The island’s first woman Royal Bermuda Regiment officer in three decades is one of two soldiers to complete the tough training course at the British Military Academy Sandhurst.
Former Corporal LeeAnn Tucker, 29, and ex-Colour Sergeant Sheldon Fox returned to the island on Tuesday after eight gruelling weeks on the mix of classroom and field exercises designed to produce officers for the UK’s Army Reserve.
Officer Cadet Tucker, a nursing assistant from St George’s, said: “I feel proud and excited. It was a humbling experience.
“I went out there knowing a bit of military stuff, but it wasn’t about showing off what I knew – it was stepping back, absorbing their teaching and learning everything I could from them.”
OCdt Tucker added that an exercise that involved wading along a freezing stream in the chilly British winter was hard to cope with.
But she said: “After that, it was like, well, I’ve been christened.”
She added: “I enjoyed every minute of it. It was extremely cold out in the field, but I loved the whole experience.”
OCdt Tucker, who joined the RBR in 2015, said she had waited for a few years to find her feet before she applied for a commission.
She added: “I wanted to gain some experience and climb the ranks. I think that was the best thing I could have done.”
OCdt Tucker said that her RBR service had helped her develop skills that were useful in civilian life.
She added: “I’ve always been a disciplined person, but it helps you a lot more. I think before I speak.
“Before, I would be quick to react. Now I observe more and I’m more reserved in my judgments. I think more before I speak or act.”
OCdt Fox, the Student Bandmaster in the RBR Band & Corps of Drums, said the experience was a world away from music and his other Regiment role as a specialist in humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
The seven-year veteran, 33, a full-time soldier from Warwick, said: “The training exercises were what I expected. Getting adjusted to the temperature was tough, but once I settled in, I enjoyed every minute of every exercise.”
OCdt Fox added that strict Covid-19 rules were enforced for the first two weeks, but the intake, which included troops from the Cayman Islands and Turks & Caicos, also UK Overseas Territories, were allowed to operate as full platoons as soon as possible.
He said: “The section attacks and the platoon attacks were the most useful for me – it was the first time I had done conventional warfare since I was in Recruit Camp, so it was good experience.”
OCdt Fox added: “The best experience was pulling information from the permanent staff – they had a wealth of knowledge and a lot of tours.
“They had a lot of stories about how they dealt with their troops and how we could better serve soldiers under our command. It showed me what I need to be a good leader.
“It helped me look inside myself and see what I need to fix or improve so I can better serve my troops.”
OCdt Fox said: “Another highlight was making connections with the other Overseas Territories. Hopefully, we can work together in the future.”
He added: “Sandhurst really shows how close knit the Army is – the Company Sergeant Major did the advanced drill training course with the RBR’s Regimental Sergeant Major, so he looked out for us.”
OCdt Fox said: “I’ve grown tremendously because of it and it’s made me want to help others in any way I can. It’s been very rewarding and I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to go on the course and to be part of the Regiment.”
The pair will be confirmed as 2nd Lieutenants if they are successful at the Commissioning and Promotions Board and their appointments are confirmed by Governor John Rankin, the Commander-in-Chief of the RBR.
RBR Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Ben Beasley said: “Our most recent graduates from the Military Academy will enhance the pool of excellent commanders we have in the Royal Bermuda Regiment.
“It is not usual to highlight non-performance related differences between service personnel, but in the case of OCdt Tucker I am happy to make an exception.
“Having a female officer is a small but important step towards demonstrating our commitment to our progressive stance on equity, inclusiveness, and diversity, underpinned by our ethos and core values.”
Col Beasley added: “OCdt Fox and OCdt Tucker have proved their worth for commissioning under testing situations. They will now bear the responsibilities that come with their new positions.
“As commanders they will have to demonstrate leadership, tact, resourcefulness, and compassion at all times for the benefit of those whom they serve.
“Being in charge of a body of soldiers is a challenge that is not experienced in other industries, and whilst it can be demanding, it is a journey that brings enormous joy, growth, and fulfilment.”