The new Commander of British Forces South Atlantic Islands, CBFSAI, Brigadier Nick Sawyer said that a small team of his garrison will be travelling to Argentina, at the end of the month, for search and rescue exercises, as part of the (UK, Argentina and Falklands) shared humanitarian values and responsibility in and around the South Atlantic area that extends to Antarctica.
Interviewed by the British Forces network, Brigadier Sawyer pointed out he was keen to build on the humanitarian operations that both the British and Argentine military work on, he described both forces having shared humanitarian values even during the war in 1982, which he hoped could be improved on.
A recent example of the Argentine and British forces working together was the Argentine submarine tragedy in November 2017: We provided a lot of search and rescue support to Argentina in an attempt to find that submarine.
This is a really remote inhospitable part of the world where the south Atlantic ocean or the southern ocean, Antarctica, and Argentina and the UK and the Falkland Islands have a shared responsibility to do search and rescue, humanitarian work in and around this area.
Only a couple of weeks ago we did a big search and rescue operation mid ocean to take a casualty for a Dutch Cruise liner, in this case, so there is plenty of scope to improve the working relationship with the Argentine military, and in fact I am sending a small team over to Argentina, hopefully at the end of February, to do a search and rescue exercise with Argentina.
In 2017 it was announced that a team of forensic experts from the Red Cross would begin the process of identifying the remains of 123 Argentine soldiers, who are buried in anonymous graves on the Falklands Islands.
DNA samples were to be taken from the unmarked graves in Darwin Cemetery and compared with samples provided by relatives of the missing soldiers.
This is another project that the new Commander said he supported: With regards to humanitarian work as a military officer it is my duty to ensure that the dead of all sides here in the Falklands are treated with dignity and respect and we will continue to support Argentine families to come and visit their cemeteries here.
We are of course supporting the Red Cross with their DNA identification program and we will support the repatriation of identified remains back to Argentina, if that’s what the families wish, or the correct recognition of those remains here at the cemeteries.
Further on Brigadier Sawyer said that the Falkland Islands is one of the UK's most isolated overseas territories, home to one of the most remote military garrisons and as such the people of the Islands rely on Britain to guarantee their security.
For that purpose he wants to take training on the Islands one step further since we’ve got such a great training environment here for land sea and air.
It’s the only place in the world where people don’t complain when we fly jets low over their houses and I think there is more that we can make of this.
We already do great single service training here, what I want to move to is great joint training where we integrate the ships, the planes, the ground troops, the supporting elements.
And the other thing that really interests me here is, electronically quite a quiet training area, so we don’t have the mass of electronic noise that you get in the UK or other places and I think we can make more of that.
So what I am really keen, is to do some more complex joint training here and make the most of the environment and make the most of the support that we get from the Falkland Islanders to conduct training here.
Likewise there will be new challenges for Brigadier Sawyer, one of them being the remoteness of the Islands: We are 8000 miles away from the UK there’s two air bridges a week, there is a ship every six weeks, everything we do here, we are at the end of quite a small line back to the UK.
So we’ve got to look after ourselves. We’ve got our own power station. We’ve got our own water plants. We’ve got our own schools, got our own port, our own airfield, that takes a lot of effort and as we all know resources in defense at the moment are quite tight.
There’s not a lot of money around, in fact, we’ve been asked to make savings. So, I think that’s the big challenge from a professional point of view here.
But outside of his professional life, the remoteness of the Islands does mean that Brigadier Sawyer will be able to partake in one of his favorite hobbies... fishing!
I want to catch that big sea trout, that’s what I want to do, so this is the number one fly fishing location in the world without any shadow of a doubt.
New Zealand and Chile get pretty close but I think here the remoteness, the wildness, I think is just unique so I want to catch that big trout!
Brigadier Sawyer commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1994 and has served in many different countries, including the Balkans, Iraq, Afghanistan, Cyprus and Congo.