Although Keva Hackshaw describes himself as ambitious, during his early years in the Army he did not think he would ever become a British Army Officer. Then, after 17 years serving as a soldier, Keva commissioned into the Adjutant General’s Corps, becoming the first of his generation of Vincentians to commission as a Late Entry Officer.
Keva Hackshaw was born and grew up on the small island of St Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean. After successfully completing A-Level College in St Vincent, Keva’s parents wanted him to attend university. However, he had little desire to pursue a career that would have bound him to an office.
I decided to join the Army in search of purpose and adventure. Captain Keva Hackshaw
He recalls that when the Army Recruiting Team came to St Vincent for the first time, he knew little about the Army but believed that its values and discipline would help to shape the future he envisioned. He joked that: “After growing tired of the monotony of the warm breeze and clear blue sky that engulfed the beautiful black sand beaches with crystal clear water, in 2001 I decided to join the Army in search of purpose and adventure.”
After completing the Army recruiting process, he was given two career options: The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME) or The Royal Engineers (RE). He had never heard of these corps before, so he decided to look at their brochures. It didn’t take long for him to decide, he chose the Royal Engineers as they appeared to be the more versatile.
A sense of belonging
He says he expected basic training to be physically demanding and was prepared for the challenge. What he was not prepared for was the culture shock. The United Kingdom, Great Britain, Scots, Scousers, and Geordies, the accents, mushy peas, milk or whatever; UK culture was extremely diverse and complex so inevitably it took some time to understand and adapt to it.
He went through training with seven other Vincentians and they were able to support each other and developed a strong relationship with their British peers. The training teams fostered a positive environment, and, in hindsight, it was evident they recognised the challenges faced by the Commonwealth soldiers and aimed to ensure they experienced a sense of belonging.
Keva has undertaken a variety of roles, from Geographic Technician to being a Staff Officer in Training Assurance and has served on operations in Kosovo and Afghanistan. He has also excelled academically as the Army has provided opportunities and the environment to allow him to enjoy learning and realise his full potential.
Since joining the Army he has achieved a Diploma in Teaching, a BSc (Hons) and MSc, in Geographic Information and is currently completing an MSc in Education Practice & Innovation.
An orchestra of different nationalities and cultures, fuelled by some brilliant minds
A keen sportsman, Keva has competed in cross country at both a regimental and a corps level. He said that: “Sports and running did not interest me before I joined the Army, but I discovered that I was a good cross-country runner”. Since joining the Army, running has become a major part of his fitness regime.
an orchestra of different nationalities and cultures, fuelled by some brilliant minds. Captain Keva Hackshaw
He finds solace in running and it has been a source of relief on many stressful days since his Phase 2 training. He played little attention to sports and fitness before he joined the Army but now realises the wider benefits of it after taking up Scuba diving to overcome his fear of deep water.
Keva believes that the Army has afforded him many unique opportunities. One of the most memorable was working briefly at the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to advise on the use of Geographic Information System. He describes this as, “an orchestra of different nationalities and cultures, fuelled by some brilliant minds”. In hindsight, he thought that it should have been daunting but it wasn’t - he trusted his training and skills.
At the time he did not realise but his training at the Royal School of Military Survey had taught him the importance of team diversity and diverse thinking. Soldiers from the Commonwealth must be adaptable; however, the Army helps to refine their ability to adapt and this is undoubtedly a priceless life skill.
Exemplars to the next generation of ethnic minority soldiers
In 2018, when Keva was commissioned into the Adjutant General’s Corps Education Training Service (AGC ETS), he became the first of his generation of Vincentians to be commissioned as a late entry officer, having served as a solder for 17 years. This was an extremely proud moment.
Although he was always ambitious, during his early years in the Army he did not think he would become a British Army Officer. This was partly through a lack of understanding of the Army structure but mostly due to an absence of black or ethnic minority role models.
Keva credits his achievement firstly to his upbringing and the core values instilled by his parents, which are like the Army’s values, and secondly to the discipline, knowledge and confidence gained from life in the Army. He hopes that he and other ethnic minority late entry officers can be a source of inspiration for ethnic minority soldiers. He strongly believes that he and others like him should be exemplars to the next generation of ethnic minority soldiers.
Captain Hackshaw is excited about the future of the Army as it embraces new and upcoming technologies. He believes his experience as a Military Engineer Geographic Technician coupled with the knowledge and skills he gained as an ETS officer will enable him to contribute to the development of Tomorrow’s Army.