How many people can look back on their careers and honestly say it was an honour to serve, and that their dreams came true?
Lieutenant Commander Neville Springer, the last commanding officer of the former flagship vessel of the Barbados Coast Guard, the MV Trident, can be counted among those.
Springer began his career in the maritime division of the Barbados Defence Force in 1991 and served until 2013, before retiring from full-time military service in May last year. Commanding the Trident was a dream come true for the former radio communicator and electronic technician.
“I joined the army and went to the infantry for about ten years. And when I joined the Coast Guard, as duty at night we used to patrol the base, and I used to look up at the ship and say, ‘One of these days I’m going to be the commanding officer. I’m going to be the captain of that vessel’.
“I used to enjoy watching him [the then commanding officer] bring her into Willoughby Fort and that used to be so majestic. I used to say, ‘One day it will be me’,” he admitted.
And that day finally came shortly after the Trident led the relief effort to Grenada, following the passage of Hurricane Ivan in 2004.
“It was awesome,” Springer said. “The hallmark of my career was commanding Trident.
“During the relief effort for Hurricane Ivan, I would have been the executive officer or the second in command. That was part of my training to take command of the vessel. Then once I took command we would have done several law enforcement operations within the Caribbean and around Barbados. The most significant of those operations was providing security for Cricket World Cup in 2007.
“The last major trip we would have done with Trident was to take her to safe harbour during Hurricane Tomas in 2010. We had to take her from Barbados. We were actually trying to take her to Antigua, but we didn’t make it and we had to pull into Port Castries in St Lucia and ride out the storm there,” Springer related.
Today he no longer patrols the waters of Barbados and the Caribbean; he patrols the perimeters of Royal Westmoreland as head of security. However, he holds dear the memories of his life at sea.
“When you are out there and when you look around you don’t see land. All you’re seeing for miles is water. Peace, tranquillity, fresh air –– it’s a feeling like no other.
“And then when you leave Barbados to go to another country, between here and there you can’t see anything and you’re just navigating. And then at the prescribed time you see
“Paramount is the mission that you are going on and the safety of the crew. And . . . I used to love to see the dolphins race past the vessel. I used to call them my protectors. So whenever I’m going out through the channel and I see the dolphins, I used to experience a peace, a calmness because I know the protectors are there,” Springer said.
A competent and dedicated crew also contributed to the success of the missions of the Trident under his stewardship.
“I had confidence in my crew, because we did a lot of training as a crew, and each individual is familiar with his job.”
Last week, Lieutenant Commander Springer joined several former colleagues to say their final goodbyes to the MV Trident in a ceremony he described as “saying goodbye to a family member”.
“Trident was an institution, and rightly so, because of the impact she would have had on several people’s lives both locally and regionally. There are several persons within the Caribbean who would have done their seamanship training on the Trident, whether at the lower level or at the officer level,” he reflected.
For Springer, it was the highest honour to serve on his beloved Trident.
“Barbadians felt a sense of pride when they got an opportunity to be part of the crew to serve on board Trident,” he said.