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Captain Keva Hackshaw reflects on what being a Commonwealth Solider, and Officer means to him

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Commonwealth Day is an annual celebration observed by people throughout the Commonwealth in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and Americas, the Pacific, and Europe. Marked every year since the 1970s, the day recognises the unity and diversity of a global family of nations.

In this edition of We Are Strategic Command we took the opportunity to mark Commonwealth Day by speaking with Captain Keva Hackshaw. He told us about his pride in the history of contributions the Commonwealth has made to Defence and his journey from the Royal Engineers as a Geographic (or ‘Geo’) Technician in the British Army, to Second in Command of 55 Army Education Centre Group at the Strategic Command Overseas Base in Cyprus.

Captain Keva Hacksaw, Second In Command of 55 Army Education Centre Cyprus

Capt Keva joined the British Army in February 2001 from St Vincent and the Grenadines. His 22 years of service in the British Army has seen him develop skills in one of Defence’s most technical trades, before transitioning to work in education and training, supporting, and now leading on, the development of Defence’s most important asset – its people.

After 17 years as a Geo Technician, Keva undertook selection to commission as a Late Entry (LE) Officer in the Educational and Services (ETS) Branch of the Adjutant’s General’s Corps. A late entry commission into the branch is a significant achievement, even for someone with decades of experience, as the ETS is routinely the most oversubscribed branch in the Army for those commissioning from the ranks.

From engineer to educator

As a Geo Technician, Keva gained a huge amount of experience, and became an expert in terrain analysis, producing vital intelligence to inform Commanders on the ground.

Image of Keva during his time as a Geo Technician
Keva in the early part of his career as a Geo Technician

While the role was demanding, it was also rewarding with Keva saying: “It was a role where, regardless of rank, you might be the one person who could do that specialist job and have that impact across the Brigade HQ. It was a lot of responsibility, and it was great to support planning on operations and working with the UN and NATO allies.”

Since commissioning in to the ETS, Keva has served as a Learning Development Officer in Cyprus, then returned to the UK to undertake the role of SO3 Assurance and Training at Pirbright Initial Training Group.

Keva told us that working at the Initial Training Group gave him the opportunity to ensure the training delivered to recruits at the unit was second to none. He considers his most enjoyable role to be as Second in Command of his Education Centre Group in Cyprus due to the unique elements that go beyond the typical experience of leadership, management, and education.

While delivering outstanding education to soldiers and officers is still a core part of his role, there are more whole force tasks for the Education centre, as it works with people from across the sovereign base areas including the local school.

The Commonwealth’s legacy of service

Keva said that when he first joined the Army, he had no knowledge of what he called “the Commonwealth contribution” to Defence. However, throughout his years of service he has become more aware, and gradually prouder of the historic contribution that people joining the Military from the Commonwealth have made throughout history, and the important role they play today.

This includes the legacy of the contributions made by service personnel from the Caribbean in the Second World War, where Caribbean volunteer soldiers, aviators, sailors, and officers served from the Beaches of Dunkirk to the Battle of Britain.

Of particular pride were the heroic efforts of a fellow Caribbean soldier Sgt Johnson Beharry VC, from Grenada, who after two separate acts of great bravery while serving in Iraq with the 1st Battalion Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, became the first living soldier in nearly half a century to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

On a personal note, he added:

I think officers from the Commonwealth have an important role to play in moving things forward in Defence, and I think we have a great historic foundation to build on.

He went on to say:

Wherever I can, I want to open doors for other Commonwealth service personnel so we can contribute and continue to progress to the highest levels of Defence. It’s about me representing and leading by example. Serving has made me even more proud to be from the Commonwealth.

When asked what one thing he would like to say to the wider Defence audience, he gave a response worthy of the dual professional of military leader and educator:

Believe in yourself, set your own goals, and aim high.

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