Bermuda’s solders took their place among 22 other countries for the opening ceremony of a massive international disaster relief exercise in the Caribbean today.
Island soldiers lined up alongside representatives of the armies, navies, coastguards and air forces of regional participants in Exercise Tradewinds phase two in St Vincent & the Grenadines.
Private Gayon Burrows, who carried the Bermuda flag at the ceremony, said he was proud to represent his country and be a part of the exercise.
He added: “It’s been great so far. It’s something new for me – it’s my first overseas trip with the Regiment, so I’m pretty excited.”
The 21-year-old from Hamilton Parish, a drummer in the RBR Band & Corps of Drums as well as a member of humanitarian aid and disaster relief specialists B Company, said: “Apart from meeting people from different countries, I’m trying to get more discipline and an idea of what I can do as a soldier as well as a musician.”
Pte Burrows, a two-year veteran of the RBR, added: “If I hadn’t joined the Regiment, I would never have done anything like this. I made the choice to join and I’ve never regretted it.”
Edward Rodgers, the deputy divisional chief of training for the US Southern Command, which organised the exercise, earlier told the opening ceremony for Tradewinds that it was an excellent training opportunity.
He said: “We come together once a year to exercise. That’s very critical. It builds friendships, trust and partnership with everyone else.”
It is the first time Bermuda has taken part in the exercise having only observed the training nearly 30 years ago. For the first time, Bermuda has deployed a full company of about 120 soldiers from Bravo Company.
Mr Rodgers, a retired US Marine Corps officer, added: “It’s good to see that Bermuda was able to attend and be a big part of phase two of the exercise.
“They have come with a good force, ready to train. We’re very happy to have Bermuda back in the Tradewinds exercise.”
1stLieutenant Jishar Obergh of the Suriname Navy, said: “This is our first time here and we’re enjoying meeting people from other countries like Bermuda.”
Leading Seaman Brad Northrup, a diver with the Royal Canadian Navy, added: “It’s been pretty cool to see all the different aspects of life, how they do things and how it all comes together.”
Tradewinds was designed to build increased regional cooperation in complex multinational security operations, as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster response work.
Nations participating in the exercise include Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Canada, Colombia, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, France, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, the Netherlands, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom and the United States.