Regiment plans incentives to attract volunteers
The Bermuda Regiment plans to launch a recruitment drive to encourage more young men and women to volunteer for military service.
And new Commanding Officer Lt Col Michael Foster-Brown wants to introduce new incentives — including a $300 sign-up payment and more diverse and fulfilling training sessions — that he believes will make the army a more attractive career prospect.
The recently appointed CO also believes the Regiment could offer more full-time careers if current proposals to expand its role are carried through.
Lt Col Foster-Brown officially takes over command of the Regiment at a ceremony at Warwick Camp tomorrow afternoon.
The British Army officer, who has 20 years of military experience under his belt, including tours of hot spots such as Iraq and Afghanistan, says he has been genuinely impressed with the levels of soldiering he has witnessed within the ranks of the Regiment.
But he said more volunteers could make the unit a far more effective force. With Government pledging to end conscription, the war veteran believes the Regiment will have to go through a phasing out period in order to avoid reaching a cliff edge where recruitment suddenly drops off. Currently 75 percent of the Regiments troops are conscripted.
As part of his induction, Lt Col Foster Brown visited Regiment troops training at the US Marine base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina last month.
I was genuinely impressed by the enthusiasm of the soldiers, because you could imagine a scenario where someone is conscripted and its potentially against their will, Lt Col Foster-Brown told The Royal Gazette.
They may have had no particular interest in military matters and may not wish to be there and as a result they may be less than enthusiastic. But I actually found that most of them, having experienced some military training — particularly while on overseas camp where they have the opportunity to travel and do some of the more practical sides of soldiering — the ones I spoke to were pleased to be there.
Thats something that I hope to capitalise on as one of my key themes is to improve recruiting.
Lt Col Foster-Brown said the Regiment will be introducing a small bounty for volunteers, and other incentives are planned.
In an attempt to make training sessions less monotonous, the commander hopes to reduce time spent on the parade ground performing arduous drills, and spend more time honing practical soldiering skills in the field.
And he said the Regiment will provide extensive references and certificates of commendation to potential employers of soldiers who have successfully completed their service — giving Regiment soldiers seeking employment or promotion in civvie street a tangible advantage.
One quarter of the Regiment is already made up of volunteers but it is certainly my intent to have an active campaign to try and increase that, Lt Col Foster Brown said.
Its a useful way to promote the values that the Regiment brings and its good for internal morale as well.
Some of the initiatives that were talking about are introducing a nominal amount that signifies symbolically that you are a volunteer as opposed to a conscript. The figure were talking about is $300, which is not a significant amount but its a small pat on the back for someone who has taken that additional step to help support their fellow citizens by being a volunteer.
Were also looking at ways in which we can promote the Regiment to potential employers. One of the other things that Im keen to introduce is reports for soldiers so that, for the first time, they can have access to feedback from us which they can then send to either their current or future employer as an indication of their service.
Some of the benefits that are obtained as a result of serving in the regiment — leadership, discipline, self-confidence and teamwork — these are all things that are valuable to employers and will help recruits with their future employment.
Lt Col Foster-Brown said more full-time positions could become available once a recently formed Security Commission has carried out a review of the Islands emergency services.
There are scenarios which could see the expansion of the full-time staff, Lt Col Foster-Brown said.
If we take over the boat service and provide an inshore coastguard, to maintain 24 hour coverage will require a full-time element and I think thats really attractive to people. Ironically, I think attracting volunteers would be easier if we had more of a full-time element.