Every nation in the history of humanity had different needs for a military. How these needs are determined forms the basis of their composition, command structure, strength and its corresponding logistics requirement. It also determines what the military does in times of peace and war. In other words, all armed forces, whether large or small, are organized to perform certain functions and fulfil certain roles. This is essential to rationalise its existence as a vibrant national defence instrument. This assertion holds true for the GAF to effectively and efficiently discharge its constitutional mandates and other assigned roles.
The Mandates Of The Gambia Armed Forces as written in constitution are to defend and preserve the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Gambia, to aid civil Authorities during emergencies and national disasters; to engage in productive activities such as agriculture, engineering, health and education for the development of the Gambia. The 1997 constitution gives the Armed Forces additional mandates such as Rescue Missions, Emergency and Disaster operations, international peacekeeping missions and peace enforcement missions.
The Gambia Armed Forces operates under a centralised command system. The Ministry of Defence is the Government department charged with formulating and executing defence policies for the Gambia Armed Forces. The Defence Headquarters manages the day to day running of the Gambia Armed Forces.The department is controlled by the Minister of Defence and His Excellency the President of the Republic of the Gambia who holds the ministerial portfolio. At the operational, administration and command level, the of Chief Defence Staff is the professional head of the Gambia Armed Forces and the principal military adviser to the Commander-in-Chief on matters of national security in relation to Gambia Armed Forces capability and preparedness. The Chief of Defence Staff is a 3 Star appointment. He is supported by the office of the Deputy Chief of Defence Staff which is 2 Star appointment and the 8 professional heads of the departments that constitutes the Defence Headquarters. The Armed Forces is composed of 3 Services. These are;
- The Gambia National Army
- The Gambia Navy
- The Republican National Guard.
A fourth Service being the Air Force of the Gambia is in its formative stage. Please note that each of the Services is headed by a Brigadier General.There are also tri-service institutions; that are the Gambia Armed Forces Training School and the Defence Headquarters Camp headed by Commandants all answerable to the Office of the Chief of Defence Staff directly.