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Cutting edge prep for hurricanes

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Cutting crew: Colour Sergeant Harry Hunt, a chainsaw instructor, shows Private Chanara Smith-Rookes and Private Jason Cummings cutting techniques (Photograph submitted)

A new group of Royal Bermuda Regiment chainsaw operators have qualified as the island’s defence force gears up for another hurricane season.

Instructors said that six soldiers, drawn from across the RBR, had volunteered for the two weeks of training needed to qualify to use a chainsaw safely — and to help remove invasive species and clear tracks on South Shore beaches.

Private Jason Cummings, 37, said: “This is a good skill to have because you can also use it in your civilian life as well.

Branching out: Private Jason Cummings reduces an invasive casuarina tree to firewood as part of an RBR chainsaw training session (Photograph submitted)

“I’m trying to learn as much as I can in the Regiment — you can learn a lot here.”

Private Cummings, from Southampton and a former firefighter in his homeland of Jamaica, added: “I like the discipline of uniformed organisations and I’ve enjoyed the training.

For the chop: Private Jason Cummings takes down a casuarina tree at Chaplin Bay on the South Shore (Photograph submitted)

“There is a lot of academic and technical knowledge involved with the chainsaw course. You see people cutting trees all the time, but it’s hard work and there’s a lot of techniques and information you have to absorb.”

He added he had seen the regiment out in the aftermath of Hurricane Humberto in 2019, been impressed and asked about joining.

Private Cummings said: “In a hurricane, we’re vital. We’re the people who clear the roads for the other emergency services and other agencies to get around the island safely.”

He was speaking as trainees cut down casuarina trees at Chaplin Bay over the weekend after the RBR linked up with the Government’s Department of Parks to identify sites where the training could serve a dual purpose.

Path clearing: Private Chanara Smith-Rookes makes short work of a casuarina tree under the expert eye of chainsaw instructor Colour Sergeant Harry Hunt (Photograph submitted)

Private Chanara Smith-Rookes, a soldier for five years, swapped her flute as a member of the RBR Band and Corps of Drums for a heavy-duty Stihl chainsaw for the training.

She said: “It’s excellent training, but at the same time we’re removing invasive species from the South Shore.”

Private Smith-Rookes, from St George’s, who scored 100 per cent on the written theory test last week, explained she had become interested in chainsaw work after she saw RBR troops clearing trees on a road in St Vincent as they took part in a major international exercise three years ago.

The 23-year-old, a customer services representative at the airport, added: “That was the first time I had seen chainsaws up close.

“It’s smart work as well as physical work because you have to be careful how you cut down a tree and look out for yourself and for others around you.”

Private Smith-Rookes said: “I’ve always been someone to sign up and join things because of the opportunity to learn something new.”

Colour Sergeant Harry Hunt, one of the instructors on the course, and the RBR’s Chief Armourer, said all six signed up for the course had passed.

He explained the course concentrated on the de-limbing and cross-cutting of trees that had been cut down or knocked over by natural forces.

Colour Sergeant Hunt said: “It’s expected that they should get high marks — the academic part of it is what most people don’t know about.”

He added: “This is one of our premier roles and we need to continue to do this type of training to maintain our abilities.

“We work with the Department of Parks on locations. We’re helping the country as well by clearing out the paths and removing invasive species like casuarina trees.

“It’s great that the department helps us and gets us down here and it also helps us to form good relationships with other agencies.”

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Published March 13, 2022 at 10:15 pm (Updated March 16, 2022 at 9:08 am)

Cutting edge prep for hurricanes

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