Bermuda’s soldiers were singled out for praise at the closing ceremony of a massive international military exercise in the Caribbean at the weekend.
Sir Louis Straker, the Acting Prime Minister of St Vincent & the Grenadines, the host nation for Exercise Tradewinds, said that the RBR had won hearts and minds for their work in renovating and improving security at a free public clinic near their base at the disused ET Joshua Airport.
The RBR also donated 30 sets of public order kit, including shields and protective gear, to the Royal St Vincent & the Grenadines Police.
Sir Louis said: “Honourable mention must be made of the Government of Bermuda and the Royal Bermuda Regiment.”
He added he was pleased that Bermuda Minister of National Security Wayne Caines had attended the closing ceremony.
He told Mr Caines and the RBR: “It was truly an honour and a privilege having you here. You have contributed significantly to the success of the exercise and we look forward to lasting friendships and sustained engagement to counter threats, advancement of security and the promotion of economic opportunities, peace and security in our region.”
Colin John, the Commissioner of the Royal St Vincent & Grenadines Police, added: “Our new found friends, the Royal Bermuda Regiment, must come in for a special mention not because they are the largest contingent here, but because they have been very enthusiastic.
Mr John said the Bermuda soldiers had been “on time and professional throughout the exercise”.
He added: “I think the Bermudians should come in for some special mention. They also assisted us with some special equipment, so I just want to go on record thanking them for what they have done.”
They were speaking at the closing ceremony for the exercise, held at Victoria Park in the SVG capital Kingstown, last Friday.
Tradewinds involved 500 ground troops, about 120 of them from Bermuda, as well as four naval and Coast Guard ships crewed by a total of 100 sailors.
Earlier in the exercise, which was organised by the US military’s Southern Command (Southcom) based in Florida, soldiers from the RBR painted the Sion Hill Clinic inside and out.
RBR troops also cut down trees and undergrowth which hid the building from the nearby road and which was used as cover by thieves who have targeted the clinic several times and installed new high intensity security lights and fencing.
Mr Caines, who earlier had a private meeting with Sir Louis at the SVG government headquarters in Kingstown, was interviewed by an SVG broadcasting company at the Sion Hill Clinic and at the closing ceremony by the US military media team attached to the exercise and the SVG government’s Agency for Public Information.
He told the media that RBR Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel David Curley “had gone a step above in integrating us with Southcom, making sure we have key training opportunities, opportunities that can be used at home”.
Mr Caines added he was pleased the RBR, which got a round of applause from the military of the 22 participant countries at Tradewinds, had been highlighted for their community work in St Vincent.
He said: “That’s the Bermudian touch – going into a country and helping. They did some work at a specific location and gave some kit to the St Vincent & Grenadines Police Force.”
Ground troops, naval forces and Coastguard personnel from the Caribbean, South America, Canada the US and UK took part in Tradewinds.
Mr Caines added the closing ceremony had “filled my heart with pride”.
He said: “To be in St Vincent and to see our young men and women, we all in Bermuda have much to be proud of.”
Mr Caines added the exercise was also an opportunity to draw on expertise as the RBR prepared to form a Coast Guard service and to source more specialist training for Bermuda’s soldiers.
He said: “Sometimes when you have the responsibility for a budget, you see these things just as numbers.”
But he added: “This is an excellent use of the country’s purse.”
Edward Rodgers, a retired US Marine Corps officer and deputy divisional head of training and exercises for Southcom, said Bermuda’s inaugural participation in the exercise had been of huge value
He added: “It’s been one of the big successes of Tradewinds 2019. Their professionalism, their motivation, the desire to build that partnership from Bermuda has been clear.”
Mr Rodgers said the annual Tradewinds exercise often involved work in the community of the host country.
He added: “The Royal Bermuda Regiment took this on, which was a great addition to Tradewinds and they did it in under three days. That was really impressive. It’s a very tangible benefit to the community here.”