Island soldiers passed a gruelling test of their public order and internal security skills at the weekend.
The Royal Bermuda Regiment troops were put through their paces under the eagle eyes of experts from the British Army’s Mission Training and Mobilisation Centre to achieve the UK military standard base level for platoon crowd control operations.
Private Richendo Simmons, 30, a hospital orderly at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, said afterwards: “It’s a big learning experience.
“It was more full on than it was on previous days – we did well, but there are things we need to work on.”
Pte Simmons, from Sandys, said that training on-island meant that the opposing force were fellow RBR soldiers and the chance to go through public order paces against professional British Army troops from the Royal Anglian Regiment was more realistic.
He added: “These guys were coming at us like they were really rioting and if we weren’t prepared, we were going to get hurt.”
Pte Chanara Smith-Rookes, 20, from St George’s, a piccolo player in the Band & Corps of Drums, marched to a faster tempo after she volunteered for attachment to public order specialist A Company for the exercise.
She said: “It was a bit different to what I’m used to. Physically, I was fine, but mentally, with everything going on around you, it’s hard to take it all in.
“But I handled it well. I would say I enjoyed it – it’s a different experience. But I’ll be glad to get back to the band.”
Pte Smith-Rookes, who works for the Bermuda Pie Company in St George’s, carried a rifle in the squad protection role and also stood on the base line armed with a shield and baton.
She said: “I did manage to get a few hits in – one of the Royal Anglian Regiment soldiers congratulated me and shook my hand afterwards because he recognised who I was.”
Pte Tom Patterson, 23, from Hamilton Parish, added: “It could have gone better, but that’s why we’re here – to learn.”
The Bermuda College business student added: “It was extremely intense. But I enjoyed it – right up until I got kicked in the shield and sent flying.”
Sergeant Damir Armstrong, 33, a life insurance sales advisor, was platoon sergeant for 1 Platoon.
Sgt Armstrong, from Pembroke, said: “We were put through our paces, learned from our mistakes and delivered the final product.
“Having been on the front line as a private and then dropping back as a team leader, that experience equipped me for the role of platoon sergeant.
“It’s about troop management and looking out for their safety, as well as achieving our aim.”
He added: “It’s been very worthwhile – I have previous experience, but the majority of the troops here were doing this for the first time. We don’t have facilities like this in Bermuda, so it’s great to be able to capitalize on my earlier training.”
The troops were speaking after the last day of public order and internal security training last Friday.
Pte Lewis Barclay, of the 1st Battalion Royal Anglians – The Vikings – said he was impressed by the spirit of the RBR soldiers.
The 21-year-old professional added: “They did well. They upgraded over the days and got better. The training worked.
“We found the first couple of days quite easy – but the final day was a lot tougher for us. They were hitting a lot harder and keeping it together.”
RBR Major Duncan Simons, the second-in-command for Active Shield, said: “We showed we were at the base line standard for platoon level public order operations.
“Some of our shortcomings were pointed out, but, under tremendous pressure, no one lost their cool.”
Maj. Simons added: “The chances of anything like this happening in Bermuda are very small, but we have to maintain that capability as part of our mandate.”
The RBR contingent will this week start vehicle checkpoint and urban patrolling training, as well as key point protection work and shooting practice on hi-tech ranges with moving targets.
Soldiers on a major training exercise in the UK are backed by a small army of specialist support.
Royal Bermuda Regiment Logistics Company troops are working with soldiers from the Regiment’s A Company on the public order and internal security Exercise Active Shield to keep the wheels turning and their colleagues supplied, fed and treated for any injuries.
Private Melanie Gauntlett, 33, a medic, said: “I like to say I’m A Company’s favourite medic, so when they go on exercise I enjoy going along so I can get to do some of the exciting stuff as well.”
She added she had honed her own skills working alongside Royal Anglian Regiment medics and that it was hoped courses could be organised in the UK for their Bermudian counterparts.
Pte Gauntlett said: “We could see a variety of injuries in the exercise. Things like dog bites, burns, lacerations and broken bones.”
But she added: “I love it – I enjoy what I do. I like the experience because I’m a relatively new medic, just under a year now, so it’s always nice to do things overseas.
The Clarien Bank personal banker said: “You get to see different injuries and you get to work with medics on a global basis. Hopefully, we will get to do more cross-training in the future.”
Pte Taylor Eve, normally a pay clerk at Warwick Camp, is attached to Logistics Company for the exercise to work with Paymaster Major Kenneth Wainwright to ensure the trip is value for money and comes in on budget.
She added that, even though she is in Kent, she is also working on pay for soldiers embodied for Hurricane Humberto and Tropical Storm Jerry.
Pte Eve, 28, from Warwick, said: “We’re working very hard. I’m learning a lot. I’ve done pay, but not as in depth as now. I’m doing spreadsheets and reconciliation, which is all new to me.”
The Bermuda Post Office administrator added the experience would also help her in her civilian life.
She explained: “I’m in administration, so it’s all useful in my Government job. It’s giving me more experience.”
Colour Sergeant John Lema, a veteran chef, is attached to the cookhouse at Lydd Camp and helping to prepare up to 350 meals three times a day alongside the civilian staff.
C/Sgt Lema, who works in catering at the Bank of Butterfield, said: “I’m the only RBR chef here.
“I got the time off, so I thought I’d come and try something new. I’m here to learn how different regiments are fed and how the kitchens operate.”
He added: “They feed a lot more people in a day than we do in an entire weekend at Warwick Camp, so it’s pretty hectic But the team I am working with is very good. They know what they’re doing and they’re well-organised.
C/Sgt Lema added he also worked to prepare container meals for RBR soldiers out in the field.
Sergeant Lowell Woolridge, 32, a signaller, said he was in charge of two soldiers tasked with delivering efficient and reliable communications between RBR units.
Sgt Woolridge, from Paget and a beekeeper in family firm Bee Lovers, added: “We set up communications, maintain the radio net and the radios and hand the kit out to the soldiers.
“It’s a vital role – they say ‘no bombs without comms’. It’s very intense because I’ve just taken over running the comms unit.
“But I’m enjoying it. It can be rough at times, but after you get through what you have to do, you look back and you feel a real sense of achievement.”
Major Wainwright said: “We do all the logistics for travel, accommodation, armoury and ammunition, replacement of uniforms and transport, as well as medics, communications and IT services.”
"He added his staff had also organised the delivery of more than 80 sets of flame retardant coveralls and boots as well as helmets and visors for the public order troops – in the right sizes.
Major Wainwright said: “The soldiers wouldn’t eat, they wouldn’t have boots on their feet, their coveralls or be able to sleep in a bed with sheets without us.
“We’re the heart and soul of the Regiment.”