Newly appointed British Defence attache to the Caribbean, Lieutenant Colonel Chris Gunning is keen to continue the flourishing military relationship between T&T and Britain. For years, both countries have exchanged personnel and intelligence to ensure that military training is of high standard and effective quality.
Gunning, who is based in Kingston, Jamaica, recently told the T&T Guardian that his mission is to maintain that relationship not just with this country, but with the Caribbean on a whole. “I am very pleased to be the UK’s defence representative in the Caribbean. I will try my utmost to improve and where necessary forge links with our partner nations. I include Trinidad and Tobago very much at that forefront of that aspiration.”
Gunning’s portfolio includes advising on the securing borders, crisis and risk management, government liaison and strategy development. He will also work with senior officers of the T&T Defence Force (TTDF) in an effort to improve operational efficiency and there are plans already afoot to arrange exchange exercises and when appropriate, shared counter-narcotic activities.
“I see a great partnership between the UK armed forces and the TTDF. I believe both organisations will benefit from such an arrangement.”
So far he has had successful meetings with Chief of Defence Staff Brigadier Kenrick Maharaj and National Security Minister Jack Warner. “There are a lot of initiatives we discussed and including personnel from T&T coming back to Britain to attend Sandhurst,” he said.
Sandhurst, or the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, is a British military-led academy which offers training to military officials from around the world. Gunning stated that for some time, that arrangement had stopped, but it recently resumed with the blessings of Maharaj.
“I was told by Mr Maharaj, that officers will be sent from as early as next year to train at Sandhurst,” Gunning said. As a junior officer he was deployed during the first Gulf War in 1991 and Belize in 1992 as well as missions in Germany, Cyprus and the United Kingdom. Gunning has also provided operational support to groups on exercises and operations in the Balkans, Kenya and throughout Europe.
Gunning says one of the more important moments of career came in Cyprus, where he stopped a riot in Nicosia by standing on an oil drum and speaking robustly to the crowd. “I like to think this saved many lives,” he said.
One of the Defence attache’s key roles is to keep abreast of the latest technological advances available globally so he can advise countries on which defence mechanisms will suit their national security needs. “Some countries may have an idea of what they want, but remain sceptical as to whether some features will work,” he said. “This is where I come in as I’m up to date with the latest defences.”
The father of three admits to being in love with this country and told the T&T Guardian he wouldn’t mind being based here. “This is the third time I have been to Trinidad and I love it. I'm thinking of telling my mother-in-law about Trinidad, but when she visits, I wouldn’t be here,” he said, jokingly.