While many teenagers are still contemplating a career path by the time they leave high school, Carlos Lovell by then had a clear idea what course he wanted his life to take.
He had already followed the footsteps of his older brother and sister in joining the Barbados Cadet Corps while at the Lodge School, so it seemed only natural that the next step would be the Barbados Defence Force (BDF). Although he briefly considered pursuing the legal field, the military won him over.
And so began what Major Lovell now describes as “19 fruitful and enjoyable years”.
“I seemed to take a liking to the Barbados Cadet Corps – the environment, the possibilities for mentorship and personal development – and joining the Barbados Defence Force seemed like a natural progression . . . . I can credit the Cadet Corps with shaping who I’ve become as an individual, obviously along with the influences within my community and the very strong parental guidance I received from my mother,” he said.
Most of his time in the military has been spent at the BDF’s Paragon base in Christ Church where he held various posts, including Training Wing platoon commander, working with a company responsible for producing recruits for the BDF.
“At some point in time, I was the operations and training officer for the Barbados Regiment, and shortly thereafter I [took] the reins of command of Special Operations Company at Paragon Base from 2009 to 2011. And it is at that point that my career took a very interesting turn – I was assigned to work with His Excellency the Governor General.”
But before Lovell took up duties as aide-de-camp (ADC) to Sir Elliot Belgrave, his life took a tragic turn in 2004.
“I was riding a motorcycle home from work and I was struck by a car on the highway. [I had] multiple compound fractures on the left forearm, four different places. I’m fortunate that due to the highly professional and caring medical treatment that was provided by the Barbados Defence Force and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, I did not have to have my arm amputated,” he told Barbados TODAY.
While he did not lose his arm, the road to recovery was a long one: “I had about seven surgeries over the span of about 18 months, and then the physiotherapy to rehabilitate and get back the strength and a certain amount of range and motion. So that took me very close to 2009 where I was then base commander at Paragon,” he said.
Lovell no longer rides motorcycles, as he acknowledged that would not have been in keeping with the image of one who works with the Head of State. He also quickly found out that his new role was “vastly different” from his previous duties.
“My day-to-day duties, prior to being ADC, were along the lines of preparing young soldiers in terms of training them, looking after their welfare. From as early as a young platoon commander, I was in charge of 30 soldiers; as company commander, I was in charge of 120 to 150 soldiers . . . .
“As ADC, I was responsible for looking after His Excellency’s personal security and also ensuring that matters of protocol were kept in check, and assisting the private secretary with the administration of Government House. And while there were very few similarities . . . it prepared me quite nicely for being the co-director of Exercise Tradewinds,” Lovell explained.
He returned to the BDF in June last year when he was appointed second in command of the Barbados Regiment. He was later assigned to work with the Tradewinds secretariat as the Scenario Development Lead, and subsequently appointed exercise co-director along with director of the Department of Emergency Management Kerry Hinds.
The secretariat has been working round the clock to plan for the June 6-12 exercise which Barbados last hosted in 2012.
Participants from member states of the Regional Security System (RSS) are expected to begin arriving from May 26, while those from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the international community are due here June 1-5.
According to Lovell, pre-mission training has been ongoing for the local organization and is expected to end on May 24 when attention will switch to the regional participants.
This year’s Exercise Tradewinds is far different from when Lovell last participated in 2001, as it will focus on national security threats as well as those posed by natural disasters.
“While in 2001 the focus was mainly on security threats, now the focus, in Barbados in particular, is more balanced between transnational organized crime and countering those threats [and] also to involve responding to any natural events or any natural phenomena which may result in a disaster. Now we have a situation where the exercise participants are actually being trained in . . . humanitarian aid disaster response, as much as they’re being trained in countering transnational organized crime,” he said.
One of the prime concerns of regional security officials is the prospect of Caribbean nationals returning home from fighting with the so-called Islamic State (ISIS), and this will be one of the areas of focus for this year’s exercise.
Asked whether there is such a threat to Barbados, Lovell said: “Based on the state of affairs in the world, we would have to be cognizant of the fact that there is always a possibility that there could be. However, what Tradewinds is seeking to do is to prepare the local and security forces to deal with such a threat should it arise.”
The secretariat launched a public awareness campaign last weekend, which included a volunteer recruitment drive and town hall meetings. Lovell said he is pleased with the level of interest shown so far, and he is confident the team will stage a successful exercise in the next three weeks.
“Tradewinds is on our doorstep; it gives us the opportunity to exercise not just our national emergency management system, but it also gives us the opportunity to show what Barbados is capable of. We are a very small island, but we are very capable of handling ourselves on the international level,” he said.
After Exercise Tradewinds, Lovell hopes to return to the Barbados Regiment.
“However, if that is not where I’m required, I look forward to serving in any capacity that I am required to . . . to benefit not just the Barbados Defence Force, but Barbados in general,” he added.