Country Listing

Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Caribbean Islands

The Armed Forces

In late 1987, Jamaica's combined armed forces, the JDF, consisted of a ground force supported by small air and coastal patrol contingents. Although not strictly an army, the JDF is referred to as such in common parlance. Its mission was to defend the country against aggression and to support the JCF, as required, in maintaining essential services and in protecting the civil population in the event of a disaster. The JDF also was responsible for coastal surveillance and air-sea rescue operations. In addition, the JDF has supported antidrug operations; since early 1982, JDF Eradication Units have helped to destroy marijuana crops and illegal air strips. Since the minister of defence portfolio was dropped in the 1970s, the JDF has been under the minister of national security. As in the other West Indian islands, the prime minister is the de facto head of the defense forces.

The predominant element in the JDF is the Jamaica Regiment, whose origins go back to the West India Regiment that was founded in 1798 and used by the British in the American War of Independence and various colonial campaigns in West Africa, as well as during World War I. The West India Regiment formed the core of the defense force of the short-lived West Indies Federation in 1959-61. After the federation disintegrated, the First and Third Battalions became the First and Third Battalions of the Jamaica Regiment. In 1962 the Jamaica Local Forces (JLF) was formed as one of the conditions under which Jamaica was granted independence. The JLF soon evolved into the JDF, but the First and Third Battalions of the JDF retained their historical designations.

In the mid-1980s, the JDF's predominant ground force element consisted of the First Battalion and a support and service battalion. The First Battalion included the Air Wing and Coast Guard, as well as a headquarters unit at Up Park Camp in Kingston, an engineering unit, and other supporting units. Detachments were stationed at the JDF camp in a facility first established by the British in the mid-nineteenth century at Newcastle, high in the Blue Mountains, and in "outstations" located in various parts of the island. The Third Battalion, consisting of part-time volunteers, constituted the ground force reserve, called the Jamaica National Reserve (JNR). Commanded by a lieutenant colonel, the JNR, which had 1,030 members in 1986, consisted of a ground force supported by air and coastal patrol elements organized into an infantry battalion.

Once the sole operational element of the former Ministry of Defence, the JDF, together with the police, was placed under the Ministry of National Security and Justice in 1974. The prime minister commanded the JDF through a major general. In 1986 the JDF had a complement of 1,780 officers and men. In addition, a civilian staff of about 360 included functional and administrative personnel.

By 1986 JDF ground force equipment was almost exclusively of British origin and included the SLR rifle, Sterling submachinegun, general-purpose machinegun, and twelve 81mm mortars. The army also had a small number of Ferret scout cars, supplemented by fifteen Cadillac-Gage V-150 Commando wheeled armored personnel carriers received from the United States.

The JDF's Air Wing, which was formed in July 1963, was headquartered at Up Park Camp, with a base at Montego Bay. Expanded and trained successively by the British Army Air Corps and Canadian Air Force personnel, the Air Wing had a strength of 250 officers and personnel in 1986. It was equipped for ground force liaison, search and rescue, police cooperation, survey, and transport missions. In 1986 its inventory included predominantly Americanmade aircraft, but also some Canadian, British, and French models: five Bell 206A, three Bell 212, and two Aerospatiale Alouette II light helicopters; two of the Britten-Norman Islander light transports of the short-take-off-and-landing (STOL) type; one each of DHC-6 Beech KingAir 90 and Beech Duke DHC-6 light transport models; and four Cessnas, including two 185s and two light transports: the 210 and 337. The aircraft were well adapted for use in areas of the hilly interior of the country, where there were few landing fields.

The JDF's coastal patrol element, the Coast Guard, was established at independence. In 1986 it had a complement of about 150 active personnel, including 18 officers and 115 petty officers and personnel under the command of an officer with the rank of lieutenant commander. It had an additional sixteen personnel in its reserve and thirty in other ranks. Equipped with predominantly American-made equipment, the Coast Guard modernized its three 60- ton patrol vessels in 1972-73 and augmented them in 1974 with the 103-ton multi-purpose transport/patrol vessel HMJS Fort Charles. The Coast Guard operated from its base at Port Royal in cooperation with the harbormasters and the harbor patrol of the JCF. A Coast Guard unit was responsible for maritime antismuggling operations. The JDF's Coast Guard was too small, however, to patrol adequately the island's 1,022 kilometer-long coastline.

Following independence, Jamaica retained a British training mission for the three JDF components; all JDF officers were trained in Britain. Canada later took over Air Wing training functions. All Coast Guard officers received training at the Royal Naval College, Dartmouth. The United States Navy also has provided training assistance for Coast Guard officers and other ranks. After a fouryear lapse (mid-1980 to 1984), the British Army and JDF resumed their program of reciprocal defense exercises in June 1984. In addition, a group of 140 JDF soldiers was flown to Dover for a month of training. Jamaica signed a new military training agreement with Canada in 1985, replacing the one in effect since 1965. Over 250 JDF candidates trained in Canada during the 1965-85 period.

The United States began providing some military assistance to Jamaica's small defense force after Jamaica requested training and equipment assistance in 1963. Jamaica's military aid allocation, however, was zero in the last year of the Manley government in 1980, partically because of the government's close ties to Cuba. The United States resumed military assistance to Jamaica after Seaga took office, and in 1986 assistance totaled US$8.275 million, mostly for enhancing the JDF's narcotics interdiction and marijuana eradication capabilities. Jamaica was scheduled to receive a total of US$6.3 million in United States military assistance in 1988, including US$300,000 in International Military Education and Training (IMET) funds. Under the Seaga government, the JDF had received heavy equipment, including jeeps, trucks, and patrol boats from the United States.

Jamaica's military recruitment was entirely voluntary. Young men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four who had left school at the secondary and postsecondary levels were required to register for two years of public service work as members of the National Youth Service. This service could be performed in the JDF, an all-volunteer force, and prospective registrants were encouraged to consider a service in the JDF with an eye toward making it a career. JDF personnel were eligible for retirement under the Government Pensions Scheme.

The Jamaica Combined Cadet Force (JCCF) was a uniformed training contingent founded in 1943. Funds provided by the prime minister's office covered expenses for training, uniforms, equipment, travel and subsistence, and pay of salaried personnel. JCCF operations were substantially expanded in 1972, and in 1973 the organization consisted of some 2,000 officers and cadets in 33 post-primary school units in all parts of the island, together with an independent unit and a small headquarters unit at Up Park Camp. Its mission was to provide youths with training, discipline, good citizenship, and leadership. Although not a part of the JDF, the JCCF provided a substantial reservoir of young men who had undergone some military training.

Apart from its training assignments, the JDF was active principally in support of the larger Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). A mobile reserve unit, the JDF was called on when a local police detachment was too small to deal with an incident such as an unauthorized strike or a riot. It also furnished manpower for patrols during civil unrest, search-and-rescue missions, and searches for firearms or marijuana. The Air Wing gave mobility to ground detachments, and the Coast Guard acted in cooperation with harbormasters and the police harbor patrol.

Data as of November 1987

Country Listing

Caribbean Islands Table of Contents