Recruit Camp Day #1 – The morning of Sunday, Jan 7th 2007

The following and subsequent series of articles reflect my best attempts at recollection of what the regiment experience was like.  It relies on my memories and the notes I was able to take in the extremely limited amount of free time I had.  These statements are of course of my own opinion and volition.  I share them as a means to provide insight into the experience for future generations who are subjected to similar and they do not in any way reflect the opinions of The Regiment, it’s officers or members.

8am, Sunday Jan 7th, marked the beginning of this years recruit camp with the opening of the front gates of Warwick Camp, the home of the Bermuda Regiment. Of those who had been milling about outside the gates, most were dressed as required in the military camouflage fatigues we had been issued. We stood there relishing in the moment that many had come to dread. The start of camp and our 3 year and 2 month involuntary commitment.

Once inside, we were aligned along the south edge of the camp’s central square and stood opposite to ranks of other soldiers who had taken their place prior to our arrival. As we stood in wait, our bags on our shoulders or down at our feet, names were called out as Regimental Officers identified each recruit and matched him with others. Those whose names had been called where then marched off under the custody of those whom we quickly realized would be our immediate superiors for the next 15 days. As we waited, we watched as those recruits unfortunate enough to arrive late were hurried up the right side of the square, prodded to run with all their baggage by soldiers with an RP emblem emblazoned on their shoulders.

Our first order of the day was to become acquainted with our barracks, which would serve as home for the duration of our stay. Walking down rows of bunks where sheets and blankets had been folded and placed at the edge of each bed, we each glanced at the name tags hanging at the front of each bunk. Keeping an eye out for one’s own name, we each quickly found our own and noted that we would soon be known only by our last name, rank and serial number, in traditional military fashion.

With little more time to get acquainted with our new abode then to stop and check over the equipment we’d been assigned, we were quickly ushered to the next phase of our first day which involved a very brief tour of camp grounds including explanations of where we could go along with were we could not. Unsurprisingly, those places we could not go vastly outnumbered those that we could as it was explained that we were going to require escorts to go most anywhere. Many of us quickly realized that we would have little freedom of choice on where we could go and when as we remained within the gates of Warwick camp.

The morning continued with a quick jog outside the front gates of camp, down and across south shore road and down a path where we came upon a familiar, yet oddly foreign sight. Laid out in front of us was the familiar scenery of south shore Warwick, overlooking the beaches. What differed from the traditional was that the landscape was checkered with area marking tape, targets akin to what you’d seen on firing ranges in the movies and, off in the distance, an array of cinder block walls, sandbags, plastic barrels and other odd structures. Of particular interest was a table set up only a couple meters in front of us where an assortment of weapons had been laid out on display. Other recruits who had already arrived were busy taking a seat on the grass in a sectioned off area and we were motioned to join them.

The demonstration began as every recruit had found a spot on the ground. We were instructed to take out the earplugs we had been given and place them in our ears, after which the instructor began speaking via loudspeaker. He motioned towards the table as he welcomed us to the pyrotechnics demonstration and explained that, laid out in front of us, was a selection of the weapons currently held by the Regiment. As he went over each item, an assistant held up the example for everyone to see and other demonstrators took over the weapon and gave demonstrations of them being fired on the south shore firing range.

Among the selection there were various types of signal flares, grenades, rifles and guns. We were taken through the selection of firearms beginning with the Ruger Rifle. The Ruger was described to be the primary firearm in use by the Bermuda Regiment and would be the firearm each of us would be assigned during our time in camp. It was suggested that the Ruger had been in use since the early 80s and that this would be the Ruger’s last year, as next year would mark the introduction of a new rifle and the retirement of the aging Rugers. The Ruger was shown to still be effective despite it’s age as a demonstrator took aim and fired off a few shots at targets in the distance.

Next up was the SLR, described as a past favorite of the British Army followed by the more modern SA80 British Rifle and subsequently, a General Purpose Machine Gun or GPMG. The ever popular Hollywood favorite UZI was demonstrated next along with the Remington shot gun. Each of these shorter range weapons were fired at closer targets, showcasing their ability to inflict considerable damage convincing most that you’d never want to find yourself at the other end of the barrel. A 9mm Baretta and a Smith and Weston Pistol were showcased as part of the Regiment’s handgun assortment. Their quick shots fired at various targets showcasing that among other things, riot shields are no match for handguns. Finally, a Federal Riot Gun was demonstrated. The FRG was explained to be the weapon used by the Regiment in riot training and live scenarios. Capable of delivering light 1.5 grain and heavy 25 grain rubber rounds which could, it was described as a last resort method of attaining crowd control is a riot situation.

Following the demonstration of the effectiveness of each of these weapons, some proving their lethality by laying a heavy beating on some of the targets, we were instructed to rise and were led our way back to camp.

Next up? Lunch.

First steps towards a tipping point in reinsurance?

This past Thursday, an interesting bill was passed by the Florida legislature. Described by Insurance Information Institute President Robert Hartwig as having "effectively socialized the insurance and reinsurance markets in the state", the bill is one that potentially could have negative consequences for Bermuda’s reinsurance markets both in the near term and future.

News reports have describing it as an increase in the financial contribution to the state’s Hurricane Catastrophe Fund, which would cause the state itself to take on the insurance risk of a catastrophe. What will this mean for our reinsurance industry and what kind of impacts could it have on Bermuda’s economy? Is it possible it could create a trend?

Is Florida making a huge gamble by taking on it’s own risks of disaster? If this coming summer becomes anything like the last, then the gamble could pay off, at least in the short term. If this coming summer is more like 2004, then the gamble could come at quite a loss. If the gamble doesn’t go in their favor, it would be likely to see taxes rise to extraordinary levels to cover the costs.

What impact could this gamble have on Bermuda’s insurance industry? Well, if this summer turns out to be a mild one, how likely is it that other states or even countries, may decide to make a similar move? Could such decisions create a trend that potentially could eliminate much of the profit found in reinsurance, effectively toppling Bermuda’s prime industry.

Certainly this writer is no expert on reinsurance, however some questions do need to be asked. It may be unlikely for this one legal change to cause a trend, however, can we be certain that there won’t ever be similar changes worldwide that could effectively wipe out Bermuda’s economy in an instant? Perhaps this is something we should ever be wary of.

At least for now, you are left to your own devices to determine the odds for the future of Bermuda’s reinsurance industry. One thing is certain, however. This writer won’t be buying property in Florida anytime soon.

Freedom!

Once again I am back amongst the free, able to do as I please.  My time in recruit camp at the Bermuda Regiment has come to a close and along with it, I have regained a sense of freedom after having lived a relatively restricted in dictated life for the last two weeks.

Over the coming weeks I shall be writing some of my thoughts on what camp was like from the perspective of a recruit, reliving some of the experiences and sharing some of my thoughts on the Bermuda Regiment as a whole.  I have tried to approach the experience with an open mind leaving my predispositions outside the gates prior to entering.  There is little doubt that I will have both positive and negative things to say and hopefully will offer a different perspective for those who will have to live through similar experiences in the future.

While of course some may not like what I have to say, I still do believe in my freedom to say it, for otherwise would indicate that freedom of speech does not exist in our great country.

For now I can be thankful and appreciative to have regained my freedom.  While having lived two weeks being told when to eat, sleep, do and where to do it, regaining the ability to think and choose for oneself is something I have gained a whole level of appreciation for.

Stay tuned for more.

Thoughts after first week in recruit camp

The following was written on January 14th, however was mistakenly not posted at that time, it had been intended to preceed the previous article.

As the public relations officer for the Bermuda Regiment Major Stephen Caton stated on the LimeyinBermuda.com website, “everyone is welcome to their opinion or viewpoint about the Regiment whether they are currently serving or not and the Regiment is not going to stand in their way.”

I would like to thank him for this clarification and would like to speak on my own behalf concerning my opinion and experience of what is is like to be conscripted to the Bermuda Regiment and required to serve as a recruit in the 2007 camp as well as the subsequent 3 years and 2 months of national service.

While I do not disagree with the regiment, it’s aims and specific goals itself, I do disagree with some of it’s approaches, conscription and the means by which the Regiment fills it’s ranks.

By serving time in the regiment, I am forced to give up 2 weeks of a well paying job that I have worked hard to achieve in exchange for 18+ hour days at a wage lower then the minimum wage of most, if not all, developed countries at a time when Bermuda holds the title of richest country in the world by GDP per capita and cost of living continues to balloon with the average house now upwards of $1.5 million.

During my first week in the Regiment, I have been exposed to both positive and negative experiences, some of which will stick in my mind for a lifetime. Within the regiment there are many exemplary individuals who have made the experience enjoyable and have left me with wisdom that hopefully shall benefit me for a lifetime. I certainly would not suggest that the Regiment has some positive value, however, just as there have been positive experiences, there have also been negative ones.

One such experience that sticks out in my mind is the ill treatment of recruits to attempt to push them to their limits. While some may be strong in the heart, body and mind, there are always those who are not. There is nothing that will help me accept the reality of having one fellow recruit tell me that he is ‘losing it’ and that the next time he steps on the firing range he may well turn his rifle on others as a means of escape from the Regiment that he considers to be a prison.

When approaching a superior with this issue requesting that the he take a moment to calm and reassure the individual, the approach taken was to further agitate the recruit by making him the center of attention and target of ridicule by other recruits. This, of course, only further stressed and upset the individual. Nothing is more scary then the thought of how many recruits could share a similar attitude and if the next time I walk on the range may well be my last. With this one individual I was able to work with him and convince him that he could work through it, that he could succeed and that all he needed to do was take it one step at a time. That regiment for him will only be one blip on his life that he will quickly forget when it is over. While I think he will have the strength to continue on, I can only wonder, are there others who share his view and willingness to do anything to escape the imprisonment that you are certain no recruits feel?

Dealing with these kind of issues are those that are the kind that strike fear in my soul as I know there are individuals who may not be strong enough to handle such an intense environment and one day we may face a very bitter and truly undeserving tragedy which should never have occurred.

I am not sorry to have undertaken my commitment to our country for I believe that everyone should in one form or another do something to help our island be a better place. However, this does not change my position of conscription being inexcusable, discriminatory and utterly the wrong approach to fulfilling the ranks of those needed to serve our country for whatever reason.

I strongly urge you and all Bermudans to seriously reconsider the approach we use in fulfilling the needs of our community. If any alternative solution were to be proposed, I strongly would recommend the consideration of eliminating the draft in favor of a mandatory number of hours of community service imposed upon all Bermudans whose distribution is left up to choice. This would include those who have attained status through birth, lineage or marriage and not discriminate based upon sex or age.

If under these conditions the Bermuda Regiment as one of the options still cannot fulfill it’s ranks, then serious consideration should be put forth as to it’s validity, it’s value to the community and what it offers.

Prisoners?

Corrections: Apologies to Major Stephen Caton as I had misspelt his name in my original post, likely due to lack of sleep and the short time frame for posting this article.

When commenting on the popular online blog LimeyinBermuda.com, Major Stephen Caton, the public relations officer for the Bermuda Regiment can be quoted as suggesting “having presented to all of the Recruits … I can assure you … that none see themselves prisoners.”

When looking up the definition of the word prisoner in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, which is defined as “a person who is confined in prison or kept in custody, especially as the result of legal process. “, where custody is defined in the American Heritage Dictionary as “The state of being detained or held under guard”, could any individual presently in the regiment feel restricted via similar means?

Are our youth being subjected to treatment likened to that which they consider themselves prisoners? At least one can guarantee that Major Caton is wrong, as this writer is one who sees himself as a prisoner as he presently serves his time in this years 2007 recruit camp.

Being required by law to join regiment is little different from being imprisoned or enslaved. As defined by the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, a slave is “a person entirely under the domination of some influence or person”. While attending recruit camp, are recruits not placed under the custody of their superiors and kept under guard unable to leave or resign by their own will?

Does refusal to follow the influence of those superiors not result in punishments of up to 28 days in regimental lockup for each offense, potentially jeopardizing external life and forcing an individual to sacrifice their career? Do attempts to leave or not appear as required result in punishment legally bound through the Defense Act of 1965 which could result in a prison sentence and criminal record that could effectively disable an individual from attaining employment or traveling for the rest of their lifetime?

What of the fear propaganda where recruits are constantly reminded that if they don’t follow orders they shall be locked up? Like how Corporals who run each barracks read out months old articles describing the prison sentences received for those who chose to not fulfill their legally bound requirement. Along with posting them as a reminder that those who step out of line will be punished. Is this not an example of a person who is confined as a result of legal process?

What of the 18 hour days during recruit camp? Where individuals are forced to constantly run and perform tasks as demanded by their superiors. Are they not forced to ask permission to eat, sleep, attend the bathroom? Are they not confined to their rooms after lights out and forced to pee in a bag should they need to urinate between the hours of 11pm and 5:30am? Sleep often falling shy of these hours due to extra duties that will result in further punishment?

Could 18 hour days at a rate of less then $4.00 an hour, which is less then the minimum wage of most developed nations not be likened to slave wages? Especially when Bermuda has now been defined as the richest country in the world based upon GDP per capita? Why should individuals be forced to give up weeks of good wages in exchange for meager ones in the face of Bermuda’s continually rising cost of living?

Why is discrimination acceptable on the basis of age and sex not just in the process of drafting individuals, but also in the regiment itself? Is it not true that women can have braided designs in their hair while men are forced to maintain a 1/4 inch length and are absolutely restricted from having any form of design or pattern in their hair?

How can turning a blind eye to the policy of a random draft be any different then when white people turned a blind eye to slavery in our past? Is the excuse of “it’s a tradition, it has been done for years” a reasonable one? Was it for slavery? Is the excuse of “we won’t have enough men to fill our ranks” no different then the argument of “we won’t have enough blacks to fill our plantation”? The plantations moved on to find other more reasonable means of filling their ranks, why can’t the regiment?

Do you hold the attitude that “it’s not happening to me so why should I worry”? In that case, what makes you any different then those complacent whites who stood back in the days of slavery and segregation to allow it to happen simply because they were not the targets of injustice?

Is Major Caton correct when he suggests that no recruits see themselves as prisoners? Perhaps. The very consideration may rest on the definition of the word. One thing is clear. Freedom, at least for now, is limited to those who rest outside the gates of Warwick camp.

Is there more ‘truth’ our Premier isn’t telling?

The following was submitted to the editor of The Royal Gazette as a response to Mr. Smith’s comments, however it was not published so I have posted it here.

 

Mr. Editor,

Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to respond to Mr. Smith’s recent comments to the editor of December 20th.

It was not my intention to question Mr. Smith’s ability to speak as an authority on racism from his own perspective. Given that he is at the age where he has served our community for the majority of his lifetime, even having lived through the last days of segregation himself, his perspective on life certainly is a world of difference from that of younger generations. One that has no comparison. Today’s youth have only the stories of their parents, grandparents, their family and friends who lived through such times. Imagine, twenty-five year olds today were not even eligible to vote when the UBP were last in power, and thus could say little on what life was like when the UBP were leadership.

In reality, a twenty-five year old might not know too much more about Bermudian politics then what they’ve seen with the PLP as government and only heard of the UBP. The only thing the youth today have seen is what the PLP have and have not achieved in the eight years that have passed. Have we seen the abysmal state of education? That which sets the foundation of a youth’s future? Does a good education not open or close many doors of opportunity in the modern age? Many doors that were not available to Mr. Smith’s generation, nor our forefathers.

Those youth today struggle to grasp how they’ll be able to afford Bermuda’s economy, even those with a good education will struggle to ever own housing here. Could one speculate that even Mr. Smith himself retired off island due to the high cost of remaining here? Did he notice when the PLP were so eager to grow our economy that they allowed more companies and ex-pat workers onto the island without ensuring that there was adequate housing? Yes, our economy has been booming, but does unbridled growth have its consequences? Has the housing shortage caused a cascading effect on the degradation of our society? Are the basic needs of many individuals no longer being met?

What else have the youth seen? How about the transition of 3 leaders in two terms? Not to mention the way the first one was ousted in mutiny. Have they not seen nearly the same party in power without much new blood and a few rounds of musical cabinet seats? Dr. Brown was indeed transportation minister for most of this time, yet, traffic is abysmal and GPS didn’t solve the taxi crisis. Is it surprising that we’ve now got a ‘new hotel’ getting a Special Development Order just in time for Christmas (or [cough] an election)? Doesn’t the club med still sit abandoned? Remember KJA? In those 8 years Dr. Brown can be remembered for saying things like “I will always tell the truth. I might not tell all of it.” and “we had to mislead you.”

Could one understand how Dr. Brown would not want to answer a “Plantation Question”? Certainly. However, when a few of the questions targeted the Club Med deal, which ended up failing, do other questions then appear? We now play witness to Dr. Brown once again using race to defend against answering more questions. Why? Hasn’t it gotten to be quite a few times that he has done it? At his convenience? Is it not surprising that, on one hand, Dr. Brown claims Dr. Gibbons a racist (but not a dog), without evidence, and condemns him for representing the white racist legacy. Then, on the other hand, he’s rubbing elbows with the board of directors of the Mid Ocean Club to arrange for the big PGA Grand Slam, all on what might well have been on the same day. Does that not seem even a little bit hypocritical?

How many times can he use this as a tactic to not answer questions that maybe should have answers? This time it’s the hospital with regards to Kurron. What if the best contract wasn’t picked and there wasn’t even more then one contender? What if it ends up like KJA or Berkeley? Can we afford to gamble with our future health? How do we get answers to these questions? Is it only the opposition who can ask them? What happened to the Public Access To Information act that the PLP themselves proposed? Have most other developed nations not beaten us to implementing it? Why can’t the public know more? How do we know our government is truly being accountable?

It might be easy for someone of Mr. Smith’s generation to appreciate Dr. Brown taking time out to give it to “the [de-facto] man”, however, is it less easy for someone who has only known the PLP as ‘the establishment’ and knows little of the UBP? Perhaps is it time for Dr. Brown to start answering questions with actual evidence as opposed to song and dance?