Reservists with the Cayman Regiment put their training to the test this week as they ran through a mock hurricane exercise, together with aerial support from the RCIPS Air Operations Unit.
The 51-strong platoon is nearing the end of its two weeks of training, and the reservists are set to graduate on Sunday.
This week, Cabinet published a special exemption to the current COVID-19 regulations to permit ‘a uniformed service to hold a procession’. Under the regulation exemption, a uniformed service means ‘(a) a naval force, including the Coast Guard; (b) a regiment; and (c) a police force, fire service or prison service’. This will allow for a regiment passing-out ceremony.
On Wednesday, the reservists set up camp at the Agriculture Grounds in Lower Valley where they executed the mock exercises. They installed shelters, ‘roughed it’ without modern-day comforts such as electricity and running water, and even had to eat food from ration packs as part of their preparation for their new role.
They also had to liaise with the Air Operations Unit to carry out a medevac which was executed with the use of one of the two police helicopters.
Governor Martyn Roper, who was on hand for part of the training exercise, told the Cayman Compass he was pleased by what he saw and the progress the regiment has made.
“I’m very proud and I know that the premier is very proud,” he said.
He said the passing-out ceremony for the reservists this weekend will be a historic one for Cayman and the new defence entity.
“It’s a big moment. I think everybody in the island will be very proud of our reservists. The large majority of them are Caymanians and they are really keen to make a contribution to our Island,” he said.
He said the Defence Law still needs to be passed to formalise the regiment.
The governor said that Premier Alden McLaughlin is keen to take that law to the Legislative Assembly, “which will give us the legal basis for the operations of the regiment”.
He added that the regiment is primarily there to help Cayman respond to disasters such as hurricanes.
“But it would also be available to help any of our regional neighbours if they were to suffer disasters or hurricanes. So still very early days, but I’m just delighted that we’ve been able to get this far,” Roper said.
The creation of the regiment was announced late last year during a visit from then UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Mark Lancaster.
Roper said Cayman was “really fortunate” that despite the pandemic it was able to get a UK Ministry of Defence team to come to the island to train the first 51 part-time reservists.
The governor chatted with the reservists about what they have been doing and their first aid training which is aimed at helping them to respond to disasters if they were to happen to Cayman.
“They’re really enthusiastic, really positive and really proud to be part of the Cayman Regiment,” he added.
Roper said there will be a further recruiting exercise coming up in the next couple of months for more part-time reservists.
“It’s really up to Cayman where this now goes from here. I think we are keen to get to about 175 people initially, because we think that will be about the right size to really be able to make a very effective contribution,” he said.
Hazard Management Cayman Islands Director Danielle Coleman said the regiment is going to add a lot of resources to the actual national response to emergencies and disasters.
“We’re really excited that we have so many more hands to help with this and obviously multi-agency coordination is really key, and we’ll be working that out in the next few weeks. But we’re really excited about it,” she said.
She commended the reservists for their commitment.
Regiment Commander Simon Watson said he was pleased that Cayman was able to get the regiment up and running for the peak of the hurricane season.
“The regiment is constantly on standby. So, from 1st September going forward we will be on standby 24 hours a day. So, whether it is a hurricane, earthquake, pandemic, large major fire… whatever issue that needs looking at then the regiment will be there to help support,” Watson said.