Captain Tellis A. Bethel, MALIC,

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Commander Defence Force (Acting) Captain Tellis Bethel

Captain Tellis A. Bethel currently heads the Royal Bahamas Defence Force as Commander Defence Force (Acting)—a position he has held since 2nd March 2015. Born in Nassau, Bahamas, Captain Bethel obtained a scholarship from the Ministry of Defence (now the Ministry of National Security) to undergo naval officer training at the Britannia Royal Naval College in Devon, England. Prior to undergoing naval training, Captain Bethel worked as a bellboy aboard a leading Florida-based cruise ship (S/S Emerald Seas). He was later employed as an operations clerk at a world’s leading shipping company (Navios Shipping Company), and then as a courier at Bahamas Island Couriers (now Federal Express).


After graduating from naval college, Captain Bethel was appointed to various billets aboard Defence Force patrol craft, as well as at Coral Harbour Base and Defence Headquarters. His early appointments as a junior officer included that of navigating, executive and commanding officer positions aboard various patrol vessels in the Squadron Department where he was actively involved with anti–narcotics, migrant and poaching operations during the 1980s. As a young officer, Captain Bethel also held positions ashore at Coral Harbour Base as Deputy Supply and Personnel Officer and at Defence Headquarters as Recruiting and Personnel Officer, and Assistant Staff Officer to Commodore Leon Smith, the first Bahamian Commander Defence Force.

In late 1991, Captain Bethel resigned from the Defence Force and later rejoined in 1996. Upon rejoining the Defence Force, he was appointed Assistant Training Officer in the Training Department. Shortly thereafter, he was reassigned to Defence Headquarters. His appointments at Defence Headquarters included Research and Planning Officer, Public Relations Officer and Chief Staff Officer to Commander Defence Force. In 1998, Captain Bethel was appointed Executive Officer of the newly built Bahama Class vessel, Her Majesty’s Bahamian Ship NASSAU. He later headed the Defence Force’s Training Department where he and his staff were instrumental in transforming the Defence Force’s training program through the development of several specialized training schools (including the School of Leadership).

Other appointments held thereafter included that of commanding officer of the Defence Force’s Commando Squadron, and commanding officer of the Defence Force’s 200-foot flagship vessel, HMBS BAHAMAS, in 2006. During the latter appointment, Captain Bethel and his ship’s company were responsible for initiating extended patrols from Freeport, Grand Bahama, as part of the Defence Force’s regional command program where they were successful in apprehending foreign poaching and migrant
smuggling vessels. Captain Bethel and his ship’s company also assisted The Bahamas National Geographic Information Systems Center with delineating The Bahamas’ maritime boundaries during this period. In 2009, he was appointed to the newly established post of Force Inspectorate Officer where he reviewed and proposed recommendations for the modernization of the Defence Force. Later, in December 2009, Captain Bethel completed a three-month overseas assignment in the Republic of
Trinidad and Tobago where he served as Operations, Planning and Coordinating Staff Officer (with responsibility for maritime security) for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in 2009 that was attended by over 40 heads of states.

In January 2010, Captain Bethel was appointed Deputy Commander Defence Force—a new position in the Defence Force—with responsibility for assisting former Commander Defence Force, Commodore Roderick Bowe, with the overall management of the Defence Force. The position of ‘Captain Coral Harbour’ was added to Captain Bethel’s portfolio later that year until January 2014. During this period, Captain Bethel assisted Commander Defence Force with the modernization of the Defence Force. In
2010, Captain Bethel became the coordinator of the Defence Force’s HIV/AIDS awareness and educational programs. In 2012, he represented The Bahamas as a member of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s very first expert group meeting on Combating Transnational Organized Crime Committed at Sea in Vienna, Austria. He was also a member of the Government’s Sandy Bottom patrol craft acquisition and base development technical team that engaged in initial discussions for construction of proposed Defence Force patrol craft and bases with Damen Shipbuilders and Van Oord Dredging company in the Netherlands in 2012.

In 2013, Captain Bethel coordinated the Defence Force’s Military Assistance to Civilian Authority program for the deployment of 150 Defence Force personnel to various Government agencies to assist the Royal Bahamas Police Force with enhancing safety and security of Bahamian communities. Defence Force personnel were also assigned to the Government’s Urban Renewal Program throughout various communities in New Providence. In May 2014, Captain Bethel coordinated the Defence Force’s involvement with providing security for the first International Association of Athletics Federations World Relays at the Thomas A. Robinson Stadium in New Providence. In March 2015, he was appointed Commander Defence Force (Acting) upon Commodore Bowe proceeding on retirement leave. Since this latest appointment, the Defence Force has: signicantly reduced foreign poaching in the Great Bahama Bank area through its 24/7 patrol program in the southern Bahamas; redeployed an aircraft to Great Inagua to conduct surveillance patrols; coordinated relief and recovery efforts in the Family Islands
in the wake of Hurricane Joaquin; guided the introduction of Operation Secure Shores (a coastal security program for New Providence); and implemented the Defence Force’s decentralization program with the re-establishment of the Defence Force’s Northern and Southern Commands.


Captain Bethel has completed a number of professional studies at renowned military institutions in the United Kingdom and the United States. He is a graduate of the Britannia Royal Naval College, Devon, England where he received the Best International Midshipman Award. Additionally, he is a graduate (with distinction) of the United States Naval War College’ Naval Staff School in Rhode Island. Captain Bethel has also participated in a number of civil-defence management courses and seminars hosted by various institutions and organizations in The Bahamas, the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and the Caribbean region.

Other courses/institutions attended include: the Defense Resource Management Course at the Center for Hemispheric Defence Studies (CHDS) at the National Defence University in Washington; the Prospective Commanding/Executive Officers Course at the United States Coast Guard Academy’s Leadership Development Center in Connecticut; the Counter-Terrorism Course at the Asia-Pacific Center for Strategic Studies (APCSS) in Hawaii; the Junior Supply Managers Course at the Royal Navy Supply School in Cornwall, England; the Changing face of Peacekeeping Course at Canada’s Pearson Peacekeeping Institute (hosted in Jamaica); and the National Defense University of the Republic of China. Captain Bethel is also a Fellow of CHDS and APCSS and has a Master of Arts degree in Leading, Innovation and Change (MALIC) from York St. John University in York, England with residency in Switzerland.


In 1985, Captain Bethel served as a member of the historic Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting’s Secretariat in Nassau. In 2004, he served as a member of the Bahamas Maritime Authority’s committee which established the Bahamas Maritime Cadet Corps (BMCC) program for high school students. Captain Bethel has since helped to coordinate the introduction of the BMCC program for high school students in Inagua, as well as at the Bahamas L.E.A.D. Institute for the development of at-risk young men, and had facilitated the technical exchange program between the Defence Force and LJM Maritime Academy.

Captain Bethel is also a member of the board of directors for the Bahamas Maritime Training Institute, which has responsibility for training and preparing mariners to meet basic entry requirements for employment aboard commercial vessels. In 2010, he laid the strategic framework for the modernization of the Defence Force’s Ranger’s youth programme. In 2013, Captain Bethel coordinated the Defence Force’s involvement with the implementation of the historic reenactment of the Changing of the Guard at Fort Charlotte. In 2014 and 2015, he served as the Commodore of the 5th and 6th Annual Sir Durward Knowles Festival of Lights Christmas Boat Parades in Nassau, Bahamas. In July 2014, Captain Bethel introduced and organized the breaking of the Guinness World Record for ‘the most persons blowing conch shells simultaneously’ during The Bahamas’ 41st Annual Independence Grand Celebration. The history-making event represented a ‘call for peace from the islands of The Bahamas to the nations of the world’ in keeping with the Independence theme: Celebrating Culture: A Commitment to Peace.


Captain Bethel is the author of the internationally published researched-article entitled, “Caribbean Narcotics Trafficking: What is to be done?” (DISAM Journal, Fall 2002/Winter 2003) which proposes the incremental replication of Operations Bahamas, Turks and Caicos (OPBAT) counter-narcotics model within the Caribbean region. He is also the author of the book entitled, America—A Destiny Unveiled that features the significance of The Bahamas’ historic heritage, and its impact on the destiny of the United States. His most recent book, The Lucayan Sea: Birthplace of the Modern Americas, proposes an identity, purpose and destiny for the people of The Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos Islands. This latest work also proposes that the waters of The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands be named, the Lucayan Sea, as a symbol of peace in tribute to the indigenous Lucayans, who were the first to suffer total genocide in the Americas at the beginning of the modern era.


Recent awards received by Captain Bethel include the Real Men Ministry’s 40th Anniversary National Men’s Award for ‘invaluable contribution towards the advancement and development of The Bahamas in the category of military and national development.’ He is also the recipient of The Defence Force’s Meritorious Medal, the Distinguished medal, the Long Service and Good Conduct medal, and the Commander Defence Force’s Commendation


In his private time, Captain Bethel enjoys jogging, adventure travel, conceptual art, writing and speaking on the topics of character and leadership development, and The Bahamas’ unique heritage. Captain Bethel is also a certified scuba diver, a licensed private and ultralight aircraft pilot, and a former student skydiver. He is married to Teri (née Knowles), and the couple has two sons. Captain Bethel and his wife are directors of the Marriage Ministry at Bahamas Faith Ministries