A large group of Royal Bahamas Defense Force Cadets from seven local schools met during the morning of December 1 to participate in a survival training exercise. Fifty seven new recruits and sixteen installed cadets, altogether seventy four children, met Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at the corner of South Side Road and SC Bootle Highway in Murphy Town. They were supervised not only by their local advisors, but also by a group of Defense Force Officers who had come from Nassau on November 29 to coordinate the operation.
Roodatram Kawalran and Thrishka Johnson, from SC Bootle High School, had come with approximately twenty children from Cooper’s Town and Green Turtle Cay; about the same number of students from Abaco Central High School accompanied Shantell Penn. The remaining thirty plus children belonged to private schools from the Marsh Harbour area.
Lt. Origin Deleveaux, Petty officer Carlos Sturrup, Leading Woman Beatrice Riley, Leading Seaman Edison Rolle as well as Able-Mechanic Al Rahming shared the duty of training the youngsters during the several hours exercise.
The cadets accompanied by their advisors and the officers were to walk close to ten miles on SC Bootle Highway, from South Side Road to Calcutta Shipyard, continuing on Crocket Drive up to Elizabeth Drive, all the way to the Port, their final destination. It took the group exactly two hours to reach their destination. But it was not the end of the exercise, but merely the beginning. After a break of a few minutes, they took part in the most important lesson of the day: how to survive and help others in case of a disaster at sea.
The walk, which had been preceded by stretching and warm-ups, was a much needed stamina-building exercise because the next exercise the uninstalled cadets had to take turns dragging one of their mates to safety. The fifty seven recruits were divided in groups of ten and were garbed with life jackets. It took a while for Officer Deleveaux to explain to the cadets how to properly secure the life jacket, so it would help, instead of impair, them. Each group had a captain in charge of their passengers. His duty was to order the others to abandon ship. And, as a good captain, they were to be the last to jump in the water.
One by one they stepped into the water. The area of exercise was limited to one side by the Duke of Top Sail and on the other by a rope that had been tied-up from a buoy to the ramp. Marine Seaman Chadwick Eneas and Able-Mechanic Al Rahming were on hand with floaters, ready to command, advise or help. All participated, regardless of how comfortable they may or may not have been. It was one of three exercises mandatory for installation; so there was no way out for those wanting to become a Royal Bahamas Defense Force Cadet.
Once the rescue practice had been performed, they were told to hold hands and form a circle. Leading Woman Riley explained that the benefit from this action is twofold. It offers greater visibility for rescuers and the water within the circle is warmer than the ambient water, so each victim can take turn to warm up inside the circle should they be forced to remain in the ocean for a long period of time.
It was well after lunch time when the survival exercise ended. It had been a tough morning for most of the trainees, but, while they were swimming, the reward in the form of an energizing meal was being prepared by officers and installed cadets.
Able-Mechanic Cranstan Taylor, the training officer for the local cadets, was unable to attend the event. He had a sad duty to perform: taking a group of installed cadets to a funeral service for the mother of one of the cadets.