By Christopher Tobutt
A major disaster causes massive adjustment to living, particularly in the aftermath, when access to electricity and water is cut. The Cayman Islands Regiment has been learning how to live without the comforts of life we take for granted during a recent nine-day deployment in West Bay which took them on a mission to Barefoot Beach at East End
Regiment Commander Simon Watson confirmed: “We’ve done a march this morning, five kilometres with approximately 50 to 55 pounds of kit per person. It’s everything they need for 24 hours. They are carrying two litres of water and their sleeping systems and all their food and a change of clothes. They’ve done that in about 50 minutes, which is a really good effort.”
Commander Watson advised that the event was their big annual deployment exercise training men and women to be able to live outside buildings or in tents or personal shelters, as they might need to do if the Cayman Islands Regiment was to be deployed by air to the Sister Islands, or after a disaster such as a hurricane or an earthquake.
“Tomorrow is a big exercise for the guys themselves, to test their limits,” Commander Watson said. “We are going to simulate a medivac where someone needs to be airlifted from a location five kilometres from here, so they will be leaving here with stretchers. it encourages team building against the clock.”
Strategies were taught in sections, with one involving learning how quickly to set up a shelter, including a body-length mosquito net. Another section was on personal hygiene.
“A lot of us neglect simple things like our feet and if we have blisters it slows us down, so that can have an effect on everybody else down the line,” said Captain Gabe Rabess. “The last section is about hand signals which are very important, especially far away when you are guiding vehicles in without shouting,”
Leonard Ebanks Jr. had learned a great deal, not just about the dos and don’ts they were being told, but about himself.
“I’ve learned it is important to be tougher, not just physically, but also mentally, because as a regiment we need to be tough and that starts from the ground up,” he said. “The Regiment is all about being tough and doing life-saving work which helps the country get back on its feet when maybe nobody else can help, and for that they need to be physically and mentally prepared for every eventuality.”
Hazard Management’s Director Danielle Coleman praised the Regiment and was very impressed by what she had already seen.
“They really do assist disaster response immeasurably, so we’ve seen in the last couple of years that the Regiment is a massive asset to the Cayman Islands. We’ve been working very closely with the Regiment in exercises and we do some of the training together to make sure we’re all on the same page, so that every response that we do is in line with each other.”