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.