GDF’s Women’s Army Corps celebrates 57th anniversary

The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) arm of the Guyana Defence Force on Tuesday celebrated its 57th anniversary with a Church Service at Base Camp Ayanganna Chief of Staff, Brigadier Omar Khan delivered the feature address, in which he recognised the sterling contributions made by the servicewomen.

The establishment of the WAC saw its origin in 1967, when the newly formed Guyana Defence Force extended the call to bring women on board. The nascent Force had encountered its first challenge; Venezuela had seized Ankoko in the Cuyuni River in October 1966 and troops had to be deployed to Eteringbang on the country’s westernmost frontier to confront its aggressors.

However, there was a shortage of manpower, and soldiers had to be recruited quickly to secure the borders, and others had to take their place in the camps. The GDF’s solution was to recruit women.

Initially, the women were drafted into a military subculture characterised by male dominance which appeared to restrict them to non-combatant roles. was the case until 1969, when the recruitment policy for women was changed, and they were exposed to combat training for the first time.

On the 30th January 1967, the Guyana Defence Force recruited its first four female Officers; Joan Granger, Brenda Aaron, Hyacinth King and Clarissa Hookumchand. Granger (now deceased) was appointed the rank of Captain and with the anticipation of females joining, was immediately appointed the Officer of what was to be called the Women’s Army Corps. The others were made Cadet Officers and were subsequently elevated to the rank of Second Lieutenants.

Another batch of women was recruited in 1969, and the Corps of Women expanded gradually, spurred by a Corps of Men who recognised their value and potential. This new batch was exposed to the strenuous training normally endured by the men, exemplifying tremendous courage and skill.

In 2012, Colonel Windee Algernon, broke the proverbial glass ceiling when she ascended to the rank of   Colonel, the first in any of the Anglophone Caribbean’s Armed Forces to hold such an appointment.  Yet another Officer, Colonel Ann Mc Lennan, who was seconded to serve in the Magistracy of Guyana since 2007, was promoted to the rank of Acting Colonel.

The Force’s third female Colonel was promoted in 2023 by President and Commander Chief, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali. Colonel Lorraine Foster currently holds the post of Adjutant General and is the first female to have Commanded the Training Corps in the history of the GDF.

In yet another unprecedented feat, Col. Foster is the first female GDF officer to attend the high-level Strategic and Hemispheric Studies course at the National Defence University in Washington.

Since its establishment, the WAC has featured a unique and vibrant blend of courageous women who have propelled the operations of GDF.