Looking back at the 30 years of service he has given so far through the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Major Hugh Blake said he does not regret the path he has taken.
“My time here [at the JDF] has been a good one and, as I said, it is something that I would do all over again,” the decorated army veteran noted six years ahead of his retirement.
He became a soldier on August 1, 1990. That’s five years after he graduated from William Knibb High School in Trelawny.
Major Blake said he became fascinated with the army uniform as a young boy and was also attracted to the discipline and strength with which JDF soldiers usually serve their country.
He added: “Back in the days when the soldiers would do their yearly exercises, they would normally pass through my community in Trelawny and I would see them and I would always love to stop and see what they were doing. One night, I was coming from choir practice and I saw them telling some stories and I stood there in fascination.”
Major Blake said his four-month training to become a soldier was no easy task, adding that he had to train twice as hard as his colleagues because he was considered overweight.
“My training was a very eventful one,” he posited. “I had on a lot of weight. When I started training I was 198 pounds, and that was something that held me back in the first part of the training. It was very hard on me, but I was determined to be a member of the Jamaica Defence Force, so there was no other way but to [train hard].”
After completing training in December 1990, Major Blake was posted to the Second Battalion, Jamaica Regiment (2 JR).
Since then, he served in a number of other units and roles – including Staff Officer in Charge of Records at the JDF Headquarters, and Force Chief Clerk who generally supervised all clerks.
Major Blake is also the senior advisor to the Chief of Defence Staff on all matters affecting enlisted soldiers, who constitute more than 90 percent of the JDF.
As a result of his exceptional performance, the soldier was appointed Force Sergeant Major, which is the highest Force appointment for the enlisted member.
He stated that ‘working with fantastic people’ is one of the most rewarding aspects of his job, adding that dedicated service to country drives him to serve.
Major Blake said: “What I also brought to these positions was that level of care for people, and I also ensured that those persons that I worked with or supervised felt appreciated. I always say, when someone is appreciated, you get more work out of them. I also pride myself on dedication.”
The army man’s service has not gone un-noticed.
He was among scores of Jamaicans conferred with national awards on National Heroes Day this year. He received the Order of Distinction (OD) in the Rank of Officer for outstanding service to the JDF.
Reflecting on the feat, Major Blake commented: “The award is something that I really feel grateful for. It shows that all the hard work and the dedication that I have put in is appreciated. I don’t take it as a symbolism that I have done X amount of time. It is about dedication, and your country showing that they appreciate the sacrifice that you have made. It is a medal that I will wear with pride.”
He added that his receipt of a national award is a fine example that persons who come through the ranks as enlisted soldiers can capitalize on the opportunities for growth within the organisation.
Major Blake, over the years, also received numerous other accolades. They include:
- Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012
- First Bar to the Medal of Honour for Long Service and Good Conduct in 2014
- Medal of Honour for General Service in 2018
- Medal of Honour for Meritorious Service in 2019
- Jamaica Military Commendation Medal of Excellence in 2020
Major Blake holds different NCTVET certificates and was successful in a number of professional courses.
He wants to see more young Jamaicans consider serving in the JDF.
“The JDF is an organisation that I would recommend to any young person who is dedicated, because the JDF calls for dedication,” the army veteran posited. “Within the JDF, the discipline that you have to have is internal discipline – you have to do things without persons telling you that you have to do it.”
Meanwhile, Major Blake, outside the military, dedicates his time to his family and church.
“I spend a lot of time with my family; I don’t go anywhere without them… To me, family matters… It is not easy to have a good work life and a good family life, so you have to try and balance it as much as possible,” said Major Blake, who is a married father of two children.
Editorial Note: The information used in this story was provided by the state-owned Jamaica Information Service
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