It’s not every day your exercise gets interrupted by a hurricane, but that’s exactly what happened to members of the Infantry Battle School in Belize.
More than 100 personnel were training in the jungle when Hurricane Earl hit land earlier this month.
Now back in the country, they’ve been talking to Forces TV about what it was like in the aftermath of the storm.
Still smiling, but surrounded by fallen trees, 2Lt James Robson said “I think it’ll be a Grim Warrior to remember” and he’s not wrong.
Personnel from the Infantry Battle School were supposed to be on a two-week exercise in the jungle on the final stage of the Platoon Commanders Battle Course, but instead, they ended up in the path of a hurricane.
Hurricane Earl hit Central America on August 3rd, two days after the start of the exercise.
It battered Belize with 80 mile-an-hour winds, a storm surge, and 12mm of rain, forcing personnel to leave their bergans (packs) behind to take shelter.
Locals weren’t fazed - it is hurricane season after all, and Earl was ‘just’ a category 1 hurricane - but it hit Belize City hard, flooding up to 80% of homes.
The British Army Training and Support Unit (BATSUB) was right under its path.
Trees were uprooted, roofs torn away, and signs knocked over, leaving staff with a big clean-up operation.
The Infantry Battle School were confined to camp for four days while the training areas were made safe.
“It’s definitely a lesson in being flexible and adaptable”, said 2Lt Alex McWilliam.
“At this point we were supposed to be ‘bashad-up’ [in hammocks] in the jungle and we find ourselves clearing trees in front gardens.”
BATSUB remained operational throughout the Hurricane and was called upon by the Belizean government to help feed the local community.
The government supplied the food, the Belize Defence Force cooked it, and the British Army handed it out.
Capt Wes Brown, one of the instructors from Brecon, found himself handing out meals three times a day.
“What we’re wanting to be doing is training in the jungle, training in the savannah. This is a complete surprise - it’s an extraordinary circumstance and we’ve had to react.”
The new Commanding Officer of BATSUB, Lt Col Simon Walton, had only arrived in post the day before.
For him, it was undoubtedly a very bumpy start, and he admits he’s taken some lessons from the experience.
It seems BATSUB, which was mothballed in 2011, has survived another storm, and for the platoon commanders, it was a challenge they certainly didn’t expect.