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Interview with Major General Antony Anderson, Chief of Defence Staff, Jamaica Defence Force

Interview with Major General Antony Anderson, Chief of Defence Staff, Jamaica Defence Force

By Dialogo
February 01, 2013

Jamaica’s Major General Antony Anderson, chief of the Caribbean island’s Defense Force, swears by the importance of training as a powerful weapon for the 4,000 men and women he commands. With a relatively small force and monumental challenges to face, he believes militaries far beyond his country’s blue waters can also benefit from training together to counter transnational threats such as drug, weapons and human trafficking. Maj. Gen. Anderson spoke about this and other defense topics in this interview with Diálogo, during the Caribbean Nations Security Conference, organized by the United States Southern Command in December 2012.

Diálogo: What are the main security challenges that your country is facing at this point?

Major General Anderson: The main security challenges revolve around violent crime, including gun trafficking, narcotics trafficking and trafficking in general. That spills over into a reasonably high level of violent crime, so the Defense Force, to a great extent, supports the Jamaican concept to reinforce the police in their operations to deal with that. On the other side, we have responsibility for the maritime space. There is a vector between Honduras and Jamaica. The fishermen travel in both directions, sometimes for legitimate fishing purposes, but also to smuggle weapons, and drugs as well. Certainly, as more and more drugs, particularly cocaine, go to Honduras, some of it inevitably filters along that route to Jamaica. On the other side, on the north of Jamaica, there is a route where marijuana leaves our country and goes up to the Bahamas. So we also have responsibility for stopping that. And to the east we have a trade for guns and drugs, between Haiti and Jamaica. The weapons that come in spill over into the streets, to gangs, and increase the amount of violence in the country.

Diálogo: So you have a wide range of challenges that you have to face with a relatively small force…

Maj. Gen. Anderson: Yes, ours is not a big force; it is a force of around 4,000, which includes the Coast Guard, that is part the Jamaican Defence Force. What we try to do is get that relatively small force as well trained and professional as possible, and of course, it is that need to train them and develop the force that has led to the development of the centers of excellence. We also have a responsibility for disaster response, not only in Jamaica, but we have responded around the region, most recently in Haiti. We have developed certain robustness in dealing with our own disasters, so even though hurricane Sandy crossed Jamaica our recovery time was pretty quick, because we have systems in place to do that. But certainly we have always supported the region on disaster response; we sent over 500 people go to Haiti to support that operation during the earthquake. Basically across the region we have supported in sending personnel, we sent our Coast Guard down as far as Trinidad for operations, we supported the 5th Summit of the Americas there with our people. And a lot of the regional collaboration came around during Cricket World Cup 2007, which caused the region to come together from a security perspective and provided a good model for us to use for the security of the region.

Diálogo: What are the benefits of working with partners such as the United States in confronting the challenges you mentioned?

Maj. Gen. Anderson: Well, the U.S. and Canada are our largest partners for cooperation. We have been in collaboration, particularly with the U.S., for as long as I can remember. Our collaboration with the United Kingdom has weaned a little, but we still have really good cooperation with them. Canada has partnered with us on a number of things since their interest in the region has increased, and I think our partnership grew out of the fact that we can support each other quite well. We did it for things like Haiti… we have done it for other things, too, so it has evolved because of the mutual benefit from the arrangements.

Diálogo: Jamaica is an indisputable Caribbean leader in the area of military training. Your centers of excellence were mentioned several times during the discussions at CANSEC 2013. Can you explain the role they play in your country and the region?

Maj. Gen. Anderson: The whole idea of a center of excellence is a series of schools that can deliver training in particular areas. We have four centers of excellence at the moment: an aviation school, that does both flight training and aircraft maintenance training; we have a staff college, that is just about to run its 20th year; we have an engineer school that is an accredited school on the civilian side as well, and we have the maritime school. All four constantly strive constantly for excellence and if they do that in every aspect they are a great benefit not just to Jamaica, but to the region. And it provides for all partners… again, the U.S., Canada, the United Kingdom, and other partners, because we are getting interest from non-traditional partners, like Chile… We have spoken with the Dominican Republic on it and so on. Our focus is to keep delivering first class training for our own people to meet to those threats we spoke about. But there is no point on us getting hard in Jamaica against these threats and just drifting it across to our neighbors. We need to strengthen the whole chain, so that the whole region can deal with this.

Diálogo: You mentioned that Chile has shown interest in your training centers, what type of relationship are they looking to establish?

Maj. Gen. Anderson: Initially, the discussion we had was to provide instructors. They are looking at the feasibility of offering some of these courses in Spanish. So even in the staff college, we could have a Spanish speaking instructor. I think doing that would enrich both sides. I think Chile wants to support Central America more, and it is perhaps not a difficult thing to get some Central American pilots trained in Jamaica, because we train them to international standards. They leave the center as military pilots, the same as if they had left a Canadian Forces flying school. We are just across the water; we need to provide the basis for all sources of cooperation. Our challenge, of course, is that in Jamaica not many people speak Spanish. I have embarked on a drive, a particular effort to change that, to get my military people speaking Spanish. So, in conjunction with the United Kingdom, we are putting in a language lab, we brought in instructors… We are determined to increase the number of people who speak Spanish in Jamaica.

Diálogo: What are the most important successes that the Jamaica Defence Force achieved in 2012?

Maj. Gen. Anderson: Last year was our 50th anniversary of independence as a nation, so a lot of activities surrounded that celebration. To an extent, those activities that we got involved in have raised among the population the awareness of some of the things that we do [as a Defense Force]. I think that is a critical component in terms of getting the support you need. You have to have a population that understands what you do. There are successes, we are still seeing things trending in the right direction even though we didn’t have a steep change last year the bad things are trending down. But I think as a force, perhaps, raising public awareness gave us the most benefit in 2012.

Diálogo: Can you list the three most important goals you want to focus on during 2013?

Maj. Gen. Anderson: Since we talked about the centers, over 2013 I expect to get more people from outside Jamaica into the schools, and get them training. In my position, you are always trying to look in the crystal ball and over the horizon to know what is coming next. Since that is a bit difficult, and the crystal ball only works sometimes, what we do is we make sure that we have our guys so trained and ready that they can respond to a wide range of contingencies. Because history has shown that every year there is something that you are responding to. But through the centers and through other initiatives we will have a defense force that is ready to do many things.

Supporting The Jamaica Defence Force Initatives:
I want to take this opportunity to applaud MajGen. Anderson as a strong and insightful leader heading The JDF at this time. I think he is living up to the high standard of innovative leadership that was handed to him by previous stalwarts. I served for twelve (12) years, and it is one of the most uplifting experience for me; and I would recommend it to any young jamaican male or female disering to serve their country.
In my time of service 1968-1980 we did not have the present level of equiptment and training partners. The Brits and canadians was always our parthners.,But we had a well disciplined force that was dedicated to service, Proud and wore the unifor and insigna of the JDF high and proudly. In my time respect was paid to the older soldier and the lance Cpl. was respected, not to mention the Officer Corps.I remember the respect the RP. Police corps demanded also the Red Hats.(Military Police)..
We used to have competations on who kept the best company grounds from A to HQ coy. Mt & Support included. Thats where I learned to white wash and paint, not to mention the cutting of grass with them dull cutlass. saturday morning Drill Parades..RSM: Harry Gordon and Rsm. Crooks. Keeping guard at Jamaica and Kings House.. Number two dress Khaki Jacket and shorts with Hosetop colors and Peak Cap with white belt accessories. I remember those days with little pay; but happy days and respected by the people, sorry I had to get old and moved on. I hope that they have kept these competitative spirit still, showing respect to all and abiding by the Military Corp Discipline that we held so high in our time.
The Chief; Major General Anderson,
Thanks for your service and leadeship...God Bless. sir i am a student of the Calabar High School, my name is Byron Phillips. I am in the 9th grade. i want to become an officer in JDF. I am willing to get into the army after finishing six form. I heard about a program that you people have to send soldiers to school. I dont know what subjects to choose. i need your sincere advice. i would like to know what are your plans for the J.C.C.F the Jamaica Combine Cadet Force? and what are the regimentals to join the force as a normal soldier.