Lieutenant Colonel Brian Gonsalves, the Regiment’s commanding officer. *File photo
Lieutenant Colonel Brian Gonsalves, the Regiment’s commanding officer. *File photo
WEDNESDAY, MAR. 30: The Regiment is lining up to provide disaster relief across the Caribbean in the wake of hurricanes.

Bermuda’s soldiers could fill the gap that will be left when the U.K.’s Royal Navy warship is withdrawn due to budget cuts.

Lieutenant Colonel Brian Gonsalves, the Regiment’s commanding officer, is to be a keynote speaker at a conference on disaster management in the U.K. Overseas Territories, to be held in Miami in May.

He said: “We are becoming, from a U.K. standpoint, the U.K.’s quick reaction force for its Overseas Territories in the Caribbean.

“It speaks volumes for how our professionalism is viewed.

“The withdrawal of the Royal Navy West Indies guard ship means we may be asked to take on a bigger role in future.

“The Miami conference is about coming together before hurricane season and determining our preparedness to deal with any major disasters.

“We need to work out what we can do if something happens and how we can best respond to it.”

Col. Gonsalves said the Regiment would need a reliable military airlift to ensure it could deploy equipment before it took on a larger role.

Assets

They have used air transports from the U.S. Coast Guard and the Royal Air Force in past missions to hurricane-hit areas.

Col. Gonsalves said: “Things can be arranged but it depends what assets are available. Once we have that cracked, we don’t think there will be an issue with volunteers for aid work.

“It can be challenging but that’s part of our job.”

The Regiment has responded to calls for help in the Cayman Islands, Grenada and Turks & Caicos.

Col. Gonsalves said: “I wouldn’t say we were experts but we do have a lot of experience.

“I can see us doing more restoration work — rebuilding schools and essential infrastructure, which we have done in Grenada.”

The Regiment is also preparing to take on more peacekeeping roles and humanitarian work.

He hopes more responsibility for the Regiment will make a career in the military more attractive to young Bermudians.

He said: “The international community is crying out for nations to participate in this kind of work but it would only work if there were local full-time roles available.

“We are so small that there are only a limited number of opportunities available.

“If we take on more roles it makes the military more appealing and employs young Bermudians.”