The military presence in the Territory will dwindle considerably as the days go by as it was announced that the majority of the officers that arrived in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) to aid in the hurricane Irma disaster recovery efforts have already began to depart the Territory.
During a joint press conference with His Excellency Governor Augustus Jaspert and Premier Dr. the Hon. D. Orlando Smith on 5 October the phased military exit was announced. In fact Governor Jaspert said that the bulk of the military will leave over the next few days leaving behind a core team of specialist engineers to continue to assist with infrastructural repair.
“The military assistance received comfortably eased the efforts of BVI authorities to address a number of priority needs, which included providing relief supplies, restoring communications, supporting repair of utility infrastructure of the BVI Electricity Corporation, along with critical facilities including schools,” His Excellency stated.
He further mentioned that the various police forces that are in the Territory will also linger a while longer to assist with security and infrastructure recovery. “The Royal Virgin Islands Police Force has done an excellent job, and will continue to be supported by United Kingdom police officers, and those from Cayman and Bermuda,” the Governor noted.
During the joint briefing Premier Smith presented a token of appreciation to the UK Military for the service and assistance the officers rendered to the Territory. The token was received by Lieutenant Colonel Paul Maynard on behalf of the rest of the officers. In his acceptance speech Lieutenant Colonel Maynard said: “We are grateful for the way they (residents) have received us and worked alongside us,” he said, adding that residents have displayed much warmth and resilience.
“I don’t think neither myself nor anyone under my command has ever seen anything like the devastation and catastrophe that’s happened here,” Lieutenant Colonel Maynard added.
He noted that in addition to assisting with law and order the officers aided in the distribution of emergency relief supplies to communities in need as well as assisted with repairs and cleaning of roads, schools, and churches.
“We have absolutely loved working with the locals. The locals are British people. We are 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,” he told reporters.
As the bulk of the officers withdraw it was mentioned that between five to eight specialist technical engineer consultants will be attached to the Ministry of Communications and Works to further assist with the recovery.
As the military presence decreases it was mentioned that the RFA Mounts Bay will remain in close proximity to offer assistance until the hurricane season comes to a close. Captain of the RFA Mounts Bay Steven J. Norris told reporters that the vessel and crew will continue to assist.
He stated that the experience assisting the Territory has been a humbling one. “I’ve been humbled by the support of the islanders in receiving there aid and working with us to get that aid distributed,” Captain Norris stated.