Love of country drives regiment recruits

The Cayman Regiment’s inaugural class of 51 recruits took part in a passing out ceremony at the Truman Bodden Sports Complex last weekend after two weeks of intensive training. The Cayman Compass spoke in depth with three of the new reservists, who shared what had inspired them to join up.
The six women and 45 men in the new platoon will be called into action in the event of a disaster. For many of them, it’s not only a matter of giving back, but also a point of national pride, the reservists told the Compass at Sunday’s ceremony.

Former fire and police officer signs up

Jerad Ebanks has previously worked as a fire officer and a policeman.

He said when he heard about the regiment, he had no hesitation in signing up to support his country in times of need.

Jerad Ebanks

“The feeling to know that we have a regiment that is Caymanian and predominantly Caymanian… it feels good. It feels good to know that the Cayman Islands, in the event of any national disaster or pandemic, we are ready to support each other,” he said.

Ebanks, a 36-year-old father of four, said he was working as a fire fighter during Hurricane Ivan, and as such was a first responder. He said seeing a lack of UK support and the humanitarian efforts from the Bermuda Regiment inspired him to join a Cayman regiment if there ever was one.

“I saw a lot of things back then… when the regiment started up, I said ‘You know what, I got too much [of a] skill set to be sitting down when I can help and do my part to make the Cayman Islands ready for any disaster.’ So that’s why I decided to join up.”

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Ebanks, who works at the Cayman Islands Airports Authority’s operations department, said safety of the aerodrome and the airport falls under his responsibility, so it was a natural for him to want to extend that to the entire country.

“In the event of any disaster, with the strengths that we have within the regiment and certain skill sets that we have learnt, and some of us already had, I think Cayman would benefit on the whole because we are ready to support each other and build the island back,” he said.

Even with his fire and police background, Ebanks said, the two-week intensive training tested his resolve, but seeing the pride and excitement in his children’s faces when he came home every evening and the support from unit members pushed him to carry on.

“In terms of regiment, punishment is not like regular punishment. It’s the punishment when we don’t work together as a unit or we don’t achieve an objective together…. So getting that punishment together and going through and holding your brother’s arm, we all felt it. Certainly, those were one of the moments that I would say tested my strength in terms of ‘Oh, I can’t deal with this,’ but it built my character,” he added.

Regiment completes full circle for former cadet

The regiment is filled with individuals from varied walks of life and work backgrounds.
Teresita DaSilva, 31, is a preparedness and planning officer at Hazard Management Cayman Islands.

That job, together with her Cadet Corps training, spurred her to join the regiment, even though she had recently given birth to her son Ronin.

Teresita DaSilva

“I’m really excited that the regiment was formed in Cayman because now I can finally take that step to be a part of a military organisation, which is something that I always wanted to do,” DaSilva said.

She is one of six women who are now regiment reservists. Being female did not mean the training they underwent was any easier or different to that of their male counterparts.

DaSilva said while the training was more of a refresher for her, given her cadet background, it was taxing at times.

“I think the hardest part was the physical training. It’s a lot of running… I mean, a lot of running. It is something I don’t normally do, so it highlighted that weakness physically that I need to work on over the coming months and weeks, just to make sure I’m in tiptop shape and can have that endurance that is needed when you are deployed, knowing you can be out for weeks at a time, having to move sandbags, move casualties and dig trenches,” she said.

DaSilva, who was one of the first cadets in Cayman, said she was pleased to be a pioneering member of the regiment.

“It’s almost like full circle coming back around that I’m the first in a military organisation again. So, it’s really great,” she said.

DaSilva said being a reservist and a part of the Hazard Management team places her in a unique position.

Teresita DaSilva and her family

“With the regiment essentially being a resource available to Hazard Management [and] with me having the knowledge from [the] Hazard Management perspective, I can essentially bridge a potential gap between the two,” she said.

She added that, as a member of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency, there is the opportunity for Hazard Management to be deployed overseas to different islands in the region that are impacted by disasters.

She encouraged other Caymanians to consider joining the regiment as it gives opportunities for personal character building.

“You learn so many skills. There’s opportunities to go overseas and train, and it can allow you to find that job that you’re really passionate about,” she said.

Sailor finds a way to give back

James Macfee, 33, is no stranger to grit and determination, having battled the high seas for the Round the World Clipper race in 2018.

So, it should come as no surprise to those who know him that joining the Cayman Regiment would be a natural choice for the Cayman sailor.

James Macfee

But even though he always wanted to join a military unit, Macfee said it was his desire to contribute to Cayman that was the driving force behind his enrolment.

“Since I’ve been living out here, … my mom, my dad, and myself have always done bits to get involved with the community, whether it’s reading to school kids at Red Bay Primary, doing Meals on Wheels, charity dinners for the Red Cross, helping my mom do something like that. … I was just looking for something that I was going to make my own and commit to more long term,” he said.

Though he was born in the UK, Macfee has spent most of his life in Cayman and is now employed as an accountant at a local firm.

However, he said his career path could have led him to a military life, as during his university days he had contemplated enlisting.

“I think I … first got interested in any military when I was studying for my accounting exams, and every time I had a resit to do, that if I failed, I was going to get kicked out. I decided my alternative… was going to be to go into the military instead. Somehow, I managed to scrape by, I never actually got that,” he said.

Regiment training was fun, he added.

James Macfee during the Round the World Clipper Race in 2018.

However, the drill side of things was “a bit awkward”, as he had never done anything like that before.

“Having spent the last 32 years of my life walking around perfectly fine, suddenly being taught how to walk again was a bit more challenging. The rest of it was fairly in my stride,” he said.

Macfee said he found many similarities between his sailing experience and the regiment training, especially the teamwork aspect.

He said he would encourage anyone to join the regiment.

“There’s a strong focus on the discipline and the integrity that you have to hold yourself to. I’d like to think I had that already through a few years of building a career, and the sailing stuff as well, but it’s a nice reminder, and that … bit of a kick in the [butt] to make sure that you actually do hold yourself to those and you don’t let any of that slip, whether it’s because you’re representing your firm, the regiment, or another team of any sort,” he said.

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