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Home : News : State Partnership Program
NEWS | Jan. 17, 2024

NCO Development a Security Goal of DC Guard, Jamaica Partnership

By Master Sgt. Arthur Wright, District of Columbia National Guard

KINGSTON, Jamaica - District of Columbia National Guard members participated in an NCO career development exchange with the Jamaica Defence Force Dec. 12-14 at the Caribbean Military Academy in Kingston. 

Jamaica, known for its culture and vibrant beaches, is investing in national defense and strengthening security in the Caribbean basin. That entails placing the role of noncommissioned 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.”

Since 1999, as part of the Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program, the D.C. Guard and Jamaica have supported the U.S. Southern Command’s 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.”

Frazer worked in tourism for six years after high school. 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 help to learn more about opportunities they never thought existed. I was once where they are.”

Frazer is serious about helping recruitment prospects in the Washington metropolitan area and is committed to the empowerment of noncommissioned officers in the Jamaica Defence Force.

“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 in Kingston, attendees focused on the tenets of NCO development, including training, promotions and leadership. Guard members gained insight from the JDF’s Jamaica Regiment, Support Brigade, and the Maritime, Air and Cyber Command.

“One of the biggest things we focused on was the duties and responsibilities of a noncommissioned officer,” said Sgt. Maj. Esmeralda Vaquerano, G-1 (personnel) sergeant major for the D.C. Army National Guard. “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. 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.”

Vaquerano and Frazer 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. 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,” 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 State Partnership Program has grown to 100 partner nations since its 1993 inception. The program proactively addresses complex challenges regardless of rank.

“It makes us more effective and stronger,” Vaquerano said.

The D.C. National Guard-Jamaica Defence Force exchange solidifies the need for future engagements.

“We empower our NCOs at all levels and demonstrate effective mission command,” Lies said. “The Jamaica Defence Force sees how the U.S. military utilizes NCOs and they want to do the same.”