Volunteers boost Regiment training camp numbers
More than 100 recruits charged into Warwick Camp yesterday to the cheers of spectators, marking the start of the Bermuda Regiment’s annual camp.
When the gates opened at 8am the bulk of the recruits were ready and in place; a handful of stragglers arrived as late as 8.30am and were rushed in by Regiment police, lugging their bags with them.
For the next two weeks, the recruits will learn drill and survival skills, and be trained in the proper use of firearms.
Several had mixed feelings about the experience to come.
One said that he’s the third of three siblings to be conscripted, so he had a good idea of what he was getting into.
“I’ll be happy when I cash the cheques,” he said. “Until then, you just got to do it, you know? No pain no gain.”
Another said that he would miss his family and girlfriend while in camp, but otherwise had no concerns.
“I’m not looking forward to it, but there’s not much I can do about it,” he said.
This year’s camp was hoped to be around 50 percent larger than last year’s total of 85 recruits.
A final count yesterday showed 111 recruits including 20 volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 51.
Commanding Officer Brian Gonsalves said: “I’m greatly encouraged by the numbers so far.
“We do know there are more people that are volunteers that are in their later 20s and 30s and 40s, and we have one that is 51. It appears, at face value, that the intake this year just seem to be a little bit older on average.”
Lt Col Gonsalves said increased efforts to find and draw volunteers to the Regiment had helped bolster the number of recruits and that the move spoke positively for the future of the institution.
“For a couple of years in a row we have been exceeding the number of volunteers from the previous year,” he said. “The Regiment is doing a far better job getting the message out.
“We are going to the career fairs, we are getting the message out about the benefits and the pay and so forth. We are going into the schools to talk to the kids about the band, the Regiment and our Junior Leader Programme.
“You would have seen on the back of the buses that we have advertised. Our website is phenomenal. We are doing a lot better than we have been.”
The current state of the economy likely drew people to volunteer, he added.
“The pay is excellent. In fact our pay is tied to the police so whenever they receive a pay increase, we automatically see an increase.
“I would have thought, because of that, we would have seen even more people join.”
The economic downturn has also severely impacted the Regiment’s budget, Lt Col Gonsalves said.
“The knock-on effect of that is I can’t have as many soldiers join the Regiment. The training time has reduced as well because of the budget, which is concerning to me,” he said.
“We are required to provide a standard of skilled and trained soldier to deal with a myriad of tasks out there. There are a lot of things the military can be called out to do.
“We don’t have the time and the finances to train for everything all the time, so it has to be a generalistic approach that can be adapted to a variety of tasks.”
Lieutenant Shea Smith said that this year’s recruit camp will be largely the same as last year’s, with only a handful of small adjustments.
“There has been an accelerated increase in drill because of legislation that is happening immediately after recruit camp, so we had to fit in time for a few additional movements during recruit camp to be used in the parade,” Lt Smith said.
“The overnight exercise, because they shut down the Naval Annex, will be done on South Shore. Our firepower is a bit limited down there because it is for public use and we try to collect all of the shell casings.
“Other than those small things, there’s really no difference; drill, using the Ruger and the competitions.”
He agreed that the economic climate has encouraged more people to volunteer, saying that even those already in the Regiment seem more eager to take on additional drills.
“We said we needed three people from A Company to do sentry duty when we are on the range and 20 people put their hands up,” he said. “What surer way of getting money than volunteering?”
Useful website: www.bermudaregiment.bm.