, giving the orders for work to go forward on the implementation phase.
Some of the key priorities have been achieved such as the re-establishment of Joint Service College in Lae, the Defence Force Retirement Benefit Fund being changed from defined fund to accumulative fund in July this year, the successful recruiting of defence personnel, acquisition of force capability assets like recent signing of six mini PNGDF aircraft to be brought over from New Zealand, re-sealing of roads in Taurama and Murray Barracks , upgrading of staff houses and the Defence housing scheme for home buyers within the force.
At the Commander’s Retreat held at Kokoda Trail Motel in February this year, Toropo was strongly for a new approach to leadership within the force with his belief in encouraging and empowering leadership at all levels.
More efforts are being made to empower non-commissioned officers. He strongly stressed that good, strong leadership should be practised at all levels starting from the section commanders up.
The retreat was very vital for the force in which all the branch heads, directors and commanding officers of each PNGDF unit participated.
From out of that meeting came the manifestation of the Sogeri Accord. This was the start to another long, but determined journey for the defence force establishment in the country.
“There will always be obstacles during the way such as funding issues. We must learn to be wise and operate within our given resources.
“As time goes by we will realise that we are not at the same place, but at least have moved one step further” said Brigadier Toropo.
“We have all started this long journey, let this journey be a success one day when we see our young generation of pilots and captains fly fighter jets and sail warships past our shores.”
He said that would be a proud moment for all those planting the seeds at the Sogeri retreat.
“Let this Sogeri Accord be remembered as an event for change in years to come and a way forward to change this defence organisation.”
- Barnabas Malken is with the Defence Force Public Relations Unit.