EMBRACING THE PAST: #embracingthepast #RBDFveterans #RBDF40thanniversary #pioneers #season1
Force Chief Petty Officer Gregory Curry..Pioneering Electrician/ HMBS FLAMINGO Survivor
By Force Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Rolle
On July 1, 1979, twenty (20) members of the Police Marine Division (PMD) were assigned duties on a newly formed Bahamas Defence Force. A Police Marine at the time, Gregory Curry was included in that number, with an additional eight (8) members also joining later that year. He did not know ahead of time, the risks, the challenges and sacrifice this decision would entail as a member of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. Little did Curry also know that he would one day play a significant part in one of the most historical events in the history of a young and vibrant force.
While serving with the Police Marines for 3 years, Curry was stationed on one of their 60-ft. craft ELEUTHERA as an electrical technician. 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. He was immediately assigned as an electrician aboard that vessel when he transferred to the Defence Force. A 23-year-old Curry said that his inspiration for joining a newly formed organization was to seize a great opportunity to do something for his country. According to him, he thought the Defence Force would be an exciting time to start something new in his young life.
The most defining moment in the history of a young Defence Force organization, and that of Gregory Curry occurred during a routine on patrol May 8, 1980, less than a year after he made the choice to join the organization. HMBS FLAMINGO was destroyed and sank by Cuban MiG jet fighters. Four young lives were lost during the ordeal, yet Curry gave kudos to the other men for their heroic actions.
“My involvement in this incident was very insignificant other than being an unfortunate victim in the most devastating event in the RBDF”, said Curry. “Being the ship’s electrical technician and the back-up radio operator on board, I was the ‘action station’ radio person on the bridge when the attack occurred. I tried my best to communicate with the fighter jets on our sea-to-air VHF radio with no success. I was given the order to let the fighter jets know that we were from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and that we were in Bahamian waters. I heard a lot of Spanish communication but was never acknowledged. My ship mates to me were the most gallant and courageous group of marines I ever served with”.
Following this ordeal, he, along with his crewmates received the RBDF Traumatic Service (Purple Heart) medal. This award complemented the Force’s Inaugural medal he had received in 1982, along with the Long Service and Good Conduct medal presented to Officers and Marines, who have given at least 18 years of dedicated service.
Throughout his 31 years as a Marine, he has had the opportunity to serve in several essential areas of the force, which includes: Engineering, Administration (Band), Training and Military Operations Platoon. Despite being an engineer by trade and profession, he said that his tenure as a member of the RBDF Band was his most enjoyable time in the force. His achievements as a member of the Training Department are also significant.
“During my time in Technical Training, the Training department won the most outstanding school/training center in the Bahamas for accomplishing the best grades for BGCSE Electrical installation”, said Curry. “We accomplished this three times in a row, because less than an ‘A’ was an unacceptable standard for my students. This was also as a result of the successful training of competent Mechanics”.
Prior to joining the Police and Defence Forces, he was given the nickname “LIL SPOOK” as a result of using it as a call-sign on the CB radio. He fondly recalls his time as a Recruit.
“Lieutenant Commander Darby Allen was an Engineering Officer from the Royal Navy”, said Curry. “He inspired me to strive for the highest pinnacle of an Enlisted. I recalled the stories he told, and that motivated me to become a Warrant Officer, even after being offered to convert to a Commissioned Officer during the early days in the RBDF”.
FCPO Curry is grateful for the opportunity to serve his country. He has attended international and developmental courses around the world, including England, Canada, United States, Haiti, Africa, Barbados and Bermuda, along with his many accomplishments.
“This organization has had a great impact on my life. It has afforded me the opportunity to see so much of this world” said Curry. “The appreciation I have for life itself and the willingness I have to continue spreading my vast experience with others was because of my tenure with the Defence Force.” He further shares that, “I am now with the country’s largest technical College, BTVI, where I continue to teach and guide young men and woman to experience and have an appreciation in and for their country”.
FCPO Curry affirms that he leaves behind no regrets: “There is nothing much that I would change because I had a brilliant career. All was not perfect, but this is why everything turned out to be near flawless for me. If I had the chance to do it again, I would not change a thing. The good always comes with the bad and that’s what made everything so perfect and seems to be the way I would have wanted it”.
Prior to retiring from the force, he committed to attending evening classes for the last five years where he obtained an Associate Degree of Science in Electronics Comlaude from Success Training College. He now teaches Electrical Installation at the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI), where he is instrumental in guiding the up and coming generations. He has a sense of pride when he sees the persons he has taught succeed on the force.
“I have been working at BTVI and I’m enjoying every moment of it”, said Curry. “I try and get all my classes in the morning from 8:00 am to 11:50 am every day and then I have the rest of the day for myself. I am retired! I also have a construction company ‘Piece of the Rock Construction Company’ and here I only do supervising. I am having a good time and again, I’m enjoying every moment of it”.
For individuals nearing or contemplating retirement, FCPO Curry leaves a bit of advice; “Don’t just leave. Try and educate yourself to a comfortable level. The academic competition is still there in full force, but you would have accumulated a lot of experience. Any extra help would give you the edge. There are lots of companies looking for dependable and reliable supervisors to take their companies to the next level”.
For current serving Marines, he leaves behind final words of advice. “I would say that a lot of opportunities exist in the force, and being a young person, the chances of you having an opening to see the rest of the Bahamas and the rest of the world is worth waiting on. If you are curious in what lies ahead, there would be an abundance of opportunity to experience things that you would have never had the opportunity to experience. The Defence Force is one of the best existing jobs in The Bahamas for a young person at this time. I know a lot of people who missed the window of opportunity and have to deal with their ‘what if’s?’”
Married to Patricia Curry, nee Pratt, they are the parents of 3 sons and 2 grand-children. A member of Saint Joseph Catholic Church, he can be found playing music, watching sports and drawing. Prior to joining the force, he prepared himself for life in the military by attending the C.R. Walker Technical College, where he obtained a diploma in Electrical Installation.
The Royal Bahamas Defence Force wishes Retired Warrant Officer Gregory Curry a life of success and happiness, and thanks him for his contributions of love.