Bermudian heading to Ukraine to provide aid
A former Royal Bermuda Regiment soldier is preparing to journey to war-torn Ukraine to carry out humanitarian work.
Jason Rhind, 36, who left the regiment as a Lance Corporal in 2018, is due to fly out with US based aid group Task Force Yankee: Ukraine to a safe house in Poland today before crossing the border to Ukraine.
He successfully applied for a position to transport and deliver medical supplies to Ukraine, but the scope of his work could change during the three months he is planning to stay there.
Mr Rhind, a born Bermudian who was raised in Smith’s Parish and schooled at Mount Saint Agnes, said: “There is definitely apprehension and fear, and lots of unknowns.
"There is the personal safety aspect of it. The reality is that I could be going up the road to work and get hit by someone and killed or hurt.
“If that were to happen, I guess I feel like I am choosing to be out there, obviously I don’t want that to happen.
“From my understanding, I am not going to be sleeping on a bed, I will be sleeping on the ground and I’m not sure what other facilities we will have.
“I’m travelling to a foreign country where they don’t speak English. I’m looking forward to getting out there and experiencing it, it will be an adventure.
“I don’t have a wife, I don’t have kids, I don’t have a house I’m an ideal person to be able to go.
“It is almost like World War III, we don’t have other countries sending people in, but they are sending millions of dollars worth of equipment so by extension they are involved.”
Task Force Yankee: Ukraine is the brainchild of Harrison Josefowicz, a US Army veteran who lost a friend in the August 2021 suicide bombing in Afghanistan.
Frustrated that he could not help at that time, when Russia launched its invasion on February 24, 2022, he felt compelled to take action to help the people of Ukraine.
Since its launch in March hundreds of people have applied to join.
The group assists in the movement of humanitarian aid and qualified volunteers to and from Ukraine to meet the needs and requests of the Ukrainian people.
Efforts range from rescuing civilians from war-ravaged cities to providing safe houses in Poland for refugees. It establishes supply routes and actively recruits volunteers.
Mr Rhind said: “I wanted to make sure it was a group that was organised as opposed to just going out there without any planning – it is a solid group they have been there from quite early on [in the conflict].
“I have been speaking to a guy who is out there in Kiev who has been helping me – I had to buy protective gear and you can’t ship that stuff internationally.
“Last week I bought a bullet proof vest and when I get out there there is an exporter who is bringing in protective gear.”
This is the first time Mr Rhind has visited a war-torn country to carry out humanitarian work but he hopes his ten years in the regiment will give him some experience that will help him in his endeavour.
The regiment provided a reference letter for Mr Rhind as part of his application to Task force Yankee: Ukraine.
“As a result of his 10 years military service, Lance Corporal Rhind has learnt skills and developed personal qualities and attributes that make him a valuable asset. These include: leadership, management, discipline, teamwork, reliability and selfless commitment.
“LCpl Rhind’s experience during his period of service has been extensive – ranging from training to provide Bermuda with disaster relief, to providing internal security support in times of crisis.
“He has contributed to the regiment’s provision of ongoing specialist capability to the Bermuda Police Service, assistance to society both in Bermuda and regionally and a general contingency for the unexpected.
“His commitment has included attending military training on regular week nights and weekends, as well as an annual two-week camp on island or overseas, and being on call in the event of embodiment to support the Civil Authority.”
He said: “I spent part of the time teaching and training recruits. A large part of my time was in medics where I taught First Aid lessons.
“There are times in the Royal Bermuda Regiment that you are dealing with stressful situations or you are living in conditions that are less than ideal and having to cope with that and work together with people.
“I would like to think that would help, but it is primarily a defence force, they are not training people to go overseas and be involved in these types of things.
“We did talk about the possibility of me helping to teach some First Aid. We are not going to be on the front line – the position is to transport and deliver medical supplies all over the Ukraine as and where it is needed.
“They have a safe house in Poland and one in Ukraine – my guess is that it will be in the west of the country close to Lviv. I won’t know until I get there.”
Mr Rhind has worked for a number of non-profit organisations.
“He was with the Duke of Edinburgh before joining Raleigh Bermuda, the Spirit of Bermuda and Outward Bound. He said through the organisations he gained a desire to give back to the community.
He said while his friends and family were shocked to hear of his plans at first they have been supportive of his decision.
He added: “They asked if I was sure. They were upset at first, but have been really supportive and helpful.
“I am loosely looking at being there for three months – if things are really bad or I feel like I am not making a contribution, I could come back earlier, but I guess, if things are going really well I could look at staying longer.”