SATURDAY, MAY 5: Bermuda’s part-time army has started its field exercises in Jamaica with an all-out assault on a drugs factory protected by heavily-armed paramilitaries.
The soldiers were tasked with taking out the factory in the fictional island nation of Portland – and managed the job, despite improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and having soldiers taken hostage by the drugs barons.
Sergeant Major Ian Port, a former British Army NCO working with the Bermuda Regiment, said that, while the exercises might appear to be fun, there was a serious purpose behind them.
He added: “No other organization in Bermuda offers this type of opportunity, but it is far from simple fun and games.
“If you want to go camping and shoot some weapons, I suggest you go on a stag weekend with some of your mates.
“These soldiers have undergone intense training for a substantial period of time.
“They are literally ‘living in the field’ and with all the unpleasantness that goes with it.”
The 120-plus troops on the exercise have already battled torrential rain, swollen rivers and steamy jungle heat on the exercise.
Former RAF officer and Regiment Adjutant Captain Ben Beasley added: “While the Caribbean sun beats down on them, they must carry all their possessions on their back, create their own living accommodations, cook their own food and safely operate their rifles, all the while staying focused on the instructions given to them.
“Above everything else, they have to be self-reliant and remain resilient – for many, this is the most challenging thing they will have completed.
“To be blunt, if it was easy, we wouldn’t need to train as hard as we do.”
The two were speaking as the Regiment ends its first week of training in the testing Blue Mountains of Jamaica as part of Exercise Rum Runner.
Regiment CO Lt Col. Brian Gonsalves said overseas trips were a valuable weapon in the Regiment’s arsenal and worth the effort, despite the cost.
He said the troops not only experience tough environments, but train alongside units from the Jamaican Defence Force or the US Marines.
Col. Gonsalves added: “The adventure training that is available overseas is also invaluable – orienteering, river crossing and abseiling from bridges are all experiences that you can’t get in Bermuda.
“Finally, we have deployed a number of times in recent years to provide assistance to the international community – being in Jamaica directly contributes to that.”
And he said: “These camps are a once in a lifetime experience for many of our soldiers. Even if some of our guys never get embodied, or decide that they don’t want to serve past their mandatory period, I wholeheartedly believe that the experience they have had and the skills they have learned make them better citizens.
“I don’t think that any other organization does that on the scale or to the cross-section of the community as we do.”