Raymond Returns: Soldier returns to the Caribbean for hurricane season

Born and bred in St Lucia, Sapper Gellan Raymond has returned to the Caribbean as part of a Royal Navy Task Force, which stands ready to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief during the region’s upcoming hurricane season. To mark Armed Forces Week, Sapper Raymond tells us his unique story.

It has been nearly four years since Gellan made the decision to leave his home in Mon Repos, St Lucia, and join the British Army. Competitive and active in his youth — he was a table tennis champion at his school, Micoud Secondary — he left education searching for a change of scenery, wanting new challenges and adventures.

With a friend already serving in the Royal Artillery, his mind was made up when he saw an advert showcasing the range of opportunities offered by life in the British Army. His successful application led him to join the Corps of Royal Engineers.

Initially, Gellan found the move to the UK quite a big change, noting the differences in culture and the fast pace of life compared to the Caribbean. He soon adapted to the demanding new role and has since even encouraged six of his friends from back home to submit their own applications to the Army.

Reflecting on life in the UK, Gellan said:

“When I am not deployed I love London, I love the parties and I get used to the busy city life. It is very different to the Caribbean, but my aunt and cousins are here so I can visit them too”.

Four years into his Army journey, Gellan, now Sapper Raymond, is serving with 24 Commando Royal Engineers, a specialist regiment that works alongside the elite Royal Marine Commandos, providing combat engineering support.

In this varied role, Gellan must be ready to deploy in a range of different environments, dealing with any number of challenges that could come between his team and their objectives. It also gives him the opportunity to complete the arduous All Arms Commando Course, a 13-week elite military training programme, renowned all over the world. If he is successful, he will be entitled to wear the famous green beret.

Opportunities for elite training aside, one of the factors that motivated Sapper Raymond to enlist was the humanitarian work that the UK Armed Forces carry out across the globe. Having heard that 24 Commando were often deployed to the Caribbean to help with disaster relief, he repeatedly asked if he could be sent out to support:

“I am very pleased of the opportunity to return to the Caribbean,” he said. “I asked for this for two years. I come at Christmas to see my family, and they are very proud of me. When I told them I am coming back to help with disaster relief work they were very happy.”

Gellan and his troop of Engineers are currently based on the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ship, Argus. From here, if required, they can deploy to shore by boat or helicopter, helping to clear hurricane damage, supporting local teams as they re-establish electricity and water supplies, and distributing emergency aid supplied by the UK Government.

RFA Argus is being supported by HMS Medway and a small detachment of Royal Marines stationed in the Turks and Caicos Islands and the Cayman Islands. The task group is preparing to work with all the British Overseas Territories, including the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, Bermuda and Monserrat too, but also stands ready to support other Caribbean nations if needed.

Having experienced hurricanes in his youth, Gellan knows how crucial the British military’s support is:

“[People] buy emergency supplies, canned food and spare batteries, but there is only so much that [they] can do. Sometimes the hurricanes will destroy everything anyway.

“The UK support is important, it helps the authorities coordinate essential work and, as a friendly and approachable force, they can help local communities to rebuild”.

The UK Armed Forces are open to recruits from across the Commonwealth, with many current serving personnel, like Gellan, hailing from the Caribbean. In Armed Forces Week, the UK shows its support for its servicemen and women, celebrating the hard work they do to keep us safe, both at home and abroad.

Find out where else the UK Armed Forces are deployed here:

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