The Jamaican Military, known as The Jamaica Defence Force, was constituted in 1962. It was developed from the West India Regiment (WIR), a British colonial regiment which dates back to 1795.
That was the time the first West India Regiment was formed in the Windward Islands of the Eastern Caribbean.
By 1799, the number of battalions rose to twelve, with many being disbanded during the following century.
Troops for the WIR were recruited from freed slaves in North America, slaves purchased in the West Indies and slaves from Africa bought off slave ships.
To gauge the strength of the WIR, records tell us that in 1807, the British Parliament freed some 10,000 black slaves who were soldiers in the WIR.
The West Indies Regiment was used extensively by the British Empire in policing the empire from 1795 to 1926. Other units in the JDF heritage include the early colonial Jamaica Militia, the Kingston Infantry Volunteers of WWI and reorganized into the Jamaican Infantry Volunteers in World War II.
The West Indies Regiment was reformed in 1958 as part of the West Indies Federation. The dissolution of the Federation resulted in the establishment of the JDF.
Today, The Jamaican Military comprises an infantry Regiment and Reserve Corps, an Air Wing, a Coast Guard fleet and a supporting Engineering Unit.
The infantry regiment contains the 1st, 2nd and 3rd (National Reserve) battalions. The JDF Air Wing is divided into three flight units, a training unit, a support unit and the JDF Air Wing (National Reserve).
The Coast Guard is divided between sea-going crews and support crews. It conducts maritime safety and maritime law enforcement as well as defense-related operations. The support battalion contains a Military Police platoon as well as vehicle, armourers and supply units.
The 1st Engineer Regiment provides military engineering support to the JDF. The Headquarters JDF contains the JDF Commander, Command Staff as well as Intelligence, Judge Advocate office, Administrative and Procurement sections.
Their core responsibilities are:
- To defend Jamaica against military or paramilitary threats.
- To provide military aid to the Civil Authorities, namely relating to:
- Restoration/maintenance of law and order;
- Counter-narcotics operations;
- Search and Rescue (SAR);
- Casualty Evacuation;
- Humanitarian and disaster relief operations;
- Defence diplomacy;
- Nation building projects;
- Contingency planning; and
- State ceremonial duties.
- Maintaining the integrity of Jamaica’s waters and airspace by demonstrating sovereignty over the territorial space and protecting the rights and interests in the maritime and aeronautical areas of jurisdiction (including marine environmental and fisheries protection).
- Counter Terrorism Operations by monitoring and analyzing potential terrorist activities, and preventing or responding to terrorist incidents, including Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) detection, Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Improvised Explosive Device Disposal (IEDD).
In recent years the JDF has been called upon to assist the nation's police, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in fighting drug smuggling and a rising crime rate which includes one of the highest murder rates in the world.
JDF units actively conduct armed patrols with the JCF in high-crime areas and known gang neighborhoods. There has been vocal controversy as well as support of this JDF role.
For more on the Jamaican Military, including career opportunities or general information, please visit their new website.
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