A Green Beret and Training Legend
By: Force Chief Petty Officer Jonathan Rolle
American author and political activist Helen Keller once said that “Security Is Mostly a Superstition. Life Is Either A Daring Adventure or Nothing.” She must have known that Chief Petty Officer (CPO) Derick Richardson would take up that offer, because there were no challenges he didn’t attempt.
When Chief Petty Officer Richardson joined the Royal Bahamas Defence Force in August 1981 as a member of Entry 10, the organization was in its infancy stage, having only been officially established a little over a year. In May 1980, he was employed with an interior design company putting up wall papers and blinds, when he received news about one of the greatest tragedy events in Bahamian history.
His inclination to join was spurred on by a sense of patriotism from this incident, where four young Marines lost their lives after their vessel, HMBS Flamingo was fired upon and sank in the Atlantic Ocean. One of those men was Marine Seaman Austin Smith, a classmate of his from the class of 1976 of Jordan Prince Williams High School. Richardson also recognized another ‘Falcon’ alumni; Force Chief Petty Officer (FCPO) Hubert Smith, who graduated from the school several years earlier. He eventually enlisted in an organization that was mandated to guarding and protecting the territorial waters of The Bahamas.
During Richardson’s early years of New Entry Training, FCPO Hubert Smith, who also served as his training instructor, would become a model of inspiration for the young Recruit. Along with his display of professionalism and commitment, FCPO Smith was also physically fit and demonstrated a sense of militarization which is needed for a successful force, and as a young Recruit, Richardson always aimed for the gold.
His 32 years of experience while serving as a member of the force has been nothing less than outstanding. After successfully completing New Entry training, CPO Richardson served mostly in three essentials areas of the force. These included the Supply Department, the Military Operations Platoon Department and the Training Department.
His tenure as a Training Instructor was highlighted by the fact that he was instrumental in helping develop the mindsets of Recruits from the civilian way of thinking to that of a Marine. He taught both Small Arms and Field Craft. As a Drill Instructor, he ensured that their marks of respect and parade training were of the highest standard. At the conclusion of each New Entry Training, although the Recruits were in excellent physical readiness, none was yet more physically fit than Chief Petty Officer Richardson.
CPO Richardson acknowledges Retired Commodore Clifford Scavella as one of the individuals among others, who encouraged him during his military career.
“He believed in me, and allowed me to show my ability. He was a person who liked to get things done, and he knew he could count on me to make it happen in a timely fashion”, said Richardson. “Before he was appointed Commander Defence Force, I had already completed 25 years of service. He asked me to consider staying around a bit to support his efforts, and I take it a pleasure in working those additional years”.
As a result of spending the majority of his career in both the Training and Military Operations Platoon Departments, it comes as no surprise that he lists both as the best areas he has served in. One of his biggest opportunities came in 1986, when as a Leading Seaman, he, along with Leading Seaman Gary Pratt and Able Seaman Marvin Newbold successfully completed the Commando Course, also known as the Green Beret Course, in Lympstone, England. As one of only 10 Defence Force personnel to hold the distinction of wearing a Green Beret, CPO Richardson became a model of measuring stick for physical readiness. Two years later, he was successful in the Skill-at-Arms Course in 1988, also in the United Kingdom.
Another of his defining moment was in 1994 when The Bahamas was called upon to assist in the restoration of Democracy in Haiti. As a member of the RBDF 1st contingent in the CARICOM battalion in 1994, he joined fellow peacekeepers from several other countries that would be known as a Peacekeeping, or Operation Uphold Democracy.
According to him, the establishment of a Special Operations Team stands out as one of his significant contributions.
“As the Commander Officer for MOP, Lieutenant Scavella needed a team which would be ready at all times to do some extreme stuff such as searching cays or bushes for any illicit activities, or preparing the team for a possible uprising”, said Richardson. “Being fresh off the Commando Course, all I had was energy. After receiving my instructions, I pulled a few of the young
Marines together and we completed a 6-weeks vigorous course that even included scuba diving training for everyone”.
On June 7th, 2013, CPO Richardson disembarked HMBS Coral Harbour for the final time in his illustrious career. For a well-decorated Marine who had given everything to his country, one of his regrets was that he was never a permanent member of a seagoing craft. He can share with his children and grandchildren, stories of his numerous accomplishments of overseas campaigns and developmental courses to numerous foreign countries. He, however, has no fish tales from the high seas.
Married to Diedre Richardson, he is the proud father of 4 and a grandfather; his leisure time involves swimming and jogging. After his retirement, he became a part of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force Veteran Association (VA). This organization, which was establish as a non- profit organization in 2007, fosters comradeship among those who have served honorably in the military for not less than six (6) months. He is grateful for the opportunity to have served his country.
“The Defence Force developed me and my outlook on life by preparing me to survive on and off the job”, said Richardson. “When I first joined the Defence Force, I was quiet and mild-mannered. I could never look directly in someone’s face when speaking to them. Because of the various courses and training I’ve done; this organization has provided me with the tools and opportunities needed to make it anywhere in the world. It has also taught me to become more of a disciplinarian.”
Richardson said that preparing himself for life upon retirement was not a difficult transition. Before retiring, he ensured his future was secured by attending classes at the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute, where he became skilled in carpentry and masonry. Through the various personal and development courses offered in the Defence Force, he increased his skills as a trainer, security and in his leadership.
His advice for current members who are nearing retirement: “Use the last 5 years you have left to pay off major bills. Get qualified skills for employment after the Defence Force, and last but not least, take at least 3 months to rest or travel before taking up another employment”. The Royal Bahamas Defence Force appreciates the dedicated and valuable services of Chief Petty Officer Derek Richardson, and wishes him all the best in his endeavors.