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Regiment soldiers go beyond their comfort zone

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Governor George Fergusson got a first hand look at the type of training Bermuda Regiment soldiers underwent during camp at the Canadian Army's Meaford base in northern Ontario on Friday.

Joined by junior National Security Minister Jeff Baron, the Governor watched infantry troops practise their rifle skills on a shooting range, soldiers from Guns and Assault Pioneers work with plastic explosives and visited the nerve centre of last week's major field exercise, run by the Regiment's signallers.

Mr Fergusson and Sen Baron were accompanied by Brigadier James Illingworth, the UK's top soldier at the British Embassy in Washington DC. The camp continues this week.

“All of them seem pretty happy. I haven't seen all that much so far, but Meaford seems extremely well geared to what the Regiment needs,” said Mr Fergusson.

“And the Canadians have been extremely supportive in terms of equipment, facilities and some personnel.

“Morale has been very high — and not just among the ones we have seen at meal times.

“They have got used to the weather and they have the equipment for it, in part thanks to the Canadians. It hasn't dented their enthusiasm at all.

“The big benefit of Meaford is space — it's about 100 square kilometres, which is bigger than Bermuda and it's empty, which makes it easier to put into action what our soldiers have learned.”

Sen Baron said he was “impressed and encouraged” by what he had seen of the troops in action.

“This trip is important, not just for the Regiment and the Government, but the country,” he said.

“It's great to see the men and women of our Regiment coming together to really test themselves, leave their comfort zones and, quite frankly, really excel.

“And when you're pushed past your comfort zone that's transferable to any job back home and to the community in general. When people are looking to hire, they're looking for someone who brings a little bit extra to the table.”

Brigadier Illingworth, a former Director of the UK's Army Air Corps and Military Attache in Washington, commented: “The level of ambition that the Regiment has put into its training should not be underestimated.

“They are trying to do a great deal of things and doing really well. The guys are having fun, they're being challenged and they're learning skills that will help them in the Regiment and the wider world.

“That can only be good for the Bermuda Regiment as well as Bermuda.”

Regiment Commanding Officer Lt Col Mike Foster-Brown said: “I'm really pleased with the level of enthusiasm and the way people have got stuck into training”, noting that innovations for this year's camp included adventure training for the troops, involving kayaking and wilderness hikes, and training the Junior NCO's Cadre alongside the rest of the Regiment.

He explained that Regiment had also saved money through “good management of rations and accommodation”, allowing it to spend on a military form of paintball and rifle range targets that register hits.

Soldiers have also been formed into two companies to allow larger scale and more testing training

Lt Col Foster-Brown said: “Because of that, we can have a meaningful battlefield exercise, rotating the companies through objectives and also allow the Battalion HQ to properly train and test itself.”

Lt Col Foster-Brown, a career British Army soldier, added: “We all come with our own levels of experience and I'm trying to make the Regiment the best organisation it can be, but within the confines of that, turn it into a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

“The two are mutually reinforcing because people like to be good at their job and enjoy a job they're good at.”

Bermuda Regiment is looking for volunteers for a variety of roles.

“Regiment career offers recruits opportunities to travel, acquire skills useful in civilian life, test themselves to their limits and competitive rates of pay, including a $500 bounty for volunteers,” said a Regiment statement.

For those wanting information, they can call 238-1045 or visit www.bermudaregiment.bm.

Governor George Fergusson (second left) talks with Bermuda Regiment soldiers during a training camp in northern Ontario.
Watching: Junior National Security Miinister Sen Jeff Baron, Regiment Commanding Officer Lt Col Michael Foster-Brown, Governor George Fergusson and his ADC Captain Clifford Powell.
Pte Koshua Simmons and Pte Kallan Simons prepare for urban warfare training.
Fun rations: Governor George Fergusson toasts marshmallows with soldiers on adventure training in Canada.
<p>Positive attitudes on display</p>

Bermuda’s soldiers showed off their marksmanship at the weekend in front of a VIP audience.

And specialist engineers put their classroom training into practice, using plastic explosives to destroy a variety of ‘suspect’ devices.

Troops used the Canadian Army C-7 rifle on a 300m firing range at the Meaford training ground in Ontario and practised urban tactics using a ‘village’ built for training.

The exercises were watched by Governor George Fergusson and Junior Minister of National Security Jeff Baron.

Pte Kariim O’Connor, a volunteer soldier, said: “I love to push myself — when they tell me to get something done, it’s 110 percent and no complaints. Until the job’s done, that is.”

The 21-year-old from Pembroke, who is preparing to return to college to train as a physical therapist, added: “It’s good to relax and just shoot — that’s what I like.”

Volunteer Pte Swayne Campbell, who has two brothers already serving in the Regiment, said: “It’s good to get off the Island.”

The 18-year-old, from St George’s, added: “When I first started in the Regiment, I thought I’d hate it, but once I got into it, I really started to enjoy it.

“This is exciting — we’re learning all sorts of manoeuvres and training drills. It’s great.”

Pte Keni Douglas, 19, a computer technician from Pembroke added: “My favourite part of the Regiment is coming to places like this.

“Being in Bermuda, it’s kind of small and limited. I’m having fun.”

Pte Edward DeSilva-Ottley, 21, a restaurant worker in civilian life and a member of Guns & Assault Pioneers (GAP), spent Saturday morning practising destroying ‘unexploded bombs’ using C-4 plastic explosive.

He said: “They’re teaching us a lot and took us out to physically do what we’ve been taught. That’s what I enjoy the most.”

GAP soldier Pte Robyn Phillips, 34, from Smith’s, said: “It’s been really great and the Canadian instructors are excellent — we’ve done the theory, now we’re doing the practical.”

She added: “Canada is very beautiful and very clean and the people are wonderful — very hospitable.”

Canadian Army engineer Sgt Jonathan MacLeod was full of praise for the visiting troops.

“The Bermuda soldiers are doing very well — they are picking things up fast and asking questions if they don’t know,” he said.

But it’s not been all work — soldiers have been rotating through a day’s adventure training, a new addition to the annual overseas camp.

Mr Fergusson, who joined soldiers taking part in kayaking and hiking, said: “It’s a very useful addition. The experience of getting lost then getting un-lost is very good for anyone. It’s been testing, but testing in a good way. They are tired, but cheerful and enjoying themselves.”

Mr Fergusson, who stayed on the Meaford base during a two-day visit, added: “That goes for the exercise generally — they seem to be quite stretched, but learning a lot.

“I’ve been impressed by their commitment, teamwork and leadership. It’s a well-organised, worthwhile exercise. It’s been interesting to see the Canadians being impressed by Bermuda soldiers. They said they were articulate, took a wide view of things and were diligent. There’s been very good feedback.”

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Published May 12, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated May 12, 2014 at 9:06 am)

Regiment soldiers go beyond their comfort zone

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