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‘My wife is keen for me to be home for a hurricane’

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Stepping down: Lieutenant-Colonel Ben Beasley, the Commanding Officer of the Royal Bermuda Regiment, steps down from the post today (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Soon after becoming the Commanding Officer of the Royal Bermuda Regiment at the age of 39, Lieutenant-Colonel Ben Beasley made a relatively bold statement.

He promised a bright future for the island’s soldiers and said he aimed to forge a regiment that reflected modern Bermuda, offering routes to the acquisition of skills marketable inside Warwick Camp as well as in civilian life.

Today, he steps down as the CO, so does he think he succeeded?

“I believe I have and I suppose you want examples,” he laughed, before listing a series of accomplishments.

Topping his list are the coastguard, which was established in February 2020, the RBR’s leading role in the training of soldiers from much larger Caribbean countries, and sending troops to North America, the UK and Germany to develop their skills.

Colonel Beasley said: “I was a project officer for the coastguard before it came in and then being the first Commanding Officer once it came into a full operating picture was big.

“I’m a huge believer in it and they do a fantastic job. Very few people ever want to leave the coastguard, despite the demanding hours and the fact that they are always in the public eye.”

He added: “We’ve had members of the Turks and Caicos and Cayman Islands regiments coming here to train and we’ve taken them on overseas camps.”

Family support: Lieutenant-Colonel Ben Beasley and his wife, Kirsten, at Government House (File photograph)

In addition, he said the regiment has been heavily involved in helping to train soldiers from “eight or ten Caribbean countries, all bigger than Bermuda, which is amazing to think about”.

He also believes that US Southern Command, the combined services organisation that sponsors the multinational overseas exercise Tradewinds, “sees us as a real player in the Caribbean”.

Colonel Beasley said: “The fact that we bring skills and we bring mass to the exercise has really raised our profile, which is pretty impressive for a very small unit on a very small island. It’s great to get that kind of international recognition.”

It is those skills ― learnt and taught ― said the CO, that were not just useful at Warwick Camp, but also in civilian life.

“A soldier almost always makes a better citizen,” he noted.

Asked why, Colonel Beasley added: “Because they can be relied upon, they accept consequences when they’re coming.

Top guns: Lieutenant-Colonel Ben Beasley with former Governor John Rankin at Government House after he was sworn in as the Commanding Officer of the Royal Bermuda Regiment (File photograph)

“Soldiers have great integrity and a sense of personal pride. The integrity piece is huge and I always tell recruits when they come in that if you’re not a very good soldier, we can do something with that, but if you fail the integrity test, you’re gone.”

On whether making good soldiers ― and good citizens ― was core to the RBR, he said: “Yes. I would say absolutely it is one of the more important things.

“The one thing that every soldier in this unit has, is they’re all held to the same values and core standards and they carry those with them when they leave.”

In an article in The Royal Gazette, published in August 2020, Colonel Beasley was quoted as saying: “I have a few short years to ensure that the manning matches our operational requirements, not just in numbers and skills, but also demographics.”

He went on to add that it was “important for us to represent the country we serve. And in simple terms, we do not have enough women commanders. It is my job to see that is changed and it will be done”.

So was it?

“It was done,” he said. “I aspired to have four new female officers and some female warrant officers and there has been some progress.

“We’ve got two female lieutenants and those are the first female officers in more than 30 years, which is big when we talk about the difficulty in recruiting and attracting the right people ― and to be a commissioned officer, the standard is high.”

Traditionally a male preserve, Colonel Beasley said the number of female recruits in the RBR increased from “the upper teens” to roughly 20 per cent of the battalion’s numbers

He added: “My achievement may not match my aspirations four years ago, but we’ve done well and there’s certainly the groundwork for more to follow.”

A serviceman through-and-through: Lieutenant-Colonel Ben Beasley, when he was a Royal Air Force officer, meeting former Governor Sir Richard Gozney during an official dedication of the War Memorial on the grounds of Cabinet (File photograph)

The regiment’s complement has fluctuated over the years and it has not operated at full capacity, since conscription ended when legislation was passed in the Senate in 2018.

“It will be a continuing issue,” said Colonel Beasley.

“It’s about communicating properly with our community and informing them in order to positively influence their decisions. But it’s not unique to Bermuda. The US, the UK are all having difficulty recruiting.”

He insisted that the regiment’s duties were not affected as soldiers were trained to be multi-skilled ― bandsmen trained as chainsaw operators, for instance.

On the flip side, the regiment’s retention levels were better than ever.

“Once people are in, they tend to stay in and they stay in for a long time as well,” said Colonel Beasley. But convincing people to get over the start line is a bit of a challenge, so it’s up to us to go out and communicate with our community.”

As part of that communication, the regiment has plans to get back into schools and restart the cadet programme.

“It’s about engaging with the youth in order that when they come of age, they've been positively influenced to say ‘that’s somewhere I want to be’.”

What is next for the outgoing Commanding Officer?

He said: “I’m going to take some time with my family. My wife is already keen for me to be home for a hurricane. I feel that I’ve given almost everything I can.

“Look out for me in the private sector, where, hopefully I can use my experience for the benefit of everybody else and be a better citizen, like I ask everyone else to be.”

• For the full interview, watch the 30-minute video

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Published May 31, 2024 at 7:59 am (Updated May 31, 2024 at 8:41 am)

‘My wife is keen for me to be home for a hurricane’

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