Wildcat helicopter completing disaster relief training in the Caribbean
Royal Marines

Commandos Practise Caribbean Storm Response On 'Treasure Island'

Forecasts suggest the busiest hurricane season since 2005 for the Caribbean - the most active Atlantic storm season on record.

Wildcat helicopter completing disaster relief training in the Caribbean

Commandos have been testing a Royal Navy task group’s readiness to respond to the Caribbean hurricane season.

Crew from RFA Argus and HMS Medway trained on Norman Island, thought to have inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s legendary 'Treasure Island'.

Located at the southern tip of the British Virgin Islands, the island was chosen to see how the task group could help the British Overseas Territory should a tropical storm hit.

The Virgin Islands were heavily affected by storms in 2017, although Norman Island was spared, and received help as part of the UK military’s Operation Ruman.

Early forecasts suggest this year will be the busiest hurricane season since 2005 which was the most active Atlantic storm season on record.

The forecasts mean both RFA Argus and HMS Medway must be prepared to deliver humanitarian aid and disaster relief.

Gus Jaspert, the Governor of the British Virgin Islands, said he was "pleased to hear the exercise was a success".

"Although we all hope the territory never needs to call on this support, it’s imperative to make sure we’re prepared for all eventualities, especially given the added risks around COVID-19," he said.

Royal Navy commandos completing disaster relief training in the Caribbean
The personnel were on the island to determine how the task group might respond to help the British Overseas Territory if hit by a storm (Picture: Royal Navy).

"This exercise and the two ships’ ongoing presence in the region is a strong signal of the UK’s support for BVI for which I am grateful."

The start of the exercise involved a Wildcat helicopter, from 815 Naval Air Squadron, delivering a scouting party to a landing site.

At the same time, members of the Crisis Response Troop, from 24 Commando Royal Engineers, were moved to HMS Medway via sea boats from RFA Argus and 47 Commando Royal Marines.

According to the Royal Navy,  the purpose of the exercise was "to simulate the ability of both ships to coordinate and respond in different locations", with HMS Medway "acting as a ‘lily pad’ from which to deliver the troop of specialist engineers and her own emergency relief stores ashore".

Further helicopter flights saw troops land ashore and establish a headquarters to plan their next moves, as well as communicating with other vessels and aircraft to grasp the situation on the ground.

Training continued into the second day, with a key aim to "facilitate the delivery of emergency relief stores to a number of sites around the island", the Royal Navy said.

The skill sets of the commandos mean they can re-establish infrastructure once ashore, as well as helping with sanitation, clearing building work, plumbing and electricity, alone or with the help of the local population.

Having successfully completed the exercise, the ships will now meet again in Barbados for a short logistics stop before continuing their patrols in the Caribbean.

Cover image: Wildcat helicopter completing disaster relief training in the Caribbean (Picture: Royal Navy).