The Royal Bahamas Defence Force continues to highlight females who have made valuable contributions to the organization. Today, we feature Petty Officer Latoya McKinney, who has journeyed from an Administrative Supportive Role to A Tradeswoman
By Petty Officer Monique Deveaux
NASSAU| Petty Officer McKinney is one of the newer additions in the Base Civil Construction Maintenance Unit, where she serves as a budding carpenter. She enjoys refurbishing projects, and according to her, it is the feeling of bringing an object back to its original state that intrigues McKinney. She knows that paying attention to details is important as a carpenter, because her work is a representation of the individual she is.
Shortcuts and substandard work are unacceptable. The beauty that results from a finished product has compelled her to go through the correct process of preparing a surface, sanding it before painting or vanishing, are all important elements of producing a good product. Her husband, a locksmith by trade, at times wonder why she must go through a lengthy process before painting a surface.
“Working in an active workshop such as the Base Civil Construction Maintenance Unit can be a very daunting task where safety is paramount. My consolation each day is that I am knowledgeable with the equipment and safety gear used in the workshop”.
McKinney recalls the many times that her high school teacher drilled into her and her classmates, the importance of safety procedures while performing functions in the workshop at school. “As an individual, I am a person that makes things happen, I won’t mope around waiting and hoping that someone will do a task for me in my home or other building projects. If I am unfamiliar with certain projects, I would do my best to search out such resources as YouTube, Google, or Home and Garden Television on how to perform such functions. For example, I would watch a program on Cable Television on how to install drywall. Even if I lack the necessary tools to perform a function, I know I can borrow a saw, jackhammer, or drill if I need to from my colleagues. As a female carpenter, it is important not to be afraid to ask for assistance when needed. When I first entered the unit, I was uncertain about how to use the nail gun, a very powerful tool. One of my colleagues took me through the safety protocols of using one, and now, I am proficient in this area”.
According to McKinney, there are individuals who say that there are no downsides to carpentry or working as a tradeswoman. She, however, found the saw dust to be the downside of carpentry. One day she forgot to bring a hair cover to work, and as a result, she accumulated saw in her hair.
McKinney, however, assures that the benefit of carpentry outweighs the negative by far, which includes working in a male-dominated area. She views the opportunity to learn, grow and develop in an area where males and females perform the same duties. For her, this is important to have equality in the workplace. Another upside to the field of carpentry is being able to see a tangible product. Working in this area helps her as a female to identify substandard work, because she now knows what to expect.
“My journey as a tradeswoman began when my high school teacher told me that he would take me on as a student. Before this, there were no female students enrolled in the technical subjects at my school. However, during the following academic year, several female students signed up for such subjects as carpentry and graphical communication”. Petty Officer McKinney is hopeful that with three females actively involved in the Base Civil Construction Maintenance Unit, this will help to spur more females into the unit.
“I believe in changing of the guard”, said McKinney. “It’s important to make way for the future generation. I am looking forward to mentoring future carpenters within the Force. For me as a supervisor, it is important to create a safe, open, and learning environment for my subordinates. I want to learn and grow with them as we build this unit”.
McKinney gives her stamp of approval to any female who chooses to step out of the traditional roles that women have performed on the force and embrace change. I say, “Go for it! There is a famous saying by the Chinese Philosopher and Politician, Confucius that states, ‘Choose a job you love and you’ll never have to work a day in your life’.”