Force Chief Petty Officer Lawrence Luke Bethel
By Petty Officer Monique Deveaux
TO JOIN OR NOT TO JOIN?
As we continue to embrace the past, we present Force Chief Petty Officer Lawrence Luke Bethel, a member of New Entry one (1), – the very first entry of recruits to enlist in the ranks of The Defence Force on May 2nd 1977.
Just arriving from Exuma, and seeking to make his mark on the world, he enrolled in his first semester at C. R. Walker Technical College, which would later be renamed The Bahamas Technical & Vocational Institute (BTVI). It was at this institution that Bethel saw a newspaper clipping that read, “Defence Force looking for applicants apply”. The article spoke about marine life, and the sea.
“I grew up around the water”, he thought. “I’m a good swimmer, and most of all I needed to be employed.” As a result, Bethel decided to apply to The Defence Force.
LAWRENCE LUKE BETHEL, THE MAN!
Lawrence Luke Bethel, a Bahamian, a man, but most of all, a pioneer. He was born on the island of Exuma on October 15th, 1958 to the late Charles Bethel and Veronica Marshall. Bethel attends the Assemblies of God/ Evangelistic Temple, Collins Avenue where he serves on the Deacon Board and is the Ministry Leader for Crossing Guard Parking Lot Security. In addition, he and Mrs. Laverne Bethel have enjoyed thirty-four (34) years of uninterrupted and healthy marriage. His favorite food is corned beef, which is his ‘right away’ food. Hailing from the sailing capital of the Bahamas, he enjoys watching regatta sloop sailing, junkanoo and basketball.
LIFE AS A MARINE
Bethel’s first posting in the Defence Force was the Working Party section, where he briefly served. He also served in such sections as the Squadron Department (seagoing section), the Armory, and the Training Department, where he left an indelible impact during his thirteen (13) years of service there. In the Administration department, he became the first Master-at-Arms to serve as a Petty Officer. As a Senior Rate in the Operations Department, he had the opportunity to become the Coxswain of HMBS BAHAMAS. Bethel found his niche when he was drafted to the Disaster Relief Office at Coral Harbour Base. It was at this point in his career that the stage would be set for what was to come after retirement from the Force. Recognized for his natural inclination in the area of disaster management, Luke was seconded to the National Emergency Disaster Agency (NEMA) as a training instructor in hurricane preparedness and hazardous training. Having reached the pinnacle of his career as a Warrant Officer, Lawrence Luke Bethel retired from the Defence Force on May 5th, 2010 after completing thirty-three (33) years of service.
How did the corned beef eating, regatta attending instructor with a knack for words progress through the Force? In short, very well. A natural manager, one can describe FCPO Bethel as always looking at ways to add value and improvement to the work process. In doing so, he was the first person in the Defence Force to introduce a Special Drill Team. As an instructor in the Training Department, he trained a cadre of instructors to maintain a high standard of determination, dedication and commitment to the training for future Defence Force workforce. He designed recognition programs geared towards rewarding individual’s contribution to the job including programs such as: Marine of the Year, Marine of The Quarter, and Cook of the Year.
Among his accomplishments, Bethel was awarded the Long Service award and the Amalgamation (or the Inauguration) Award which was given to the first five (5) entries of the Force. During his secondment, he was selected as the Cabinet Employee of the year 2009 to 2010. In addition, Bethel made the finals in the overall Public Servant of The Year and was among the top seven (7th) finalists. On the international stage, he was the sole representative from the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) who travelled to the Republic of Haiti to assist the Civil Protection. This is the Haitian group responsible for the country in the aftermath of the destructive and fatal 2010 earthquake.
Luke Bethel, the individual, describes himself as one that is firstly assertive and secondly passionate.
“If there is one word that I could describe myself, it would be GRATEFUL! I am grateful to reach this far into my career without an academic degree”, said Bethel. “Today, I am very thankful to God for his continual blessings, and for giving me an opportunity to serve at the Red Cross as Disaster Management Consultant. I repeat, all of this without a college degree, but under the molding and the shaping of the road I travelled through the Defence Force. The organization has played a vital role in preparing me for each stage of my development in both my professional and personal life”.
He lists Corporal Stuart, Sargent Wemyss and Lieutenant Peter Basher as his most memorable instructors as a Marine Recruit. As an instructor, FCPO Bethel had the privilege of giving over 600 recruits alias names or monikers that would stick with them throughout their careers.
“How I came up with such names,” he recalled, “I would look at an individual and if I didn’t know their names, I would give them one, and they would not dare challenge it. On the other hand, I did not have an alias. If the recruits did give me an alias it would have been in their groupings, but if I found out, they would have been crushed!”
When asked about having a favorite posting during service, he responded by saying, “I had no favorite post. Wherever I was serving I was committed to it… All my posts, I have held thus far have had meaning, value and purpose. However, it is for the individual to make it work and to capitalize on the opportunity that is set before them. I knew that I had responsibilities. I always had superiors that I had to give an account to.”
It is said of FCPO Bethel that he has an uncanny power of persuasion that enables him to walk a thin line fairly well, which is to support superiors while at the same time pleasing subordinates over a single issue. As a training instructor, he worked hard to bring all instructors, their behavior, bearing and leadership to an excellent standard. Even the influencer has had influences.
“The persons who have been big influencers for me thus far would be those I have trained and to see where they are today makes me proud to know that I contributed to their development.” Said Bethel. “In particular, persons such as Commodore (retired) Clifford Scavella, Commodore (retired) Roderick Bowe, and Lieutenant Commander (Retired) Darren Henfield, who now serves as Minister of Foreign Affairs. These were all men who had influenced me at the time, but they didn’t know it. In actuality I was feeding off them. I am proud to see where they are today.”
ADVICE TO CURRENT MARINES SERVING
He chuckles and goes distant for a while. “How could you go wrong, when you have the law of the land, the Defence Force Acts, the Defence Force Instructions, and the Temporary Memorandum?” He continues. “Bumps in the road will indeed come, but all these tools are in place for a reason—to give you guidance throughout your career path. This is only the first phase of your life, because you will transition and eventually leave the Force. But, if you don’t practice these things effectively in the Defence Force, you will be faced with challenges. It will start all over again when one goes into another environment.”
What he said next, made everything sound simple. He wisely states, “So obey the rules of the Bible first, followed by the laws of the land, and the laws of the Defence Force. If you have challenges with this now, call a timeout and refocus.”
He cautions that self-awareness and self-introspection must be a common practice for Officers and Marines alike. When faced with challenges, he advises that we should question why, and brainstorm possible solutions. “As a marine, if you get this right, I assure you that it will pay dividends,” he encourages.
He looks at his watch. It is clear our time is up. And our interview that I have been enthralled with for the last hour is coming to an end. He does his trademark smile/smirk but his tone lets me know he is serious about what he is about to end with.
“If you don’t have confidence in your department or divisional Senior Rate, find someone that you can talk to in confidence. Ask yourself, what value do I bring to the Force? …It is important for each individual to have emotional, mental, and spiritual clarity. Because, in one’s career path there will always be challenges of all kinds. As a Marine, one must be able to face these challenges and answer these questions to make tangible contributions.”
He is right. But he is Luke Bethel, the great one. I expected no less. With that said, We, the current serving members of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force will continue to talk about how exciting you made the Force while you were here and we thank you for the contributions you made in creating a foundation of excellent Officers and Marines who have become agents of change. We stand today upon your shoulders.