Despite heavy rains and rough climbs, ‘Operation Arrowhead’ a success

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By Vishani Ragobeer

Each year, as part of Guyana’s independence anniversary, soldiers trek through the Pakaraima mountains to get to the top of Mount Ayanganna, one of the highest peaks in the country, to plant the country’s national flag – the Golden Arrowhead. This is known as ‘Operation Arrowhead’.

In 2020, due to the uncertainty of how the novel coronavirus would spread from person to person and what lasting effects the disease might have on infected people, the annual flag-raising operation was deferred. And so, the Golden Arrowhead that was hoisted in 2019 was left atop the mighty mountain for another year.

As Guyana prepared to celebrate its 55th anniversary as an independent nation, this year, a team of soldiers set out to raise the flag once more.

According to Staff Sergeant Ryan Tappin, the journey up the mountain and then down again was a gruelling one. He related that at times, he could not feel his arms nor his legs. There was also the constant rainfall and a pervasive coldness that was, of course, exacerbated the higher they all climbed.  Still, Tappin said the soldiers marched on.

“You begin with a steady climb… and before you know it, you’re looking down and you see the clouds below you,” Tappin recounted to the News Room on Saturday, after he returned to the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Air Station London, at Timehri, East Bank Demerara.

Part of the group of soldiers on Operation Arrowhead 2021, who were soaked at the time, atop Mount Ayanganna just after hoisting the Golden Arrowhead (Photo: Guyana Defence Force)

Though the climb had its challenges, Tappin said that he motivated himself by remembering the significance of what he was doing for the GDF, but also for the entire nation.

“It is a legacy and an honour for a soldier to say that ‘I climbed to the top of Mount Ayanganna and raised the flag in honour of our independence anniversary’,” the soldier affirmed.

Sub-lieutenant, Brian Canterbury, who led the expedition, also acknowledged that the journey was challenging, but credited the team’s success to the cooperation and perseverance that united the group. He also related that the men showed “great discipline” throughout the operation.

Importantly, Canterbury said that the national flag itself served as a source of strength for the team. He was reminded of the zeal and strength that the black triangle on the five-coloured flag represents.

“It shows that through hard work, you can achieve anything,” the Sub-lieutenant told the News Room.

Though one soldier fell ill and had to be evacuated, Staff Sergeant Alias Raphael, who was also the medic on the journey, said that the men managed to successfully complete the journey while keeping safe.

Upon their return on Saturday, Canterbury brought back the 2019 flag. He presented it to Lieutenant Colonel Denzel Carmichael, who is the GDF’s Staff Officer-in-charge of Operations and Training.

The delivery of this flag proves that the team was successful in their endeavours. At Air Station London, Carmichael told the soldiers that their accomplishment illustrates the GDF’s capabilities.

“What you have done and that has been showcased to the public, demonstrates the GDF’s resolve to accomplish any mission, whether it be to the highest mountain Ayanganna, or the deepest river, the Pomeroon.

“Wherever the fight is, or the mission is, you have demonstrated that we can take the fight to wherever it is,” the Lieutenant Colonel highlighted.

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