Military manoeuvres: Overseas Territories forces band together
The commanding officers of British Overseas Territories’ military units from around the world have joined forces for the first time to create strength in numbers.
A total of six military officers, coordinated by Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin Beasley, the CO of the Royal Bermuda Regiment, met in London to discuss ways the armed services could support each other.
Colonel Beasley said: “We identified several shared challenges, but also we were able to conduct a lot of self-help and discuss things the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office may not have been aware of and get a little bit more support from the Ministry of Defence and the FCDO.”
He added subjects discussed included disaster relief, maritime security, cybersecurity and joint police and military operations.
Colonel Beasley said: “The RBR has a lot of experience in disaster relief and joint operations with the police – we’ve been a leader in these areas for several decades.”
He added: “This is an important step – it’s about the maturity of the militaries in the Overseas Territories, it was our decision to brigade with each other rather than being told what to do.
“We have decided to train and work together where it’s possible to do so and share our experiences and solutions to problems we have come across.”
The Cayman Islands Regiment, the Turks & Caicos Islands Regiment, the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, the Falkland Islands Defence Force and the Royal Montserrat Defence Force were all involved in the talks, held earlier this month.
The Cayman and Turks & Caicos armed services were only recently set up and soldiers from both have trained in Bermuda.
Lieutenant-Colonel Simon Westlake, a Royal Marine and UK Defence Attaché to the Caribbean, Brigadier Lord Lancaster, the Honorary Colonel of the CIR, and representatives from the FCDO also took part in the meetings.
Colonel Beasley said: “I’m proud to say that Bermuda took the lead on this. Through the decades of local and overseas operations, it seemed appropriate to reach out to our colleagues and look at ways we can work together better.”
He explained that stronger links between the services would lead to better responses in any crisis.
Colonel Beasley added: “The UK’s Ministry of Defence and FCDO continue to give us tremendous support.
“As long as we are properly trained and prepared, we can execute operations with each other far more economically and with greater speed, without having to rely on units being dispatched from the UK.”
He said: “We’ve conducted training with the Royal Gibraltar Regiment before – our histories are somewhat similar and we have much in common with the Caribbean forces.
“With a Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel and a Royal Navy patrol ship in the region, there are platforms from which we can operate, individually and collectively.
“Having a shared history and many cultural similarities, it’s very easy to work together, although each regiment is unique to its own territory. Our reporting lines are similar, but there is no one place we report in to.”
Colonel Beasley added: “The newer regiments are finding challenges, but they’re also finding new and unique solutions which we are taking back to Bermuda.
“It’s to our advantage to seek positive opportunities to improve the way we do some things.”
He was speaking after RBR Major Preston Gill last month completed the Multi-Agency Gold Incident Command Course in Miami, Florida, organised by the FCDO.
The workshop, also taken by Acting Superintendent Jerome Laws of the Bermuda Police, was designed to train senior personnel in the uniformed services for lead positions in multi-agency responses to major emergencies.
Colonel Beasley said that troops from Turks & Caicos would join the RBR on its overseas training exercise at the US Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune in North Carolina next month and it was expected soldiers from other Overseas Territories would do the same next year.