As a global destination, Jamaica is known for its culture, vibrant beaches, and robust tourism industry. It’s also a nation making investments to its national defense and strengthening security in the Caribbean basin, which entails placing the role of noncommissioned officers (NCOs) under a microscope.
“A primary security goal is the development of NCOs in the Jamaica Defence Force [JDF],” said Captain Aaron Lies, Bilateral Affairs Officer, U.S Embassy Kingston Security Cooperation Office.
Members of the District of Columbia National Guard participated in an NCO Career Development Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with the JDF December 12-14, 2023 at the Caribbean Military Academy (CMA) in Kingston. Since 1999, as part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program (SPP), the two counties support U.S. Southern Command’s (SOUTHCOM) goals of mutual security cooperation, and enhancing Jamaica’s defense, security force, and disaster-response capabilities.
“This changed my perception of a state partnership and the gravity of it. I also have a different respect for Jamaica as a country,” said Sergeant Jessica A. Frazer, Recruitment and Retention Battalion, D.C. Army National Guard.
“I believe developing an NCO starts from the lowest rank. One doesn’t have to be an NCO to start developing leadership skills, it began well before that,” Sgt. Frazer said. “NCOs are the backbone of the Army, and it’s imperative that we’re engaged in the overall vision and strategy.”
During the three-day seminar attendees focused on the tenets of NCO development to include training, promotions, leadership, duties, and responsibilities. Guard members gained insight from the JDF’s Jamaica Regiment, Support Brigade, and the Martitime, Air and Cyber Command (MACC).
“One of the biggest things we focused on was the duties and responsibilities of an NCO — they’ve adopted the U.S. Army’s NCO creed, but it’s imperative that they operate using it as their guidebook to accomplish their mission,” said Sergeant Major Esmeralda Vaquerano, G-1 (personnel) Sergeant Major for the D.C. Army National Guard.
Both Sgt. Maj. Vaquerano and Sgt. Frazier recognize a diverse and inclusive force is a warfighting imperative. Today’s National Guard is the most modern, ready, and interoperable force in its history. Additionally, National Guard members spent almost 7.5 million personnel days supporting Combatant Commanders in 2023.
“We were able to let the JDF know they’re not alone,” Sgt. Frazer said. “The exchange allows us to help mitigate present and future challenges in a constructive way. My hope is that we’ve helped them better identify the roles and responsibilities of an effective NCO.”
The National Guard’s State Partnership Program has grown to 100 partner nations. The program proactively addresses complex challenges regardless of rank.
“It makes us more effective and stronger,” Sgt. Maj. Vaquerano said.
The exchange which highlights a 25-year bilateral relationship between the D.C. National Guard and the JDF also further solidifies the need for future engagements.
“We empower our NCOs at all levels and demonstrate effective mission command. The Jamaica Defence Force sees how the U.S. military utilizes NCOs and they want to do the same,” Capt. Lies said.