Royal Marines swap Arctic for Caribbean mission

Royal Marines have swapped the ice of the Arctic for the golden sands of the Caribbean as they work to minimise the spread of Covid-19 on Turks and Caicos by providing a security presence around the tropical islands.

Cold-weather and mountain specialists 45 Commando arrived in the British Overseas Territory after a demanding winter in the Arctic Circle, where they refreshed their skills as the Corps’ experts in winter warfare in the largest deployment to the high north for nearly a decade.

Marines from Zulu Company of Arbroath-based 45 were called up to help the Turks and Caicos authorities to reduce the effects of the coronavirus around the complex archipelago of 40 low-lying coral islands.

The 30-strong team of highly-trained Green Berets spent 14 days in quarantine on arriving on the islands, but now released, they join the Royal Turks and Caicos Maritime Police on boat patrols daily.

The additional manpower means more patrols can be carried out, safeguarding the population of more than 32,000 by preventing the spread of Covid-19 through the illegal movement of people. 

Their presence is designed as a deterrent for such illicit activity. 

The troop from Zulu Company bolster a combined Royal Marines, Royal Navy and British Army Security Assistance Team which arrived in Turks and Caicos at the beginning of April to work closely with the island’s governor and local authorities to support Covid-19 efforts. 

Major Javed Johl, of the Security Assistance Team, said: “The Royal Marines troop have completed their mandatory 14-day quarantine and are now training and working alongside the Royal Turks and Caicos Police Maritime Division. 

“This will allow the Maritime Division to deploy more boats, increasing their capability for counter-people smuggling operations in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19.”

A specialist from small boats specialists 47 Commando (Raiding Group) is also part of the Royal Marines team in Turks and Caicos, providing an advisory role. 

The craft expert has deep knowledge on weather limitation, capability of boats and safety considerations on missions involving small boats.

The teams on Turks and Caicos are just a small part of the overall British presence in the Caribbean. 

A Royal Navy task group – centred around RFA Argus and HMS Medway – is also in the region, primarily ahead of hurricane season and to counter all forms of illicit trafficking, but also to support Overseas Territories during the Covid-19 pandemic if required. 

Essential training has continued across the Royal Navy during Covid-19 and 45 Commando have remained ready for operations anywhere in the world in their remit as the high-readiness Lead Commando Group.

The demand to deliver on operations – like the one marines of Zulu Company are currently deployed on – continues and, as such, further training to support this role is taking place at RM Condor as part of a phased return. Strict Covid-19 control measures remain in place to safeguard personnel, staff and the local community as this essential training continues.

The Royal Marines troop have completed their mandatory 14-day quarantine and are now training and working alongside the Royal Turks and Caicos Police Maritime Division.

Major Javed Johl