Pride in the Corps
retired cadet ceo reflects on his distinguished career
by Julie Carrington
A chance conversation between a former senior cadet officer and his junior some 30 years ago, paved the way for a long and distinguished career of service to this country and its youth by retired Cadet Executive Officer of the Barbados Cadet Corps, Major Patrick Skeete.
Skeete fondly recalled the exchange between himself, a senior cadet at the time, and the then commanding officer of Combermere’s Cadet Company, Lieutenant Deighton Maynard, when the latter said: “You better hold on to it [cadet uniform] a little longer – I have plans for you.”
Those few words started a love affair with the Cadet Corps which spanned 37 years and touched the lives of young persons in Barbados, throughout the region and further abroad.
He recounted his achievements as a Cadet Senior Under Officer and his part-time role at his alma mater and the growth of the BCC as its first CEO, during an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service recently.
Skeete added: “A simple little gesture resulted in me being wrapped up completely in a career with the Cadet Corps. This just goes to show that it takes one person to motivate you to pursue your dreams. Within a week, I went to the then Commanding Officer, Colonel Leonard Banfield, and I signed up to be a reserve officer. I became an Officer Cadet in the Barbados Regiment in 1975. Therefore, I did not have a break because I went from being a Cadet to Officer Cadet in the Barbados Regiment to work with them as well as with the Combermere School Cadet Corps as a part-time arrangement.”
The retired CEO who won a Barbados Exhibition in 1975, and pursued Modern Languages at the University of the West Indies’ St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad, got the opportunity to work at the Cadet Headquarters, at Cherry Tree Cottage, the Garrison, St. Michael, in 1994.
During his tenure, Skeete spoke of the highlights under his leadership that made his heart “swell with pride”.
“We formulated a Strategic Plan in 2000 that was instrumental in growing the Cadet Corps from a roll of 500 to 1,400 in three years.
“Additionally, there were a number of activities that the organisation pushed such as the overseas exchange programme and the International Cadet Challenge Camp staged since 2007. Watching Barbados come out on top in the competition was very special to me because it was an opportunity for the Cadet Corps to benchmark its standards against other countries,” he underlined.
Skeete also mentioned the creation of exciting programmes that led to a recruitment of 300 cadets a year, as well as the achievements of the band on the big stage.
“Watching the Cadet Band develop and performing all over Barbados, be it in a church or at official functions was a distinct honour for me. It is because of these achievements that parents are choosing cadets as the institution of choice to guide their children.”
Internationally, the skills of this well-known CEO did not go unnoticed. In 2009, Skeete was invited by the Government of Tortola, British Virgin Islands, to assist them in publicising their proposed Cadet Corps.
“I met and spoke with the Premier and several government ministers who were impressed with my presentation about the importance of a Cadet Corps to a country’s development. At the end of my trip, they established the institution. While there, I was Guest of Honour at a reception held by the Governor. I was extremely proud of my accomplishment, as a Barbadian and of the 105-year Cadet Corps tradition to which I belonged,” he remarked.
He further stated: “In 2002, I also assisted the Government of the Cayman Islands with the establishment of their Cadet Corps and in July 2012, I was invited to the Cayman Islands to receive their 10th Anniversary Award.”
Skeete also worked closely with the United Nations Development Programme to provide training for personnel in Dominica in 2007 and for his efforts, he received the Dominica Cadet Corps’ highest award – the Dominica Cadet Corps Revival Medal. In 2008, he was the recipient of the Caribbean Medal for helping other regional territories with the development of their respective Cadet Corps.
Locally, the widely-travelled retired CEO received the Defence Board Commendation for outstanding service to the country in various areas during a special parade in 2006.
Skeete also credited his travels to Nottinghamshire and Suffolk, in the United Kingdom, that led to yearly cadet exchange programmes between Barbados and these two cities.
The former day-to-day administrator of the BCC Headquarters believes that being a part of the Corps has led to the transformation of shy young men and women into confident officers eager for the chance to show off their leadership skills.
“To be able to watch a youngster develop and on reaching the age of 18 and over, he or she is able to play a meaningful role in society, is more of a highlight than all the other things for me. At the end of the day, the focus is really on developing strength of character and we should always strive to ensure that is what we do. So, when you take away the fantastic things that are happening, you have to look at the individual and see who you are creating,” he emphasised.
Skeete further stated: “In my whole career, I have not seen reports in the news of cadets being involved in deviant activities or when you read the newspaper or hear about people going to prison, I do not see faces from the Cadet Corps. So, I am happy that over the years, we have been able to produce good citizens.”
The retired CEO said the recruiting and training of officers and efforts to strengthen their leadership capabilities would ensure the future viability of the BCC. “The Cadet Corps is very relevant because it has been changing its programme of activities to keep pace with what is happening in society. There is now a need to do another strategic plan for 2013 to focus on societal needs and how they can be addressed by the Cadet Corps,” he added.
As Major Skeete reflects warmly on his career, he credited his wife Eartha St. Cyr-Skeete, and children for their support and he plans to spend his retirement giving back to the church, spending more time with his family and pursuing other interests with the Inter-School Inter-Varsity Christian Club.