Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, says the Government will continue to provide the necessary resources to bolster the capabilities of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
Speaking to JIS News following a tour of facilities and meetings with high-level staff at Up Park Camp on April 6, he said the objective is to ensure that the JDF remains relevant in safeguarding Jamaica’s borders as well as providing training for at-risk youth in a wide range of skill areas.
“The JDF does very well with the resources that they have, but they certainly need more. The JDF is the primary agency for air/sea rescue missions and to safeguard our coastal waters, and resources in that area have been depleted over the years. We have taken steps to restore capacity and they may still need more support,” Dr. Chang said.
The Minister said that he is “very impressed” with the JDF’s training activities, but noted that additional support will allow the Force to strengthen offerings and create a wider pool of highly skilled individuals that can make a positive contribution to the Jamaican economy.
The Minister was accompanied by Minister of State, Hon. Rudyard Spencer, on the tour, which was led by Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Rocky Meade.
Some of the areas visited include the Technical Training Institute and the Joint Information Operations Centre.
Dr. Chang said the meetings and the tour were very informative, and commended the JDF for displaying high standards in carrying out its programmes and projects.
“They have taken on the mission outlined by the Prime Minister very seriously and they have taken on a group of young men from inner-city areas through the National Service Corps (NSC). I was quite impressed with the work being done, and certainly that is an area that we can maintain,” he said.
“It is designated that, this year, they will expand their numbers, so there have been some resources allocated in this Budget to give them the additional capacity required,” he pointed out, noting that the NSC has become a model locally and internationally.
For his part, Major General Meade said the Government continues to provide “tremendous support” to the JDF, “and I can’t complain”.
He noted that strategies are being implemented to quadruple the number of recruits annually, particularly through the NSC, which creates an avenue for young people, aged 18 to 23, to be fully empowered through national service.
“We have taken on the Prime Minister’s challenge to employ and engage youngsters. What we have done is to use that programme… to not only expose Jamaican youngsters to discipline and training over a year but to absorb them into the military afterwards,” he noted.
“It is a win-win programme, where we are helping to get youngsters off the street, help with the employment programme and build out the Force, so that we can have the numbers to help the police with the internal security challenges. The aim is for 1,000 per year, which is four times what we normally do,” he said.
Over a one-year period, the youngsters undergo a modified version of the JDF’s traditional basic military training and receive on-the-job instruction in various aspects of the JDF’s operations, such as the Coast Guard, Air Wing and Engineering.
They also benefit from vocational and life skills training. Upon completion, the participants will be given the opportunity to continue on as soldiers in the JDF or join the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), Department of Correctional Services or become security guards.
The NSC recruits will be remunerated accordingly, be separate in identity and fully provided for in law.