A decorated army veteran, Major Hugh Patrick Blake, has been giving loyal and unstinting service to the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) for 30 years.
He was among scores of Jamaicans who were conferred with national awards on National Heroes Day, October 19, for their exceptional contributions to the development of the country.
The army man received the Order of Distinction (OD) in the Rank of Officer for outstanding service to the JDF, the latest of many awards received for his exemplary service and leadership qualities.
Major Blake’s journey as a soldier began August 1, 1990, five years after graduating from the William Knibb High School in Trelawny, a path he always wanted to travel.
The Trelawny native tells JIS News that he became fascinated with the army uniform as a young boy and was also attracted to the discipline and strength with which JDF soldiers served their country.
“Back in the days when the soldiers would do their yearly exercises, they would normally pass through my community in Trelawny and I would see them and I would always love to stop and see what they were doing. One night, I was coming from choir practice and I saw them telling some stories and I stood there in fascination,” he says.
Major Blake says his four-month training to become a soldier was no easy feat, as he had to train twice as hard as his colleagues, as he was considered overweight.
“My training was a very eventful one. I had on a lot of weight. When I started training I was 198 pounds and that was something that held me back in the first part of the training. It was very hard on me, but I was determined to be a member of the Jamaica Defence Force, so there was no other way but to [train hard],” he adds.
After completing his training in December 1990, he was posted to the Second Battalion, Jamaica Regiment (2 JR).
During his 30 years in uniform, Major Blake has served at several units and in a variety of roles to include, the JDF Headquarters as Clerk (GD), the Support and Services Battalion as Clerk (GD), 2 JR as Orderly Room Sergeant, JDF Air Wing as Orderly Room Quartermaster Sergeant (ORQMS), Combat and Support Battalion as ORQMS, as Force Chief Clerk with responsibility for general supervision of all clerks and his present role as Staff Officer in Charge of Records at the JDF Headquarters
Major Blake has also served in a variety of roles ranging from Force Chief Clerk with responsibility for general supervision of all clerks and Staff Officer in Charge of Records at the JDF Headquarters.
As a result of his exceptional performance, he was appointed Force Sergeant Major, the highest Force appointment for the enlisted member. This role entitled him to be the senior advisor to the Chief of Defence Staff on all matters that affect enlisted soldiers, who encompass over 90 per cent of the JDF manpower.
A married father of two children, Major Blake tells JIS News that “working with fantastic people” is one of the most rewarding aspects of his job, and dedicated service to country is the driving force serving in the army.
“What I also brought to these positions was that level of care for people and I also ensured that those persons that I worked with or supervised felt appreciated, because I always say when someone is appreciated, you get more work out of them. I also pride myself on dedication,” he tells JIS News.
Major Blake says he wants more young Jamaicans to consider serving in the JDF, noting that there is an endless list of opportunities for growth within the organisation.
“The JDF is an organisation that I would recommend to any young person who is dedicated, because the JDF calls for dedication. Within the JDF, the discipline that you have to have is internal discipline – you have to do things without persons telling you that you have to do it,” he notes.
Reflecting on his recognition at the virtual National Honours and Awards ceremony, Major Blake says it was a “momentous occasion”, which has strengthened his resolve to continue serving his country at the highest standard.
“The award is something that I really feel grateful for. It shows that all the hard work and the dedication that I have put in is appreciated. I don’t take it as a symbolism that I have done X amount of time. It is about dedication and your country showing that they appreciate the sacrifice that you have made. It is a medal that I will wear with pride,” he adds.
Major Blake explains that his national award is an example to “the youngsters who come through the ranks as an enlisted soldier that you can make your way up to the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1”.
Among his many other accolades, Major Blake also received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012, the First Bar to the Medal of Honour for Long Service and Good Conduct in 2014, the Medal of Honour for General Service in 2018, the Medal of Honour for Meritorious Service in 2019, and the Jamaica Military Commendation Medal of Excellence in 2020.
Outside of the military, Major Blake dedicates his time to his family and his church.
“I spend a lot of time with my family. I don’t go anywhere without them…. because to me, family matters… So outside of work, it’s family and church. It is not easy to have a good work life and a good family life, so you have to try and balance it as much as possible,” he tells JIS News.
Major Blake will retire from the JDF in six years. He says it has been a rewarding journey that he would repeat.
“My time here has been a good one, and as I said, it is something that I would do all over again,” he adds.
Major Blake holds a Level 2 NCTVET Certificate in Business Administration (Secretarial Skills), a Level 3 (Diploma) NCTVET Certificate (Administrative Assistant) and a Level 4 NCTVET Certificate in Assessment.
He was successful in other professional courses, such as Level 1 of the Government Accounting Course at MIND, where he also participated in Government Procurement Workshops, and a Certificate of Achievement with Distinction in Supervisory Management at the University of the West Indies Open Campus.