Back row left to right: Theodore Kelly Jr, Selena Sookoosingh, Halston Farley, Shanice Kelly, Gabe Rabess and Jonassi Swaby. Seated Commanding Officer Simon Watson, Premier Alden McLaughlin, Governor Martyn Roper, Simon Spiers and Andre Mon Desir.- Submitted

Former UK Royal Dragoon Guard Simon Watson has been appointed commanding officer for the Cayman Islands Regiment.

The Governor’s Office announced Watson’s appointment Wednesday, as well as the recruitment of six junior officers.

Premier Alden McLaughlin, speaking in the Legislative Assembly Thursday, stressed the importance of the development of a regiment, especially in light of Tuesday’s earthquake.

He assured that the regiment will be a pathway for Caymanians to get training and become officers.

“This is a Cayman Islands regiment, it is not some outpost of the British Army,” McLaughlin said in the Legislative Assembly.

It will be a “symbol of pride,” he said.

McLaughlin also addressed the creation of the regiment in the Governor’s Office statement, saying, “We are blessed to live in a country which is safe and has excellent infrastructure but recent history, including this week’s earthquake and the devastating hurricanes that impacted the region in 2017 and 2019, highlight the need to adapt and ensure that we are prepared and resilient to face any threat.”

Watson, the statement said, will be supported in his new role by Simon Spiers, who served in a range of senior roles, including in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Former Trinidad and Tobago judge Andre Mon Desir, who is also a former Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force officer, will serve as legal advisor to the new regiment. He was a senior legal advisor and staff judge advocate for the Defence Force.

The trio has more than 38 years combined of officer experience in the British Army and the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force.

Governor Martyn Roper said he is pleased with the quick establishment of the regiment.
“Its primary focus will be disaster preparedness and it will be up and running by August this year. The events of this week underline the importance of developing a regiment in the Cayman Islands, which will provide resilience against disasters, not only at home, but also to help our fellow Overseas Territories when in need,” Roper said.

Officers head off for training

Trainee junior officers in the Cayman Islands Regiment will attend training with the Bermuda Regiment, pictured. – Photo: Blaire Simmons, the Royal Gazette

More than 70 people have applied to serve as officers for the new regiment.

The first six junior officers have been selected and are due to leave for Bermuda next month to attend three weeks of initial training with the Royal Bermuda Regiment. They will also attend officer training at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst later this year.

Five of the recruits are former members of the Cayman Islands Cadet Corps, with the sixth a Royal Cayman Islands Police Service officer.

The six will serve as full-time officers for a year before becoming reservists and reverting to their previous careers.

The announcement of the creation of the regiment was made late last year during the visit of then UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces Mark Lancaster.

Last month, the National Security Council authorised an initial force of seven officers and 50 reserve volunteers for the regiment.

Roper said he was pleased Watson and the other officers stepped forward and volunteered to serve the Cayman Islands.

“The junior officers will in turn receive some of the best military training available, which will help to develop their leadership potential. We will watch their progress with keen interest,” he added.

Officers will be equipped and provided with uniforms by the UK Government during their basic training in Bermuda.

The Governor’s Office said that, on their return, the officers will assist the senior officers to recruit the first 50 reservists, all of whom will receive basic training in Bermuda in July.

The new team will also be assisted by a Regimental Sergeant Major, who has 13 years of former experience as a non-commissioned officer in the British Army, including operational deployments, training and recruitment roles.

“Having a trained and disciplined force which can be mobilised quickly is vital and will enhance the other initiatives which we have recently introduced including the increased resilience of our air operations unit and the excellent work that (Hazard Management Cayman Islands) does to prepare and coordinate our response to disasters,” the premier said.

He also said he was happy the Cayman Islands Cadet Corps was being developed with the training they will receive, including at Sandhurst.