Soldiers from the elite Operational Support Unit [OSU] spent the weekend practicing their skills as part of a weekend exercise involving more than 300 soldiers from every branch of the Regiment.
The simulation training involved petrol bombs being lobbed at many soldiers including Lance Corporal Tatem Ford to test out new flame resistant overalls.
LCpl Ford, 28, a nine-year veteran of the Regiment, admitted: “By the fourth petrol bomb, I got a little nervous because it definitely started to get a bit warm.
“But the overalls protected me. I did feel the heat build up, though, especially in my boots. However, the equipment worked well, and kept me safe – I had confidence that I keep going.”
The slideshow below contains over 200 photos, courtesy of the Bermuda Regiment PR Dept:
OSU trainer Colour Sergeant Harry Hunt helped lead the troops through two days of gruelling training, which included wearing helmets, body armour and carrying shields.
C. Sgt Hunt said new recruits from C Company pitched in to act as rioters to give the OSU as realistic training as possible.
He said: “The Colonel calls the OSU ‘the tip of the spear’ – the training has to be realistic and aggressive. If they ever had to do this for real, they wouldn’t be playing.
“There is no turning back and running here – we don’t want to injure ourselves and we use the minimum force necessary and the appropriate levels of force based on what we’re facing.”
The specialist OSU was set up just over a year ago and is aimed at providing a back up force for police in the event of major civil disturbances.
Regiment Commanding Officer Lt Col Brian Gonsalves said: “We are largely a part-time force – but we foster a full-time attitude and standards and I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve seen this weekend. Our training and procedures are in line with the UK and Canada – some of the best in the world.
“Whatever, we’re called to do, whether at home or in the other islands, I’m confident our soldiers are trained and equipped to the highest standards.”
While the OSU practiced at the Regiment’s HQ at Warwick Camp and on South Shore, the newest recruits practiced urban patrolling in and around the Dockyard area. Regiment medics underwent CPR and other training, as well as providing medical care to soldiers injured over the weekend.
And police officers and Regiment soldiers teamed up for joint training for the Boat Troop and Marine Police, while another police officer taught Regiment Police the use of handcuffs, restraint techniques and the use of extendable batons.
PC Brian MacNab, who spent the day with the Regiment’s provost unit said: “They’ve done very well. They don’t have the same requirements as a police officer so it’s not the full handcuffing course.
“But they were assessed on what they learned to the same standards as a newly-recruited regular officer in the Bermuda Police Service.”
Regiment Police Private Theresa Ming said: “It’s been very useful. It’s as much about protecting the person you’re detaining as well as about protecting yourself.”
At Messina House in the West End of the island, Sgt Maj Jeffrey Patterson of Boat Troop said his troops and police had been working on the water testing their maritime skills, as well as solving classroom navigation problems, using GPS and chart work.
Sgt Maj Patterson said: “We’re in our fourth year working with the Marine Police and we work together very well. It’s about working together and building better bonds between the units.”
Soldiers from the Guns and Assault Pioneers [GAP] – who perform the dual role of ceremonial field gun duties and act as the Regiment’s in-house engineers – practiced building loading and unloading bays for rifles on South Shore and repair techniques using tarpaulins as part of their natural disaster preparedness.
Volunteer Private Robyn Phillips, 34, of Hamilton Parish, works in construction and private security when she’s not serving her country.
She said: “It’s been a really good weekend and I’ve learned a lot. We took out the field guns and practiced. I passed, so I’m pleased about that. It’s been hard work, but worth it.”
The Regiment Band and Corps of Drums practiced music – and also did other training, including for their other role of guarding Warwick Camp in the event of an emergency.
The weekend training will develop further during the Regiment’s pre-overseas camp at Exercise April Advance. The culmination of training will be at the United States Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune at the end of April and early part of May.