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Regiment soldiers went back to military basics today (THURS) with lessons in archery.
The bow and arrow experience – once the main infantry weapon - was part of a break in training that saw the troops try their hands at paddle boarding, kayaking, a climbing wall and other sports.
Soldiers started the day at the gym, taking part in competitive sports team sports like dragging sledges loaded with weightlifters’ bar bells in a race against the clock and a gruelling push up challenge.
Private Jabari Robinson, 21, from Southampton, said: “It’s good – it’s a nice change of pace of pace before we get back into it. I enjoyed the volleyball and I enjoyed canoeing.”
The Bermuda College IT student added: “This is my first trip overseas and it’s been really good – I just came off of exams, so it’s good to get away and think about something else.”
Pte Robinson was speaking after the Regiment got access to the massive Wallace Creek gymnasium on the sprawling US Marine Corps base for a morning of sports, including basketball, volleyball and outdoor activities, with prizes being awarded to the top teams and individuals.
Camp Lejeune fitness trainer Laura Whiteside, who worked with the Bermuda contingent, said: “They’ve done really well, been really competitive. They’ve pushed each other and they’re very encouraging and motivating to each other and that’s very motivating for us as instructors.” She added: “Everyone is very polite and good mannered and they listen. I think they’re worn out from training, but still giving it a go – you tell them the score to beat and they try for that.”
The troops later moved to Gottschalk Marina, where a climbing wall, archery, kayaking and other sports were on offer, before enjoying a catered barbecue.
Pte Craig Smith, 24, a 2013 conscript now in the Motor Transport section of the Regiment, said: “I’m having fun and I’m enjoying all the facilities here. The gym was A-1 – everything is A-1.
“It’s good to get time to do something fun – everybody bonding together, basically. It makes the two weeks a lot easier.”
Pte Smith, a self-employed spray painter from Warwick, is driver of a four ton Humvee during the exercise.
He said: “They’re doing a pretty good job of working us hard – late nights and early mornings. But that’s army life. I’m just doing what I’ve got to do.”
Private Sheneve Campbell, a volunteer soldier and member of the Regiment’s Operational Support Unit (OSU) added: “I love this – sport is me.
The 21-year-old Bermuda College psychology student from Smith’s said: “The first few days of training were a bit challenging. It’s the first time I’ve done a lot of the things we’ve been doing so it’s been quite hectic.”
Regiment CO Lt Col. Michael Foster-Brown said: “It’s a busy exercise – deliberately so, so to have a break and some fun is important.”
Col. Foster-Brown added that the three external trainers from the Royal Anglian Regiment had praised the efforts of the Bermuda troops.
He said: “The exercise has been a success and we have worked very well with the US Marine Corps.
“There is bad weather due at the weekend, and we were joking with the Marines that, if it gets really bad, we can borrow some chainsaws and help them out.”
VIP guests yesterday (FRI) visited Bermuda’s soldiers in the field in North Carolina.
And Governor George Fergusson, the UK Military Attache at the British Embassy in Washington Brigadier James Illingworth, Honorary Colonel Eugene Raynor and junior Minister for National Security Jeff Baron joined troops on the firing line at the ranges at the US Marines’ Camp Lejeune.
Mr Fergusson said: “Everyone is having a great experience and thoroughly enjoying themselves."
“These are great facilities here and the Regiment is making the most of them. I’ve been round various people doing different stages of weapons training – people getting ready for an exercise and people getting ready for the firing range.”
He added: “The soldiers seem to have particularly enjoyed the weapons part and several of them have had their first lift in a helicopter, which they really enjoyed.
“One soldier told me the best thing was finding out much she liked being an instructor. They all seem to be enjoying themselves and getting the most out of it.”
Brigadier Illingworth, who has visited the Regiment in Bermuda and overseas before, added: “I’ve seen novel training, exciting training and imaginative training with some very positive results, which we saw with the hurricane recovery. "
“At the same time, what’s really exciting is we have the Bermuda Regiment 50th anniversary, BR50, and the America’s Cup. There’s a real focus for the future – for the Regiment to be all volunteer and maintain all the things we have talked about.”
Brigadier Illingworth added: “I’m never surprised by the enthusiasm of the Bermudian soldier, both the conscripts and the volunteers. It’s very encouraging and great to be here when you’re surrounded by that kind of enthusiasm.”
Senator Baron said: “Camp Lejuene has a great reputation and that’s why the soldiers are so excited about being here. The standard of the facilities and the standard of training the Bermuda soldiers are getting and their willingness to participate is just off the charts. It’s an absolute honour for me to be representing the Premier and Minister of National Security Michael Dunkley and the Government .It’s good to see all that enthusiasm and to know that Bermuda’s soldiers are coming home with new friendships, new skills, new stories and a fresh outlook on their life in Bermuda.”
Col. Raynor added: “The Regiment has changed over the years – but the dedication and spirit of the soldiers is a constant. I’ve been very impressed by the training and the soldiers’ response to it.”
Corporal Kenton Trott – a driver of a massive seven ton Marines truck used to transport troops and also assisting with the Junior Non-Commissioned Officer Cadre (JNCO) training – celebrated his 30th birthday in the field, carrying a rifle and wearing heavy combat armour in temperatures that hit 80 deg F.
But Cpl Trott, a full-time soldier, said: “To be honest, I’m happy with it. I love the Regiment and I like doing all this tactical training and having new experiences like getting on a helicopter – to me it’s all fun and nothing could be better.”
The second full day of the two-week overseas exercise saw troops working in a full-scale town – Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) – searching buildings and vehicles.
The site at the United States Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune is regarded as one of the best urban operations training centres in the US military.
Soldiers from A Company raided and cleared houses and carried out stop and search checks on vehicles under the eagle eye of senior Regiment soldiers and combat veterans from the Regiment’s affiliated unit the Royal Anglian Regiment.
Royal Anglian Sergeant Jonathan Herring said: “They’re doing well – this sort of thing they’re really going to enjoy. They’re learning everything it takes when it comes to room clearance.”
Soldiers set up roadblocks and searched vehicles – including one loaded with weapons and other suspicious items.
The troops were told by Royal Anglian instructor Colour Sergeant Ashley Ward that 16 different items, ranging from firearms and plastic explosives to cash were hidden in a truck stopped at a MOUT checkpoint.
Soldiers took turns searching the vehicle and turned up ten of the 16 incriminating items – which CSgt Ward rated as good for a first attempt.
He said: “They did all right – and they will now have a much better understanding of how to search a vehicle next time.”
CSgt Ward added: “There is no difference between teaching these soldiers are British soldiers and it’s good because I’m teaching them a new skill.”
The training is in preparation for a major exercise later, where Regiment soldiers will patrol the MOUT are for several days – and face opposing forces.
Private Ryan North, 26, from Paget, said: “It’s fun – it’s challenging but good. Everybody’s energy is good and everybody’s positive.”
Nature lover Pte Kleche Burgess, of Devonshire, added: “I’m enjoying everything so far – it’s all good. And there are a lot lot of new bugs and snakes.
The 23-year-old said: “I like snakes because I used to work at the aquarium – but you don’t want to get too close to poisonous ones like Water Moccasins.”
Pte Taahir Augustus, from Southampton and a warehouseman at Dunkley’s Dairy in civilian life, added: “They’re working us hard and taking us to the next level. They’re teaching us very well and I’m learning a lot.”
Pte Zinkono McCarter , a volunteer soldier who works at the Bermuda Aquarium as an aquarist, said: “It’s the first time I’ve been here and I’m liking it – except for the bugs and ticks, although I like seeing new animals. It’s a really nice environment here.”The 20-year-old from St George’s added: “We’re all getting to learn more and become better soldiers and more responsible and disciplined.”
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