Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Krystal clear on career


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KRYSTLE HARVEY  is at home in army fatigues. At age 30, the Barbados Defence Force lieutenant has immersed herself in her career as a soldier and loves what she is doing.

Gone is the initial “culture shock”, and behind her is a lifestyle in which she was used to “going where I want, how I want, when I want”, never even giving a thought to the rigid  discipline of life in the military.

The former student of Lester Vaughan Secondary School was guided to the BDF through sport. She explained to Easy magazine “I was an athlete playing table tennis and my coach had indicated it would be a good idea to enter the Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme while I was reading for a degree in psychology at the UWI Cave Hill campus, so that I could still have the time to play and study at the same time.

“I could never have seen it for myself, but somebody told me try, because they saw something in me that I did not see in myself and that’s how I am here.”

Harvey said her original plan was to find “a regular job” after she left the sports programme.

“I never thought I would be an officer” she mused.

From the carefree life, she went through the rigours of training necessary to function as a soldier, and was subjected to a training regimen that raised doubts in her own mind about her career choice.

For her endurance, she gives credit to the male training officer who helped to reinforce her decision by sharing his own experience when he himself was at that stage.

“He told us when he was training, there were some days he would feel like quitting, but the important thing was not to quit.” It was advice she heeded.

“A woman in the army is not considered female. Training is training regardless of sex,” Harvey stated. “They push you as hard as, sometimes harder as your male counterpart.”

Her first training exercise out in the “jungle” was challenging but instructive. Memories of that first experience of roughing it out in the wild remain with her.

Considering the new skills acquired and the lessons learnt in the process of becoming a soldier she observed, “I am more flexible now. I can adjust to different situations more easily than a regular civilian and I am more resilient.”

She has no fear of a call to combat, she said nonchalantly. “That’s what we are trained for.”

One should not expect to see any timid tears from this hardened soldier if ever such a call came.

“My most exciting time in the military is when I am out in the field doing any kind of training, whether it is doing my practical training or doing any kind of physical activity.”

For her, long or erratic work hours are not at all disconcerting. She does get to go home and enjoy civilian life with family at the end of most days, and marriage and children are definitely in her scope.

“I want to have children and I would also like to adopt,” she said. The adoption idea derives from the observation that “there are needy children out there and by adopting, you not only give back to the community, you give back to someone.”

The soldier in her always at the fore, her focus quickly shifts back to the job and she reverts to talking about her goals as a senior officer in the BDF.

“What I would like to achieve is to make a difference in somebody’s life and career.

“I would like to help to mould and shape somebody in the future because I think that when we gain knowledge, we should pass it on. So I want to become a teacher at some point within the military and a mentor to young soldiers.”

Promotion to lieutenant has placed the self-confessed plain Jane and “natural person” with her braided hairstyle, and a face devoid of make-up, in a position where she must on occasion up the ante on fashion.

She  readily concedes she is no longer the “sports person . . . not really thinking about fashion . . .  who just gets up to play your sport . . . throw on a jeans and go do what you have to do”.

 “Now I have to interact in the social forum.”

Acknowledging this reality, she is gradually emerging from the staid fashion cocoon. When she temporarily exchanged the camouflage military uniform for a stylish civilian dress with jacket and applied a modicum of make-up for Easy, the transformation immediately attracted approving stares and comments around the Officers’ Mess.

The civilian outfit she wore still hinted at conservatism, but the transformation was striking enough to prompt the remark, “That is the lieutenant?” from a male  sneaking a peek. So unusual is it for them to see the clearly popular female soldier, striking a noticeable fashion note.

She confessed: “I don’t gravitate to make-up or fashionable clothes.” Still, she complimented other women in the military who appear bolder in their fashion choices when out of uniform. “A military career does not detract from what women like,” she argued.

Of herself, however, she said, “I hate being the same. I abhor it. My personality, my clothing, my appearance will be different.”

Laughing, she added, “Heels don’t like me. I am accustomed to sneakers and slippers. When I am actually in heels I wobble. My gait changes.”

At secondary school and at the Barbados Community College, mathematics was Harvey’s pet subject. She switched to psychology when she entered the UWI because “I wanted a change. I thought it (psychology) would be apt since it was considered different. I used it to see if I could better understand behaviour and attitude.”

Now 30, she has started the process towards the goal she long decided she would pursue by that age – acquiring a master’s degree.

Harvey encourages  women to join the military, advising “it gives you a lot of opportunities to study in different areas, so that when you leave, you will be a well-rounded individual.”

Hers is certainly an example for emulation. She entered the BDF as an officer cadet in 2010, was promoted to second lieutenant three years later after being granted a Queen’s Commission and is now a Lieutenant.

She told Easy: “In the military I don’t think I have ever had a depressing day.”


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