KINGSTON, Jamaica –
As a global destination, Jamaica is known for its culture, vibrant beaches, and robust tourism industry. It’s also a nation making investments to national defense and strengthening security in the Caribbean basin which entails placing the role of non-commissioned officers under a microscope.
“A primary security goal is the development of NCOs in the Jamaica Defence Force,” said Capt. Aaron Lies, Bilateral Affairs Officer, U.S. Embassy Kingston Security Cooperation Office. “If they learn how we operate and study our doctrine, it promotes shared understanding.”
Members of the District of Columbia National Guard participated in an NCO Career Development Subject Matter Expert Exchange (SMEE) with the Jamaica Defence Force Dec. 12-14, at the Caribbean Military Academy (CMA) in Kingston. Since 1999, as part of the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program (SPP), the two countries support the 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 Sgt. Jessica A. Frazer, Recruitment and Retention Battalion, D.C. Army National Guard. “This is why I left the tourism industry, there’s more to Jamaica than hospitality. This is about enhancing the lives of NCOs, where they serve and live.”
Sgt. Frazer, a Saint Mary Parish native worked in tourism for six years after high school lured by economic stability, but in 2020 her focus shifted.
“I wanted to go to school in the U.S.,” she said. “The District of Columbia National Guard afforded me the opportunity to do more, start a new career, and attend school for free. Today, I’m helping other people achieve their goals—immigrants, females, anyone who needs helps learn more about opportunities they never thought existed. I was once where they are.”
Sgt. Frazer is not only serious about helping recruitment prospects in the Washington metropolitan area, but she’s also committed to the empowerment of non-commissioned officers in the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
“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,” she 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 tenants 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 a non-commissioned officer—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 Sgt. Maj. Esmeralda Vaquerano, G-1 (personnel) Sergeant Major for the D.C. Army National Guard. “We also discussed the ‘This Is My Squad’ initiative to build more cohesion, and how that relates to a more involved NCO mindset. We’re closing gaps.”
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 Jamaica Defense Force 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.