One of the first people you meet on board the HMBS Trident is a female officer who ensures you submit your personal information to the crew. Before the vessel sets sail, she does a complete head count and reports to the captain and his second in command. Meet midshipman Sasha Marshall.
The svelte, bespectacled officer stands out as the only female crew member. Yet, she manages to blend in with her colleagues as they go about their duties to ensure they reach their destination safely.
Marshall became full-time in the Coast Guard last month, and is one of a handful of women serving in the maritime division of the Barbados Defence Force.
It was a dream she didn’t think would come true until she was called out of the reserves just over a month ago.
“Some time ago I had thought about it, but the opportunity didn’t present itself at that time. But when I joined the reserves in 2013, a senior officer suggested that I apply. And I did and I was successful. So it’s the way that I’ve been charted now,” she told Barbados TODAY. Marshall is now an officer in training, a position she says involves “a little bit of everything”.
“I do navigation to prepare me for that job, but my appointment is deck officer. So as deck officer my main task right now is to ensure the safety of the crew and everybody we bring on board at any point in time,” she said.
“Safety is always paramount. You can always have accidents at any time. So as long as people come on board we want to make sure that they have life jackets; we put them in the right places so that they are not in any danger, and also the crew.”
While it may have been a dream come true for the 26-year-old, she admitted that settling into the job was a bit of a struggle, not in the least, getting comfortable with an all-male crew.
“Being the only female it was tough, because the guys, and they even said it, I would have been the first woman they had on the boat for a long time. So it took some adjustment in terms of not being so open and verbalizing things You know how guys are?
“But you know it was their comfort zone; so I just told them, ‘You know what? Be yourselves; just continue to be yourselves, and I would work to suit.”
But it appears that there hasn’t been much need for change on her part, as Marshall said there had been some benefits to living and working in such close proximity to her male colleagues. “I’ve pretty much stayed the same and
I think too because I like a challenge. So the guys they kind of push me. Because girls . . . they don’t want to do certain things; but the guys, now they kind of push me.
“And I like the idea of being able to reach their standard or being able to surpass their standards, especially when we’re doing like physicals and that kind of stuff. So it’s been a challenge all around, but one that I enjoy thoroughly.”
There is the occasional bout of homesickness, but Marshall recognizes she will have to make some sacrifices if she is to pursue a career at sea.
“Sometimes I miss them,” she said of her family. “But they’ve been understanding; so they know it comes with the job and they’ve been supportive all along.”
Marshall recalled her previous occupation as a legal secretary as a good job, “but at the same time I couldn’t see myself sitting at a desk for the rest of my life”.
She explained: “I mean when you’re out there on the sea, no two days are ever the same and I like that. You come out and you meet new people. And since I’ve been here, I’ve been to Trinidad and Dominica now. The experiences have been entirely different, but I’ve enjoyed them immensely.”
As she focuses on building her career with the Coast Guard, Marshall says for now she will concentrate on ensuring that the crew stays on course, and they return home safe and sound.