ROSEAU – Two years after leading his officers to the first of a series of relief missions to hurricane-battered Dominica, Coast Guard Lieutenant Anderson Goodridge is singing the Windward island’s praises for its remarkable turnaround.
Lt Goodridge was the commanding officer of HMBS Leonard C Banfield, the first vessel to dock at the Woodbridge Bay Port just outside the Dominican capital, Roseau, two days after the Category 5 Hurricane Maria slammed the island.
When he returned last Thursday to attend a memorial and thanksgiving service to mark the second anniversary of the hurricane, the scenes that greeted him were in stark contrast to the island that lay in tatters merely two years earlier.
He told Barbados TODAY: “My experience on this particular deployment, it was a pleasure to see the transformation of the Dominican community from 2017 to now.
“I think Dominicans are very resilient and the present leadership that they have…. I think they did an excellent job in transforming Dominica from then to now. And it is a delight and pleasure to see where they came from.”
Commander Goodridge noted that “while natural disasters and humanitarian crises can devastate an entire nation, resilience is what determines whether we fight through it or whether cave in and let those challenges defeat us”.
He also praised his fellow Coast Guard officers and sailors who were deployed to Dominica and other islands that suffered extensive damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.
He told Barbados TODAY the Defence Force conducts regular training for its officers to prepare them for such humanitarian missions.
“Every year prior to hurricane season we do drills and run exercises, we do training sessions, things like psychology first aid to put the guys in that frame of mind to expect certain things as it relates to disasters,” he said.
In addition to the training, they also rely on professional assistance and counselling, if necessary, after the deployment.
“We would love to continue to do these types of deployments and exercises where we are in a position where we can assist our neighbours in the region because being our brother’s keeper is very important.”
Addressing the thanksgiving service, Goodridge pointed to the changing face of security to include non-traditional challenges such as climate change, migration and pandemics that now confront the Regional Security System (RSS).
The challenges, he said, require a continued collaborative response of all agencies involved in maintaining security in the Caribbean.
He said: “The landscape of Dominica and other RSS countries necessitates the collaborative effort of all the agencies maintaining a cohesive environment. As such the geographic reality, the importance of communication, cooperation, and limited resources of Barbados and Dominica and other RSS countries make us vulnerable to hazards.
“As such, both countries along with the other RSS territories as a collective body need to and should continue to unify our efforts and approach to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief related scenarios.”
With the increasing threat of more frequent and more intense hurricanes, the BDF will no doubt be called upon to offer humanitarian assistance to other islands in the future. Goodridge told Barbados TODAY he and his officers are up to the task.
“We are all small nations and our resources are minimal. So once we pool together and work as a community, I think that we can achieve anything that we set out to do,” the commander said.