No idlers at JDF

Army boss declares sol­diers don’t just sit around at Up Park Camp

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Ja­son Cross Gleaner Writer

OUT­GO­ING CHIEF of De­fence Staff, Ma­jor Gen­eral Antony An­der­son, has moved to dis­pel a com­mon be­lief that mem­bers of the Ja­maica De­fence Force (JDF) do very lit­tle but sit around at Up Park Camp pass­ing time while wast­ing tax­pay­ers’ money.

The army chief, in de­fend­ing his troops, high­lighted that JDF sol­diers are al­ways com­mit­ted to putting them­selves in harm’s way to pro­tect oth­ers – 24 hours a day.

An­der­son, who it was re­cently an­nounced will be­come the na­tion’s first na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, was addressing a meet­ing at the Univer­sity of the West Indies in St An­drew last week, dur­ing the first in a se­ries of pub­lic lec­tures or­gan­ised by the In­sti­tute of Crim­i­nal Jus­tice and Se­cu­rity.

As na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser, An­der­son, a 32year vet­eran of the JDF, will be the prin­ci­pal tech­ni­cal ad­viser to the Gov­ern­ment.

He will ad­vise the prime min­is­ter and the min­is­ter of na­tional se­cu­rity, through the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, on mat­ters of in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal se­cu­rity af­fairs. Among mat­ters to be

dis­cussed is the ra­tio­nal­i­sa­tion of the coun­try’s se­cu­rity ap­pa­ra­tus and en­hance­ment of its ef­fi­ciency.

“When they (the sol­diers) hear, ‘What is the JDF do­ing? Why are they sit­ting in Up Park Camp get­ting fat when the crime is go­ing up and the police need help?’, can you imag­ine how they feel? But guess what? They feel it, they shrug it off, and they go back to what they do, and what they do is (con­tinue) to sac­ri­fice, and hope that one day peo­ple will see them dif­fer­ently,” said An­der­son.

TRUE CIT­I­ZENS

He put some of the blame on the JDF for not reg­u­larly com­mu­ni­cat­ing to the pub­lic the im­por­tance of the army, and was adamant that he would not let the op­por­tu­nity pass with­out ar­tic­u­lat­ing its du­ties and rel­e­vance.

“These young cit­i­zens that we have are peo­ple who have said my ex­pres­sion of what it means to be a true cit­i­zen of this coun­try is to put my­self in harm’s way to pro­tect other cit­i­zens. That is what these 18- and 19year-olds are do­ing,” he stressed.

An­der­son said the JDF has around 4,000 sol­diers, ap­prox­i­mately one third the size of the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force (JCF).

“We have one piece that is our air com­po­nent out of that 4,000. They pro­vide ser­vices for per­sons who can’t af­ford it, who need to move from ru­ral hos­pi­tals to Kingston,” he said.

Search-and-res­cue op­er­a­tions are con­ducted by the JDF, largely pro­tect­ing fish­er­men and other per­sons us­ing ship­ping lanes, “on the cays, till last minute when a hur­ri­cane is com­ing, so they can get [peo­ple on the cays] back [on land]”.

“There is an­other [el­e­ment], the Coast Guard. Our mar­itime space is 25 times the size of our land mass [and] we have bor­ders 250 miles to the south. We have ... peo­ple car­ry­ing il­licit goods through our wa­ters,” An­der­son said.

En­gi­neers make up a ma­jor com­po­nent of the JDF. A group of JDF en­gi­neers re­turned to the is­land re­cently from Haiti. Their mis­sion be­fore re­turn­ing was to re­pair schools dam­aged by Hur­ri­cane Matthew.

The JDF also re­in­forces the police in cer­tain op­er­a­tions.

“The in­fantry is the main part that sup­ports police op­er­a­tions. What they do is cre­ate space, so the polic­ing can take place. The in­fantry [is] well over a thou­sand guys. Out of that thou­sand, some of them are sup­port per­sons. Let’s say we have 800 guys sup­port­ing the police; you can get four shifts of 200 [per­sons] or less if no­body is sick.”

In re­cent months, there has been sub­stan­tial pub­lic de­bate on whether the JDF should be merged with the JCF.

JDF sol­diers are cur­rently de­ployed in Mon­tego Bay, West­more­land, Claren­don, Span­ish Town and West Kingston per­ma­nently. These are ar­eas known to have vi­o­lent flare-ups and mur­der fig­ures.

De­ploy­ment in St An­drew South and Kingston Cen­tral takes place once the need arises. Sol­diers are de­ployed tem­po­rar­ily.

Ja­maica De­fence Force head­quar­ters, Up Park Camp. AN­DER­SON

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