Waterfalls Magazine – In life everyone has dreams and aspirations and some people never have a Plan B. Sometimes the way fate has it, a Plan B is thrown at you whether you like it or not, and your “dream” is not the path you end up finding success.
This is the case of Brandon Thomas who shelved his childhood dream of becoming a teacher to become part of Guyana’s Discipline Forces. Thomas joined the ranks of the Guyana’s Prison Service (GPS) in 2015. He recently made history as he became the first officer from the GPS to top the Standard Officer’s Course (SOC) #54.
This course is sit by members of the disciplined service including the Guyana Police Force and the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). The course is done through the GDF.
An elated Thomas told The Waterfalls that joining the GPS was actually his plan B.
He explained that for a long time, he had his heart set on becoming a teacher but when he first applied to secure a teaching job, he simultaneously sent in an application to the Prison Service as a back-up plan.
Thomas noted that it so happened that the Prison Service responded first and in 2015 his training on the Basic Recruit Course commenced. The rank said that he excelled and graduated as the best student runner up of his course which secured his employment in the custodial field of the GPS. He later took an interest into the welfare and corrections department for inmates.
During his early years at the Prison Service, Thomas secured an associate’s degree at the University of Guyana in social work. He graduated with a distinction, before going on to obtain his Bachelors.
An ambitious young man, Thomas sought to advance in his career. He eyed the prize of becoming a Cadet Officer and wanted more than anything to be able to have a wider influence and leadership platform in the GPS. But the Berbician grew up enjoying the simple yet fun “country style” childhood never dreamed of the things he would have to endure to achieve new heights in his career.
Yet his desire for advancement was unwavering. As such, Thomas applied to undergo training with the Standard Officer’s Course#54. However, he said that getting accepted into the programme was not easy. He applied for five consecutive years to join the course before he was successful.
His 6th request to undergo training on the Standard Officer Course was approved in 2021 and he knew then that he was going to make the best of the opportunity. Thomas nonetheless said he never regretted it as the experience changed his life. According to him, it brought out the stamina and resilience that he never knew he possessed.
The top graduating cadet officer recalled having to leave his pregnant wife and 15-month-old child at home to begin training on the course.
On January 24, 2022 his son entered the world and it troubled him deeply that he couldn’t be at his wife’s side when she needed him the most. He also grieved that he was missing important milestones in their lives. “Weeks went by that I was not allowed to make any contact with my family. I cannot get back that time lost, and moments gone, I do however remind myself that their father needed to make the sacrifice, the sacrifice that would not last forever, and was worth it.”
On March 25th 2022 during the fitness competition of the GDF, he broke the 3rd metatarsal of his right foot.
After seeing the doctor; Thomas was advised that it would be in his best interest to discontinue the course at that point because of the extent of the fracture. The doctor explained that even if the fracture did heal, it was highly likely that the injury would reoccur due to the course demands.
The denial rang in his head and he was determined not to abandon ship. With his leg in a cast, he did what he could, even though he felt alienated amongst his peers, he endured, complied and never complained. After taking the cast off of his leg, it still wasn’t 100% but he hobbled, wobbled and hopped along.
Further detailing his experience, Thomas recounted that during the regimental phase of the course, he fell ill going five days without sleep. “I remember asking the training staff to take me to the medical center. I was denied, and shortly after we commenced an activity where we had to remove our shirts, place it in a bucket of cold water and put it on while it was still dripping wet, this was repeated for several hours under the moon light in the cold weather,” he recalled.
The young man said that he shivered and gashed his teeth, but he can recall the training staff telling him “right now you may believe that I am being cruel and unnecessary but life is ten times as cruel than I am, I am preparing you for life, who will take you to the medical centre when you are in the jungle and possibly alone? Life can be cruel; you must learn to be strong.”
“That night changed my life,” Thomas asserted.
He recalled too when he had to be awake by 04:00hrs to make his bed, clean his surroundings and attend flag raising. Though the task may seem simple, the consequence for failing to do was not.
In the process, Thomas developed a deep appreciation for discipline and admits that it greatly improved his quality of life. The father of two said that, “Discipline causes you to do what you have to do even when you don’t feel like doing it. Doing these simple things after almost two years havs changed my outlook and attitude towards much more than bed making.”
Thomas reflected, “One year ago, from this date, I envisioned that at this stage I would be well equipped with all that I need to know to lead and manage those under my command…. At various points of my training, I was convinced that the staff was only concerned with shortlisting the course strength to a smaller number by applying vigorous training methods and sometimes unrealistic goals.”
He added that he was convinced that they were exempted from the law hence why they were not fearful of driving and pushing Officer Cadets past their limits sometimes close to near death.
“I expected someone to die at some point, however I realized that their intentions were never to kill, they only unlocked my mind to know that I myself sometimes do not know what I am capable of. There is little that you cannot do with a strong mind.”
Through all of his struggles, Thomas learnt a valuable lesson that determination and dedication always pays off.
He said, “I continue to qualify myself, and was finally given the opportunity in 2021, the year I commenced my training in the Guyana Defence Force, the day I was accepted, that event in itself changed my life, persistence, dedication and determination.”
Thomas noted though he has accomplished a lot. Training is continuous in the disciplined forces.
Looking back the married father of two is forever grateful for his experiences as he said that he enjoys his job today and doesn’t regret responding to the Prison Service.
He said, “I expected to hate my entire training body at all levels at the completion of this course, on the contrary, I find that I am grateful for the rebukes, denials and punishments. I did not die. I am strong and they have contributed by teaching me how to adapt and utilize, and what to abandon and disregard.”
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