- Written by Conor King Devitt
- Published: 05 October 2017
Almost all the United Kingdom’s military personnel deployed in the Virgin Islands plan to leave in the next few days, according to Governor Gus Jaspert.
“The UK military have played an important role supporting government efforts, but as we move fully into recovery and keep moving to return to normal, it is right that the military move on the majority of their resources,” Mr. Jaspert said in a press conference yesterday. “The bulk of the military will leave over the next few days.”
Between five and eight very specialised technical engineering consultants will remain in the territory to support the Ministry of Communications and Works, according to Lieutenant Colonel Paul Maynard, the commander of the Royal Marine battalion in the VI.
The battalion — called the 40 Commando Royal Marines — is scheduled to leave today, according to Mr. Maynard.
Recognised for service
At Thursday’s press conference, both Mr. Jaspert and Premier Dr. Orlando Smith thanked the UK military personnel for their service in the territory.
Dr. Smith (R-at large) even presented Mr. Maynard with a VI Badge of Honour.
“I don’t think neither myself nor anyone under my command has ever seen anything like the devastation and catastrophe that’s happened here,” Mr. Maynard said after the press conference. “But it’s been hugely rewarding as well, working with the community, working with the government.”
The 40 Commando Royal Marines initially worked on security and rounding up the various inmates who had escaped Her Majesty’s Prison after the Balsam Ghut facility was damaged during Hurricane Irma, according to the lieutenant colonel.
After security issues were largely resolved, the soldiers assisted various aid agencies and the local private sector with distributing emergency relief supplies to communities in need, Mr. Maynard explained.
They also helped with the initial recovery of critical infrastructure, aiding in the repairs of the power plant, water desalination plants and reverse osmosis plants, as well as salvaging power lines and cleaning roads, schools, and churches.
“We have absolutely loved working with the locals,” Mr. Maynard said. “The locals are British people. We’re British people. We are your armed forces. We are the British military and it’s been a real delight to come here and support fellow Brits.”
Dr. Smith also honoured Captain Stephen Norris, the commanding officer of the RFA Mounts Bay, which has been stationed in territorial waters and aided in initial search-and-rescue response as well as the relief effort.
The vessel arrived in the territory 48 hours after Hurricane Irma and delivered water to Peebles Hospital and the sister islands, Mr. Norris explained.