The formation of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force’s Sick Bay Department can be traced all the way back to an outstanding #RBDFveteran who served as a medical specialist and it is he whom we salute today.
Chief Petty Officer (Retired) Brian Mark Evans is a trailblazer who has broken many barriers on the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. He was one of the first recruits to apply and subsequently enlisted as a member on 2nd May, 1977. Upon successful completion of his New Entry training at the Police Training College in Oakes Field, Evans would spend an additional five months training at the old Lighthouse Depot on Bay Street, downtown Nassau for boat handling.
‘Doc’, as he is referred to, initially joined the Defence Force because of its novelty appeal, despite at that time persons were referring to it as ‘Pindling’s Army’. This C.C. Sweeting Cobras alumnus was also impressed with the uniform, and just like many young persons, he needed a salary.
A young Brian Evans committed to his work and eventually became a Senior Enlisted on the Defence Force. He is quick to acknowledge individuals who were instrumental in propelling his career.
“Lieutenant Peter Basher, my Training Instructor was very good”, said Evans. “He was very respectful and disciplined. As I continued on in my career, individuals like Senior Commander Amos Rolle and Commodores’ Leon Smith and Roderick Bowe saw my potential, and allowed me to be impactful in the medical field”.
Retired CPO Evans’ first assignment was onboard HMBS INAGUA. He was subsequently selected to travel to England to accompany the 103-ft. craft HMBS FLAMINGO on its Trans-Atlantic voyage to New Providence in 1978. Following his return, Evans was assigned to the Administration Department, where he received a direct order by then Master-at-Arms, Chief Petty Officer David Duncombe to report to the Police College, where he would learn how to establish a Sick Bay Department.
“I was a bit hesitant, because I always thought the medical field was for ‘softies’”, admitted Evans. “It was embedded in me that as a military, we take down people, not patch them up,” he said explaining his thought process. “…Eventually, I went there, and was able to learn how to organize the Defence Force’s Sick Bay.” This was very important he outlined, because, “Before we began operating our own Sick Bay unit, our Officers and Marines had to go to the Police College for medical attention”.
After a 6-month medical training session at the Police College, Evans returned to the Coral Harbour Base, where he was then subsequently afforded the opportunity to attend international skill developmental courses. These included the Health Service Technician Course in New London, Connecticut and the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course in Catalina, California, amongst others.
The move to establish a Sick Bay unit at the Defence Force Base did not go as quickly as planned, but eventually, CPO Evans set up his facility in one of the rooms in the south gate section of the base, where the BXO currently resides.
“It wasn’t until January 1983 that I was called in to commence setting up what would eventually become our first medical facility”, said Evans. “I was given a budget and a trauma room to begin. My immediate staff included A/B Mario (Muggy) Rolle, and when the second female entry graduated in 1987, W/M Joann Moree was also assigned to work with me”.
Over the ensuing years, the Sick Bay Unit has increased its staffing, equipment and expertise. The need for extra rooms was a priority, therefore, a building located off Tuppence Lane was identified as the ideal location. The RBDF Building Team began renovations to that unit, which now houses the RBDF Medical Facility.
“In the early days of Sick Bay, we used to have several Medical Doctors come to the Defence Force Base to deal with emergency situations and medical screening for Enlistments”, said Evans. “These included persons like Dr. Prenderville and Dr. Walkine, who would set up clinics for a few hours weekly. The need for a permanent medical practitioner was a priority”.
Doctor Francis Saunders eventually became the RBDF’s first permanently assigned Medical Doctor on June 1st 1996, where he successfully rose through the ranks to Captain. He retired in 2016 but was returned to work an additional year. Along with Chief Petty Officer Evans, the complement of the department expanded to include both staffing with modernized areas such as a pharmacy lab and physiotherapy section.
As the strength and responsibilities of the country’s first line of defence grew, the need for specialized medical Marines was necessary. Chief Petty Officer Evans was instrumental in ensuring that his staff was afforded various opportunities to attend developmental and overseas courses to expand the skill set in the section. Evans knew that an abundance of training was paramount for a successful transition to a self sustaining and autonomous internal medical facility. Over the course of his career, he has witnessed the expansion of the Department that grew from a one room section with 3 persons and sporadic doctors visits, to a multi sectioned medical facility that also included an ambulance and a dental facility.
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force is also proud of the achievement of welcoming its first homegrown Force Medical Doctor, in the person of Lieutenant Commander Derwin Johnson, an October 1998 enlistee from Entry 33/WE7.
After a full and fulfilling 25 years of service to the organization, Chief Petty Officer Evans officially retired on May 2nd, 2002. Soon thereafter, he embarked on his next chapter with the Public Hospital Authority.
He is grateful for the opportunities and challenges he has experienced during his tenure. He enjoyed his position at the time of being the nucleus in one of the most essential areas in the military. An individual who uses carpentry as a hobby, he leaves a bit of advice for current serving members.
“You have to put stepping stones in place. While praying and planning is good, you have to know what’s next, because retirement is real. It’s gonna happen if you live long enough, so until then always trust God and put Him in your plans because without Him, you don’t have a plan. I would encourage persons to also keep on doing something after retirement. Use your creativity and build something”, Evans advised.
Chief Petty Officer Evans currently serves as the Manager of the Emergency Medical Services at the Public Hospital Authority. A worshiper at Bethany Seventh Day Adventist Church, he and his wife, Patrice Evans nee Paul are the proud parents of 4 children and grandparents to 4 grandchildren.
He is an excellent testament that the Royal Bahamas Defence Force creates nation-builders, who don’t simply retire. They transition to help build other areas of society wherever they are planted.
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force is indeed grateful for his service, and obedience to setting up a unit that every RBDF Officer and Marine today has come into contact with. We laud your efforts and wish you every success in all of your endeavours.