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Regiment troops return from Jamaica

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Flying high: Royal Bermuda Regiment troops prepare to board their flight home under the watchful eye of Jamaican Defence Force military police

Bermuda’s soldiers returned home this weekend after two weeks of tough training in the jungle of Jamaica.

The theory was put into practice in a large-scale final exercise at the end of last week, which involved battle tactics and fording a river.

Private Craig Abrahams, 34, said: “I had fun — my leg was about to give in, but I still enjoyed it. The jungle, the wide range of training and the platoon attack were good.

“In Bermuda, it’s limited. It was a great experience here with the terrain and having to cross the river.”

Soldiers spent time on the ranges at Twickenham, just outside Kingston, before rotating through Titchfield Camp, 150 miles away in Port Antonio, Portland, for days of intensive jungle training in advance of the final exercise.

The troops returned home yesterday evening to a warm welcome from family and friends waiting at the airport.

Lance Sergeant John Pontone, a jungle warfare instructor from the British Army’s Coldstream Guards, said: “They have all worked very hard.

“There are things to work on, there always are. But they have improved and have taken on the points we gave them.”

Fellow Coldstreamer Lance Sergeant Richard Pinkney added: “Morale has sunk and risen and that’s expected. But they are taking things in and working on them.

“Some of the leaders have had steep learning curves, but they have taken up the challenge quite well and have shown real ownership of their jobs.”

Lance Corporal Nicoy Anglin swapped his day job as a bank teller for the heat, mud and mosquitoes of the jungle.

The 19-year-old volunteer, from Pembroke, said: “I’ve loved it. It’s been amazing. It’s different training from what we’re used to and the instructors have brought a wealth of experience and knowledge to the table. All you have to do is take it all in.”

Lance Corporal Romario Dill, 21, from Pembroke and a member of the Junior NCO’s cadre, added: “This was my first overseas trip with the Regiment and I’ve really enjoyed it. I enjoyed the rifle training and the fitness training most.

“The rations we got in the field don’t taste very good, but that’s my only complaint. We also got really sweaty in the jungle, but you can’t do anything about that. We’ve learnt a lot — tactics, manoeuvres and river crossings.”

Royal Bermuda Regiment staff officer Major Andrew Clarke, the exercise director, said: “It isn’t easy and it shouldn’t be easy because otherwise they learn nothing about themselves or how to gel as a team. To do that, they needed to be tested under tough conditions — time pressure, physical pressure and how to make decisions under stressful conditions.”

Regiment commanding officer Lieutenant-Colonel David Curley, on his first overseas camp as CO, drew up the training plan in his previous role as training officer.

He said: “We were operating over two camps separated by more than 150 miles and a mountain range, which tested our logistics skills as well.

“It’s part of the role of a military unit to be able project force in tough conditions. Our overseas deployments have almost exclusively been to areas hit by natural disasters like hurricanes.

“Training in Jamaica helped develop the resilience and ability to operate in very difficult environments. We have identified strengths and weaknesses and that’s something we will take home with us and work on.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Curley added: “I am proud of our troops and the way they have performed. Morale has been very high and people seem to have really enjoyed it.”

Welcome home: Sergeant Major Luis Pereira is greeted by daughter Sophie at the airport after two weeks of tough training in Jamaica
Family affair: Captain Chris Gauntlett is reunited with his wife and children after overseas camp in Jamaica
Moving out: Captain Preston Gill marshals his troops before leaving Montego Bay for the flight back to Bermuda
Path to success: Coldstream Guardsmen Lance Sergeants John Pontone (left) and Richard Pinkney, who helped train RBR soldiers in the art of jungle warfare
Green machine: RBR soldiers prepare to attack the enemy during the final training exercise in the jungles of Jamaica
Assault troops: RBR soldiers train in the Jamaican jungle under the expert eye of instructors from the JDF and British Army
A river runs through it: RBR soldiers perform an early morning river crossing in the final training exercise
Man down: Soldiers evacuate a ‘casualty’ from the jungle battle zone