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Covid-19: Soldiers Assist With Airport Arrivals

Soldiers from the Royal Bermuda Regiment have mobilised at the airport to help returned residents disembark and transport those who need quarantined outside their homes to special accommodation.

Sergeant Giovanni Lema, a member of the RBR’s Motor Transport section, drove one of the buses used to ferry passengers off some of the last planes to arrive on the island before the airport shut down to commercial flights at midnight last night.

Sergeant Lema, 35, speaking from the airport, said: “We’re providing transport using Public Transportation Board buses for people who may need it from the airport to where they’re staying and helping keep passengers moving quickly through the terminal using the Regimental Police.”

He added only ten people were allowed through at a time and social distancing was enforced.

The father-of-two, a carpenter in civilian life, said: “I think people have been encouraged to see us. No one has been rude or abusive — they see us as protection.

“Seeing us has given them a bit of comfort. People are relieved to be home and happy we’re there.”

“I think we’ve helped take some of the stress off them when they finally got here.”

Sergeant Lema is part of a partial RBR embodiment of about 60 soldiers, a mix of full-time staff and part-time soldiers.

He admitted it was hard to leave wife Michelle, his son, aged 5, and daughter, aged 3 at home in Warwick when he reported for duty at Warwick Camp.

He said: “it’s always tough leaving your family and your loved ones not knowing when you will be home.

“Even after you’re dismissed, you have to think about whether you will have to self-quarantine.”

Sergeant Lema added the troops on transport duty all “kept an eye on each other and on our health to make sure if anything does change, we can address it”.

But he said: “You do what you have to do for the protection of the people we’re here to serve.”

Sergeant Lema added: “I’m a healthy person, so I don’t have too much to be concerned about — I would be more worried about taking something home to my family.

“But we’re getting on with the job, just like we always do.”

Major Ben Beasley, the RBR’s Commanding Officer designate, said the troops were called in under the direction of the Ministry of National Security.

He added: “No matter the national emergency, for more than 50 years the Regiment has been relied on to put the needs of others before themselves and this spirit is as evident today as it has ever been.”

Major Beasley said: “Our role is to provide a flexible and adaptable resource to the Government and the people of Bermuda in times of crisis.

“This is an unprecedented challenge for the country, but we stand ready to provide back-up to support the normal functioning of our country.

“The Regiment’s troops lean into a challenge, especially when the stakes are high. The extensive training that we conduct, the exercises overseas, the rigorous command courses, all of these elements come together to create an agile force that protects Bermuda’s interests on land and sea.”

Major Beasley said the RBR’s notice to move time was reduced to 48 hours last Friday and all soldiers are now on 24 hours notice to move as preparation for a possible full embodiment.

He added: “We are better trained and equipped to deal with emergencies than ever before and the civil authorities and the public should be assured that we will do everything in our power to assist should the coronavirus crisis worsen. We work closely with other departments so there is familiarity when the challenge arises.”

Major Beasley said that commanders had been instructed to carry out a dry run of the mobilisation process to confirm the wellbeing of soldiers and their families and establish likely personnel numbers.

He added: “All training weekends, drill nights, and social events have been cancelled, in line with government guidance, to protect the health of our troops as much as possible.”

Major Beasley said: “We are grateful to the families and employers of our soldiers for the support that allows our military to function because those loved ones and companies have once again put the needs of others before their own.

“Our soldiers’ sacrifice comes at a cost to them too and that is never taken for granted.”

He added that soldiers and members of the public should continue to follow government guidance posted here.