General Alert: Major General Buster Howes (second right) with Regiment Commanding Officer Lt Col Michael Foster-Brown meets troops from the Operational Support Unit, trained to assist police in civil disturbances, during training at Warwick Camp. *Photo supplied
General Alert: Major General Buster Howes (second right) with Regiment Commanding Officer Lt Col Michael Foster-Brown meets troops from the Operational Support Unit, trained to assist police in civil disturbances, during training at Warwick Camp. *Photo supplied

Britain’s top military officer in the US paid a flying visit to the Bermuda Regiment this weekend – his first visit to the island.

Major General Buster Howes, the defence attaché at the British Embassy in Washington, toured Warwick Camp and watched the island’s defence force being put through its paces on land and on sea.

And he said both the Regiment and the British Army could benefit from closer links between the two forces – especially as the Regiment moves towards a likely end to conscription and a greater reliance on volunteers to fill the ranks.

Gen. Howes, a 30 year veteran of the tough Royal Marines, said: “There is a lot of experience here and a good understanding of the environment in which the Regiment operates and there is a lot of enthusiasm.”

He added: “I was very keen to come out here when people were training.

“It should be an authentic experience when people are not inconvenienced by the arrival of a senior officer and, as much as anything, I wanted the chance to talk to people.

“I’ve got a reasonable feel for things – we’ve had a really good look around and had candid discussions with people right across the Regiment.

“The Regiment is an important resource and perhaps one of the important recognitions is you can’t suddenly generate a force and build trust and competence in an emergency.

“The Regiment is an insurance policy... the model Bermuda has is quite a good one and it’s a question of optimizing it.”

Service

Gen. Howes has served in both Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, Bosnia and Northern Ireland and was in charge of the Royal Navy anti-piracy operation in the Indian Ocean before taking up his Washington post 18 months ago.

He has also served on detachment to the US Marines and was based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a regular training venue for the Regiment, for more than two years.

Gen. Howes visit follows the first visit to Bermuda by the UK’s top soldier, General Sir Peter Wall, the Chief of the General Staff, earlier this year.

Sir Peter said that he hoped to foster closer links between the Regiment and the British Army, including shared training.

Gen. Howes added: “When General Sir Peter Wall visited, he was very keen to provide support where he can in terms of training, support and equipment, where appropriate.

“Recognising the Regiment is a sovereign asset of Bermuda, we can provide that assistance – it’s about understanding what the need is.”

And he praised recruiting innovations, like the presentation and reception for potential recruits to be held at Government House on Wednesday, September 25.

He added that ways the UK could help is with Royal Marines’ expertise and the potential for detachments of its personnel to work with the Regiment’s Boat Troop, which is likely to take on a greater role in maritime security.

Gen. Howes said: “There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for the maritime role and, speaking as a Marine, I can understand that.”

He added the UK could provide Royal Marines’ coxswains to assist Boat Troop, while Sandhurst, the Royal Military Academy where Bermuda’s officers already train, could provide extra support on-island.

And Gen. Howes said that explosive ordnance disposal experts from Britain could help beef up the Regiment’s expertise in that area.

He added: “Some of the rifles here are quite elderly and there is an aspiration to source British weapons and we need to examine how that’s progressing.”

Gen. Howes said: “Bermuda is a beautiful place renowned for its diving and there are barracks where people can be accommodated, so the ability to provide adventurous training for British personnel would be one of the ways Bermuda can reciprocate.”

Regiment Commanding Officer Lt Col. Michael Foster-Brown said: “We are happy that General Howes is taking such a keen interest in the Regiment and we look forward to cooperating even more closely with the Britsh Army in the future.

“The modern Regiment is run in line with the best international standards and, although we are largely a part-time force, we foster a full-time attitude and standards and our training and procedures are based on some of the best in the world.

“That benefits Bermuda and benefits every soldier who serves with us as well.”


 

The Bermuda Regiment is looking for a volunteers for a variety of roles. A Regiment career offers recruits opportunities to travel, acquire skills useful in civilian life, test themselves to their limits and competitive rates of pay. For more information, call 238-1045 or visit www.bermudaregiment.bm 

EDITOR’S NOTE: Raymond Hainey is a serving soldier in the Bermuda Regiment.