KINGSTON, Jamaica — Connectors - we all know them. They are the folks who are in every high-level meeting, featured somewhere in every important photo, and in the recent call history of all of the movers and shakers.
When it comes to U.S. and Jamaica relations, Maj. Jason Hanslovan, bilateral affairs officer, District of Columbia National Guard, is one such person.
The District of Columbia National Guard and Jamaica Defence Force have been state partners for 19 years. Recently, key leaders of both forces have been in transition. Maj. Gen. William J. Walker, commanding general, D.C. National Guard, was appointed as acting commander in January 2017 and confirmed by presidential order in March of 2018. Brig. Gen. Aaron R. Dean II, adjutant general, D.C. National Guard, was appointed by presidential order in March of 2018. Maj. Gen. Rocky R. Meade, chief of defence staff and head of Jamaica Defence Force, was appointed in December of 2016. During his tenure, Hanslovan has provided a continuum between the newly appointed key leaders.
"Hanslovan provides the continuity that we need," Dean said during his first official visit to Jamaica as adjutant general of the D.C. Guard. "He was invaluable during summer of 2017."
That summer the D.C. Guard's medical detachment was given a mission to provide medical and dental support services to local hospitals and clinics in Jamaica. While the detachment had the resources to take on the mission, navigating the proper processes and protocols to make the mission happen, was challenging.
"Hanslovan has the ability to connect with SOUTHCOM, Department of State, and other organizations to get resources," Dean said. "Within 90 days, he put us in contact with the right people to make the mission a success."
The medical mission was executed successfully and further solidified D.C. Guard and JDF relations.
A strong relationship with Jamaica is exactly what the U.S. needs, according to Eric Khant, chargé d'affaires, interim U.S. ambassador to Jamaica, U.S. Embassy Kingston.
"The Caribbean is our third border and Jamaica is at the center of the Caribbean," Khant said. "Jamaica's security and prosperity are linked to our own. The D.C. National Guard, as a state partner, has a key role in helping to build the capacity of JDF, securing Jamaica's borders, and dismantling transnational criminal activity that impacts the U.S."
The bilateral affairs officer has the job of making sure we, the U.S., can understand the real needs of JDF in order to help them accomplish their mission, according to Khant.
With both the D.C. Guard and JDF, having newly appointed commanders and other key leaders, maintaining the dialogue to understand the needs of partners can be challenging.
"Jason (Hanslovan) keeps us on the same page in knowing what sort of training or equipment is required to make sure that JDF can meet their goals," Khant said.
The JDF has outlined some ambitious goals, according to Maj. Gen. Rocky Meade, chief of defence staff and head of Jamaica Defence Force.
"I am growing JDF," Meade said. "We're developing the numbers, battalions and brigades, and domains such as cyber, maritime patrol and awareness. Having relations with the D.C. Guard is critical to implementing these plans."
Meade relies upon Hanslovan to make certain that the vision for JDF is communicated effectively with the D.C. Guard and the U.S.
"Jason has been key on different levels," Meade said. "Because of the frequency of engagements, close rapport and depth of engagements, a direct representative between the two is a must. Jason is critical in his role and is doing his job very well."
Hanslovan's tour as the D.C. Guard's bilateral affairs officer will end this summer. He has been a source of continuity and expertise during his tenure and Khant and Meade both agree that if his replacement is of the same caliber, relations will only get better.