A Royal Defense

Maj. Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa commands the elite Bahrain Royal Guard Special Force


Members of the Bahrain Royal Guard Special Force give every impression of being gentlemen warriors. Visitors to their base experience warm smiles and friendly greetings from the tall, well-built troops with sharp uniforms — qualities indistinguishable from those of their young leader, His Royal Highness Maj. Sheikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who focuses on building coherence and tolerance among officers and soldiers.

Sheikh Khalid is building an elite, brigade-size force dedicated to Bahrain’s security and stability. His role model in this endeavor is none other than his father, His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

“My role model is the king, he raised me to love the nation and adhere to a Soldier’s principles from the days of my childhood. He seeded the love of the military inside us — me and my brother, Nasser — and he taught us that an honorable Soldier sacrifices for his homeland and flag,” the sheikh said.

“I felt pride whenever I saw His Majesty wearing his military uniform, which inspired my dream to join the military. Many children see themselves as doctors, engineers and pilots, yet, since my early days, I saw myself as a Soldier who courageously defends the nation and its people.”

After completing high school, Sheikh Khalid strove to achieve this childhood dream. He enrolled in one of the world’s most prestigious military institutions. Despite his young age, he headed to England in 2007 to attend the British Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.

His Royal Highness emphasized the need for strong security relationships and military alliances to prevail against terrorist threats backed by a regional state, the goal of which is instability and chaos in the Gulf region. The U.S. has been a vital player in fighting this threat, he said, citing Bahrain’s hosting of the U.S. 5th Fleet, which provides security for the entire region. He also appreciates the roles of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to work as one team.

“We have a long-term relationship with our American allies that adheres to the well-known ‘Arab Knights’ principle in that we never forget our friends and those who support us during difficult times,” Sheikh Khalid said. “When we make a friend, we make it for lifetime. We also enjoy a great relationship with our brothers in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which resembles a relationship among family members. We share faith, blood and common goals.

He added: “The U.S. partnership is strategic, and we are keen to make it stronger. It is a reliable, truthful partnership that has lasted over 100 years.”

Building a professional force with advanced capabilities requires unique leaders able to engrave the unit’s principles on the hearts of each member.  Equally important, the nation’s citizens must trust in this unit’s ability to defend them. Therefore, Sheikh Khalid focuses on instilling professionalism, skills and teamwork.

“Despite our reaching a satisfactory point in our training, I always strive to aim higher,” he said. “No matter how far we have reached in terms of professionalism and performance, we always have ambitions to be the best.”

Any leader who rests on his laurels and pauses in his efforts risks eroding his unit’s hard-earned gains. Sheikh Khalid’s main objective is to keep up with advanced technology and equipment.

“We invite experts from all over the world. We attend joint trainings to continue to learn,” he said. “All officers and noncommissioned officers who join our brigade must work 48 hours a day, not 24 hours. By that I mean we must do twice the work in the time allotted us.”

Of special note to Sheikh Khalid is the unique relationship between Bahrain and the kingdom of Jordan. For example, Bahrain has reaped major benefits from attending Jordan’s annual Eager Lion exercise. But the relationship runs much deeper than that. When His Majesty King Hamad wanted to establish the Bahrain Defense Force, he turned to His Majesty King Hussein bin Talal of Jordan to train his officers.

“We will never forget the honorable stand of Jordan and the late King Hussein bin Talal. His Majesty King Hamad requested Jordan’s assistance in building the Bahrain Defense Force, and said his famous quote — ‘We want to achieve what you have already achieved.’ King Hussein responded: ‘Consider it done!’ He sent his best officers and noncommissioned officers to establish the Bahrain Defense Force at that time. As one can see, we have a professional force today. We still exchange experience and train with our brothers in Jordan,” Sheikh Khalid said.

When it comes to protecting Bahrain, the Royal Guard Special Force places an emphasis on readiness to foil any hostile group wanting to breed insecurity. The brigade maintains a company-size element ready to deploy at a moment’s notice.

One such recent mission was the Arab coalition’s engagement in Yemen. Bahrain sent a contingent to support Yemen’s government against rebels and terrorists.

“We made great efforts to prepare our fighters to conduct missions in environments different than ours, including fighting terrorist groups in open areas like Yemen,” Sheikh Khalid said. “We trained to adapt to that environment and deal with that society to win their heart and minds. We faced many challenges at the beginning, but we successfully overcame them.”