The UK’s Caribbean task group proved it can master disaster after an intensive four-day workout in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
RFA Wave Knight and HMS Medway rolled out the full panoply of hardware, personnel and relief stores alongside local authorities to demonstrate how quickly they can provide aid in the wake of a natural disaster.
The two ships are poised to intervene in the event of a tropical storm (it’s peak hurricane season currently), earthquake (such as hit Haiti in August) or volcanic eruption (as disrupted thousands of lives on St Vincent in April).
Wave Knight is home to a Royal Navy Wildcat helicopter and Crisis Response Troop from 24 Commando Royal Engineers who can restore communications, put up makeshift bridges, fix plumbing and water supplies, get generators running again and generally provide the brain and brawn needed to restore key infrastructure.
The tanker/support ship can also deliver up to 2,000 disaster relief packages, 150 tonnes of fresh food and up to 380,000 litres of fresh water – enough to sustain around 17,000 people for a week.
Medway has capacity for 50 extra troops plus can ‘bolt on’ additional emergency supplies and disaster relief kits if needed.
In addition to training and testing the task group, the exercise also provided instruction and training for the recently-formed Turks and Caicos Islands Regiment.
“We all considered that the training was excellent, relevant and also exciting,” said regimental doctor Dr Dawn O’Sullivan.
“The team from the task group were extremely professional and led by example. The scenarios were realistic and the skills taught to us will go a long way to preparing us for future disaster relief situations – please come back!”
Together with the Brits they concentrated on the initial priorities following a real-life natural disaster, including getting roads open again and raising an emergency communications mast.
“The exercise was a great opportunity to work together and share skills,” said Major Dom Gosling, in charge of the Crisis Response Troop.
“It was very much a two-way learning experience, with the Turks and Caicos Islands Regiment developing their disaster relief skills and my crisis response team learning about the islands and their people. It was a valuable experience for all involved.”
It’s the second major exercise the UK task group has conducted this year, having staged a similar workout in Montserrat in early July.
“RFA Wave Knight is highly capable and well suited to disaster relief operations, able to project aviation and surface craft support to remote areas at range,” said Captain Ali Clack RFA, Wave Knight’s Commanding Officer.
“The ship’s communications suite enables command and control to commence before arriving in the area.”
Backing up the ships, there are personnel and additional equipment held at very high readiness in the UK, ready to fly into the region and support disaster relief efforts.