A trained teacher by day and a seaman by night, Reserve Marine Seaman Chuck Smith is living out his dreams. After enlisting into the Royal Bahamas Defence Force in 2012 in the first group of reservists, he states, “Most people do not have an opportunity to live out their dreams”, he chuckles. “I’m one of those more fortunate ones.”
From he was a child, Smith always wanted to work in the Tourism Industry, and also had an interest in becoming a Defence Force Marine. How would these two career paths mesh together, he truly had no idea. He began his career in the Tourism Industry as a busboy at the Best Western British Colonial Hotel. A determined individual, he worked to the position of Restaurant Manager. Achieving a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and Tourism allowed Smith an opportunity to teach Hospitality and Tourism at the C.C Sweeting High School. As the years passed, the dream of becoming a Marine seemed like a distant dream, until one day, hope became alive. He saw an advertisement in the local newspaper inviting applicants to apply as Defence Force Reserve.
Following his initial training, Reserve Marine Seaman Smith was drafted to the Air Wing Department of the Defence Force, where he was assigned the night shift at the unit. Additionally, he had the opportunity to participate in an air patrol. In his civilian job, Smith spent the majority of his career in management, where the roles of responsibility and line staff were clearly defined. However, since enlisting in the force, his role from management has been shifted to that of a line staff, where he was required to perform duties that included cleaning, raking, sweeping, and disposal of garbage. Despite being an older professional as a civilian, Smith now had to take orders from younger marines. This, in itself, was a cultural shock.
Smith explained: “The most challenging aspect of my training would be sitting down in the classroom and having to absorb all that information in a short time, especially the Small Arms Training. Most importantly, as for doing my chores, I wanted to be there, so doing such things was a part of being employed in this system. For me it is all about knowing and understanding what is expected and required of me as a marine”. He added, “I consider myself a very humble person, and being a marine is all about adapting to one’s environment. It’s all about adjusting one’s attitude because this was something I always wanted to do.”
Smith meshes the two career paths and acts as a public relations liaison personnel. Every opportunity he gets, he advises young men under his care about the benefits of enlisting into the Force in a real and practical way. “I would tell my students that if they stay focused as individuals, they can go far in the Defence Force. If it is guidance and skills that one is desirous of, then Defence Force is that place to be.”
He insists that his training as a reservist can be similar to that of classroom control, being a teacher. “Once my students learned that I am a member of the Defence Force they would often fall in line. As it relates to classroom management, I would deal with my students using some of the practical discipline learned as a reservist. In the educational system, whenever a student is sent to the office for disciplinary action, the result is often placed on their record. However, I use practical methods used by the military in enforcing discipline for minor infractions. Most students think I am crazy, but my colleagues know that I am a part of the military and they respect me. Most of all, my students know that I care about their education, as well as their well-being.”
In having a dual career, it is important to know when to switch roles. Adaptation is the key to balancing civilian and military lifestyles. “I have found that there are many benefits to being a reservist. Firstly, the military is a recognized profession that is respected worldwide. Therefore, when an individual learns that one belongs to such an entity, he or she is looked upon in a highly respected and esteemed manner”. He adds, “Also, being a reserve enhances individual qualities such as leadership ability, organizational skills, the ability to manage one’s time and being able to live a more disciplined life.”
After nine years of serving at the Air Wing Department, Smith was drafted to the Harbour Patrol Unit (HPU). For Reserve Marine Seaman Smith, the HPU was a place he had originally wanted to be drafted upon entering the force. He describes his tenure at the unit as truly glorious! As an educator, he says working at the unit is a teachable experience. “Each night is an adventure for me. I like working with this group of people, especially Charlie Watch. Everything I’ve learned thus far in my training, I am applying. My boat handling skills are being harnessed at the unit, and I have the opportunity to work with all the watches. My duties are the same as those of the regular force. Truly, I am living my dream!”