KINGSTON — The Jamaica Defence Force's (JDF) search and rescue (SAR) efforts will be enhanced during the current hurricane season with the support of Operation JAGUAR, under which a Canadian military team will provide assistance.
Launched on Tuesday August 23 at a flag raising ceremony at the JDF Air Wing in Kingston, Operation JAGUAR resulted from a request by the Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, for aviation support from the Canadian Forces (CF) for the 2011 hurricane season.
The task force comprising a crew of over 65 aviation personnel and three Griffon Tactical Utility helicopters, in the event of a hurricane, will provide critical casualty and medical evacuation, search and rescue humanitarian operations and disaster relief and emergency medical care support for the Government of Jamaica and the JDF.
Commanding Officer of Operation JAGUAR, Lieutenant Colonel Christian Lalande, said the initiative marked the first time Canada has deployed its Griffon helicopters, with air crew and support personnel, to hold a search and rescue posture with combat support and primary SAR resources outside of Canada.
“This action demonstrates not only the deployable and capable nature of Canada’s SAR assets, but also the importance of Canada’s support to Jamaica and, in particular, to the JDF,” he said.
Lt. Col. Lalande said the task force was honoured to be able to help the Government of Jamaica and the JDF, in saving lives and providing humanitarian aid during the hurricane season.
Canadian High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency Stephen Hallihan, said that the operation represented the “long standing and rich relationship” existing between the Canadian Forces and the JDF, which has been beneficial to both parties.
“Even since I have been here, that relationship has been tested and hardened and developed in both battle and humanitarian assistance through, for example, the great partnership that the CF and the JDF had in the aftermath of the Haiti disaster, and in Afghanistan where we had JDF combat engineering officers serving with us,” he noted.
Lauding the Canadian Forces search and rescue skills, he thanked the team for committing to protect residents of Jamaica in “perhaps, the most technical and demanding of all military operations”.
The JDF’s Deputy Chief of Defence Staff, Brigadier Rocky Meade, said the venture was indicative of “the way we like to do business – capacity building and mutually beneficial support”.
“I am sure that we will continue to work this way in the future on other projects, as we seek to build our countries, together,” he said.
He added that, while in Jamaica, the Canadian team will have an opportunity to fine-tune their search and rescue skills in an unfamiliar environment.
By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter