Nearly 180 Bermuda Regiment soldiers started training in Camp Lejeune in North Carolina today [Apr 29] .Regiment Commanding Officer Lt Col. Brian Gonsalves said: “It all went very smoothly – logistically, it’s a huge amount of work, but that is vital to ensure everybody hits the ground running. The movement to Camp Lejeune alone is a testament to the professionalism of our officers and soldiers.”
Soldiers from almost every specialist unit in the Regiment started training after arriving at North Carolina on Sunday – despite torrential rain, which is forecast to last much of the first week. For many it is reminiscent of the monsoon conditions that tested the military during their exercise in Jamaica last year.
Lt Col Gonsalves said: “They will have to deal with a lot of mud, which makes already testing training that much more difficult, but we will just get on with it.”
But he added that on top of military training, including public order, urban warfare and explosives handling, soldiers on overseas camps also learned valuable lessons for life.
Lt Col Gonsalves said: “Exercises like these develop soldiers socially as well. They’re experiencing a different culture, talking to US Marines and learning about their experiences – much of it on active service in war zones.
“Our soldiers are learning about leadership, responsibility and accountability – people have signed for pieces of kit and they are responsible for it. We’re not just training these young men and women to be better members of the military, but better citizens too.
“Everybody in the US Marines takes their job very seriously and they carry themselves very well. They’re professional soldiers and it’s good for our troops to see that – we constantly look for ways to raise our standards in any way we can.”
Lt Col Gonsalves added that the training package and venue had been chosen carefully to keep costs down, but still providing good value for money.
And he said that the Regiment’s long standing relationship with the US Marines meant that the Regiment could bulk buy operational items for shipping back to Bermuda, while the use of US Marine Corps equipment meant that costs were kept to a minimum.
Lt Col Gonsalves added: “That’s saving taxpayers’ money – things are less expensive here and with no extra transport cost, we can get more bang for our buck.
“We’re surgical when we look at finances. The Regiment has to be that way because budgets are tight and we need to make sure we’re getting value for money. Even the training areas are relatively close together, so we save on fuel costs, while our own Motor Transport soldiers are using seven-ton Military trucks, which they trained on so we don’t have to pay for Marines’ drivers.”
The exercise – named Island Warrior 13 – will include a three-day intensive field training exercise to put the whole Regiment through its paces in a simulated urban environment.
In addition, soldiers from Support Company, including medics, signallers, engineers, and Regimental Police, will train with their Marine Corps counterparts in their specialist areas. The Boat Troop and a member of the Bermuda Police Reserve Marine Section will train with the United States Coast Guard.
Two Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service fire fighters and a St John’s Ambulance medic also travelled with the Regiment to provide additional medical coverage.
Training Officer Major Martin Wyer said: “The weather hasn’t cooperated – but we’re not here on holiday, we’re here to work to the limit and training has got off to a good start.
“We also have a very good relationship with the US Marines – they are supremely professional and it’s great to operate alongside them. They also hold us in high regard because we’re keen to learn, willing to listen and where specialists from Support Company are being trained by Marines, eager to learn.”