Retired US elite soldier in Trinidad and Tobago for shooting tournament

Train, Evolve and Compete shooting tournament match director Brendon Souder, right, stands next to a trainee at the MH Tactical Shooting Range in Chaguaramas on Thursday. - Angelo Marcelle
Train, Evolve and Compete shooting tournament match director Brendon Souder, right, stands next to a trainee at the MH Tactical Shooting Range in Chaguaramas on Thursday. - Angelo Marcelle

WHEN UNITED States special forces soldier Brendan Souder visited Trinidad and Tobago nine years ago as part of a joint training exercise with local authorities, he fell in love with the hospitality, beauty, and food he experienced and promised to return to make more memories with his new-found friends.

Today Souder, who is retired from the military, aims to capture the essence of Trinidad on film as part of his documentary series while arranging his first competitive shooting tournament on the island.

Souder, the owner of the Range Project Group International (RPGi), a Florida-based firearms training company has partnered with the local firearm training company MH Tactical Training Resort in Chaguaramas to host the Train, Evolve, Compete. A five-stage shooting competition took place on Saturday.

Speaking with Sunday Newsday during a break in a training session at the MH Tactical Training Resort on Thursday, Souder, 39, said he was happy to be in TT training alongside his friends.

Born in rural Virginia, Souder said his sense of adventure motivated him to leave his small town and join the military, enlisting in the army when he was only 18 shortly before the 9/11 terror attacks.

He said that his parents did not approve of his career choice at first, preferring he stayed at home and join the family business building houses.

He said they did not even know that he joined the military until he called relatives one day after the terror attacks.

"I was in basic training in Fort Bennings, Georgia when everything was getting locked down we were told to call our families the next day.

"I called my parents and their first question was 'What are you doing in Georgia?' so I told them I joined the army and immediately they freaked out."

During his time in the military Souder was recruited by several elite units including the US Army Rangers and the Special Forces, tasked with carrying out high risk missions.

Train, Evolve and Compete shooting tournament match director Brendon Souder gives a female shooter some aid during training at the MH Tactical Shooting Range in Chaguaramas on Thursday. - Angelo Marcelle

Not long after Souder was deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries in the middle-east before being transferred to Central and South America.

In 2013, Souder came to Trinidad as part of a joint training programme with local police and members of the defence force when he said he was captivated by the charisma of Trinidadians.

Recalling the warmth and friendly nature of his local counterparts, Souder said he enjoyed his time on the island and promised it would not be his last visit.

"They were interested in what we were interested in, they wanted to eat food with us, exchange cultural ideas and the local slang and food, right from the go we made some really good friends.

"I think I came back almost every year since then. I usually come back for a week or a month as part of a training programme they wanted and they would work through the US Embassy and kind of bring us in.

"I have two official passports and they have a lot of Trinidad and Tobago stamps."

Souder says this visit is the first non-work-related trip he has made to TT and looks forward to the completion of the tournament which he said has been something he was passionate about since his last days in the military.

Outside of his tactical shooting skills in the military, Souder is also a competitive shooter, a type of sport shooting that focuses on stationary and moving targets while testing accuracy, stamina and agility.

"I've had the idea for this project called Shooting International for the last three years.

"As I was getting closer to retiring from the army I thought about all the places I visited and trained in.

"The idea was to go back to these places where I had awesome relationships and put on some training for competition and offer my services as a match director."

Train, Evolve and Compete shooting tournament match director Brendon Souder gives a female shooter some pointers during training at the MH Tactical Shooting Range, Chaguaramas on Thursday. - Angelo Marcelle

The tournament Souder says is one designed by expert shooters in Atlanta, which is aimed to test the different skill sets of competitors incorporating cutting edge technology and software to judge and assess the performances.

The grand prize is an all-expenses-paid trip to Florida where they can compete at the RPGi tournament.

The tournament itself is just one part of Souder's visit to Trinidad as he and his media specialist Jeff Gammas have begun filming their documentary series Shooting International in Trinidad.

Souder says while the documentary centres around competitive shooting in different parts of the Americas, it is also intended to highlight different aspects of culture and daily life of countries in the region.

"I picked Trinidad as the first episode because I've been here the most out of any other country I've visited.

"Some of the stuff we took is B-Roll going through the city, talking about the culture and obviously enjoying the culture and the food.

"We've had doubles, roti, gyros with some pepper sauce on the Avenue. That is my standard operating procedure whenever I'm in Trinidad."

After completing the tournament Souder said he plans to visit Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Costa Rica and Jamaica for the documentary which will be broadcast on Make Ready TV.

He says the documentary is his way of exploring his passion and interests outside his home and learning more about the sport in different countries while experiencing life abroad.

"For me, I think it's important to come out of this and do a review on what kind of laws I may have to navigate in the future to understand what it takes to shoot in the country and compete going into different countries in terms of logistics.

"It's been heavily co-ordinated with the team from MH Tactical as soon as I got off the plane, they've been extremely supportive and good to us so I have a passport I'm willing to travel anywhere eat any food, shoot in any match I just want to absorb the life and come back with some memories I won't get in the US."

MH Tactical Training Resort CEO Anna-Marie Metivier-Hernandez said she was happy to partner with Souder for the tournament and the documentary noting they have shared a productive working relationship from earlier visits.

"Whilst we have been doing training for the local sport shooting fraternity we felt it was important to always open up our horizons, ideas and techniques to other people so having a relationship with Brendan and knowing his work ethic and how dedicated he is to what he does, we felt he was a good fit for our brand.

"We would love to have our local teams go abroad and compete in other competitions and similarly invite foreign shooters to come to TT to participate so that our athletes can now benefit from an international experience and sharpen their skills."


"Retired US elite soldier in Trinidad and Tobago for shooting tournament"

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