Canadian military tests its new base in Jamaica

Written by Roger Annis on August 12, 2011

Several months after signing an agreement with the government of Jamaica for permanent use of its territory for military stagings, Canada is dispatching three helicopters and 65 air force personnel to the country. A CBC news report says the Jamaican government requested the intervention, in the name of providing it with ‘search and rescue’ capacity during the current hurricane season.

The CBC reports:

Over the past few years, Jamaica has been increasing its military ties to Canada. The Canadian Forces has a long-standing relationship with the Jamaican Defence Force. In particular, members of the JDF have been trained recently by members of the Canadian Special Operations Regiment in hostage rescue.

Canadian aviation instructors have also held courses for their Jamaican counterparts.

A story on the Department of Defence website provides greater details, and explains a connection to Operation Hestia, the short-lived Canadian military response to Haiti’s 2010 earthquake:

“This deployment, the first under a new Canadian Forces initiative dubbed Operation JAGUAR, will once again demonstrate that the men and women of the CF have world-class military skills and discipline, and a global reputation that is second to none,” said Lieutenant-General Marc Lessard, Commander of Canadian Expeditionary Force Command. “Our Forces are proud to serve Canadians by projecting the best of what this country has to offer around the world.”

Task Force Jamaica — the team deployed on Operation JAGUAR — is an aviation detachment comprised of 65 CF personnel and three CH-146 Griffon helicopters. Their mission is to undertake specific critical life-saving tasks both inland and over water in support of the Jamaica Defence Force. An aspect of Canada’s continuing commitment to international peace and security, Operation JAGUAR shows how relevant, responsive and effective Canada’s helicopter fleet is in today’s complex environment.

The Canadian Forces has worked closely with Jamaica for many years, on several projects through Canada’s Military Training and Cooperation Program (MTCP). For example, Canada assisted in the construction and development of the Jamaican Military Aviation School, which opened in 2006. The school provides aircraft training to pilots throughout the Caribbean.

Other MTCP initiatives with Jamaica include the Counter-Terrorism Operations Training and the Naval Boarding Party Training for Caribbean nations, both funded by the Counter-Terrorism Capacity Building Program of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Canadian Forces were also instrumental in the construction of the Caribbean Junior Command and Staff College at the Moneague Training Camp, St Ann.

Jamaica has also hosted the Canadian Forces for pre-deployment training for engineers, such as 2008’s Exercise Tropical Hammer, and for Operation HESTIA, where Jamaica acted as a staging area for the Government of Canada’s emergency response to Haiti following the earthquake last year.

The longstanding, successful collaboration between the Canadian Forces and the Jamaica Defence Force is a testament to how military-to-military cooperation provides opportunities to collaborate, exchange ideas, learn from best practices, and leverage shared interests.

On CBC Radio’s The World This Weekend on August 7, Walter Dorn, Associate Professor of Defense Studies at the Royal Military College in Kingston, argued that Canada should become more involved militarily in Haiti. The world is “crying for Canada” to aid in peacekeeping, he said, and Haiti would be a good place to send Canadian soldiers now that fewer are fighting in Afghanistan. “We have a long-standing police contribution in Haiti,” he said, “but we could easily contribute to the military side.” Canada, of course, ‘contributes on the military side’ in Haiti, and significantly. But presumably for public relations appearances (white skin, shaved heads), its soldiers do not patrol neighbourhoods. That task is typically left to the darker-skinned soldiers of Latin America and Asia.

The CBC report did not question Professor Dorn as to what contribution that soldiers from Canada, or from any other country for that matter, could make to Haiti’s humanitarian crisis. The health and other services that the Canadian military brought to Haiti in late January 2010 were withdrawn less than two months later. There is little legacy today of that presence, notwithstanding the fact that Haiti’s crisis is deepening, not lessening.

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