Morvant-born Nadia Francis has returned to Trinidad and Tobago for the first time in 25 years after leaving for New York.
She left as a 17-year-old in search of a brighter future and returned on board the US Navy Ship (USNS) Burlington on Monday as a logistics specialist, now providing administrative services for the sailors on the ship.
“It feels great (to be back) having to see everything. It’s just so beautiful. I see a lot of things have changed and the food that I haven’t eaten in a long time,” Francis said yesterday.
“I also let my fellow shipmates taste some of the great food that we have and I just have some soca in my head. I’m just enjoying my time here right now.”
Francis grew up in the Morvant area and attended the Malick Secondary School. She said she joined the military because it was an opportunity to provide for her family and serve the country they now call home.
“My experience is pretty great. When I’m deployed I get to visit a lot of countries you could only dream of visiting,” she said.
Her 20-year-old son has also followed in her footsteps, joining the US Navy.
“He’s a logistics specialist like myself, so I’m happy and I’m proud that he’s also a part of something big as well and wearing the uniform, serving the country,” she said.
The Burlington is in Port-of-Spain until today to conduct joint training exercises with the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force, after having just completed a humanitarian mission in Haiti in response to the August 14 earthquake.
“The whole purpose behind being here is building our partner relationships,” Mission Commander, Lieutenant Commander (LCDR) Arian Huber said during a tour of the ship yesterday.
He said the strengthening of these relationships will be beneficial in the future.
“The key anywhere in the world: you have partners, they have allies, especially good partners like the partners here and you want to train with them as much as possible so you can accomplish whatever the mission may be more efficiently, better and ultimately safer,” he said.
Huber said he was enjoying his time in T&T and boasted about the hospitality of Captain Don Polo of the T&T Coast Guard.
“It’s been fantastic, I could not be happier, this is awesome and I hope that we have more engagements like this in the future,” he said.
US Chargé d’Affaires Shante Moore said the Burlington’s visit “demonstrates the strategic and bilateral security partnerships that we have with Trinidad and Tobago.”
“We are pleased as the United States to continue our excellent strategic partnership and bilateral relationship with the government of Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.