Trinidadian Thandiwe Zalika Hudson was recently promoted in the United States (US) Navy to the rank of Chief Petty Officer.
Hudson, who is currently stationed in Rota, Spain, originally hailed from Edinburgh Gardens, Chaguanas.
She left Trinidad and Tobago for the US on May 5, 1999 and joined the US Navy that same year on September 27. At the time, however, she applied because of the influence of her uncle, who was a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy for ten years before she and her family moved to the US.
Hudson started her career as an E1 (seaman recruit) and described her early years as a “little easy.”
“I had very little responsibilities and the way that my parents raised me in Trinidad gave me a very strong will to succeed,” Hudson told the Sunday Guardian
One of the hardest things she experienced in her first year was when she was deployed in South America and her paternal grandmother died.
“It was devastating due to the fact she was the only grandparent I knew. I had many doubts about whether I wanted to stay in because I was not sure if I can do this for more than four years. I was not able to go to her funeral because she did not raise me and I had to deal with how I would I survive any more tragedies.”
Hudson said when she joined the US Navy she remembered asking her recruiter if she would have to go to war.
“He told me no. Well, I learned later in my career that it was inaccurate information because on September 11, 2001, I was stationed in Guam and my mother was living in NY at the time, when the twin towers were hit all I could think about was whether my mother was in the vicinity that day, but Thank God she was not.”
Hudson soon transferred to the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 3 in 2003 and in 2004 and was deployed to Balad, Iraq, where she spent six months and was almost hit by a mortar once. A mortar is an artillery weapon which fires explosive shells.
“It was a scary time but I have gotten stronger after that because in 2011-2012 I deployed with an army unit for a year in Afghanistan. I was almost hit two more times by indirect fire. With it all I was able to see the value of family and material things did not matter to me from that point, having my family and to be able to see them was all that mattered to me,” she added.
Leading up to her latest promotion, Hudson was able to go to school for Ship’s Serviceman (SH) training and because she did well was promoted under an accelerated advancement programme to Petty Officer Third Class (SH3). She moved to Petty Officer Second Class (SH2), then onto First Class (SH1) on the USS Sampson. When she transferred to USS Donald Cook in Spain she was selected as Chief Petty Officer (SHC).
“I feel very proud of this promotion, I had a few people doubt that I can make it this far, plus I am in a job that they do not pick many of us to become a Chief, so it helped a lot to get there and my family is so proud and supportive of me that it makes it easier, Hudson said.
“I have a lot more responsibilities that make me very busy with everything I have to do plus take care of the people that work for me.”
She promised to return to T&T and hopes one day she will be able to help with the training of military personnel.
“I love my country for sure and I would like to help with the training of military personnel and also if this has not been created already, have a programme for the youth to become better citizens by doing something with structure and going back to the good old days of earning your keep.”
Hudson’s short term goals are to make it to her next shore duty and become an inspector for the Afloat Training Team, while her long term goals are to continue on in her career until “the US Navy tells me thank you for your service.”
Hudson urged the younger generation to be appreciative of their parents and what they do and did for them.
“I think that the younger generation does not appreciate what your parents have worked hard to get and think that everything should come easy, start respecting your elders and showing that you can work hard or even harder than your parents because you have to work to survive and everything will not be handed to you.”
Hudson thanked her father Elsworth, mother Wilma Hudson, brother Canute, sister Anasa Hudson-Bailey, sister-in-law Natasha Hudson and brother-in-law Deryck Bailey, “for standing by my side throughout this journey and onto the next part of this journey.”