The Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON, MP
Intake of the First Set of Recruits under the Jamaica National Service Corps (JNSC)
Jamaica Defence Force (JDF)
June 24, 2017
Thank you very much Chief of Staff.
Officers and men of the Jamaica Defense Force;
The Jamaica Defense Force is a special organisation. It is the reservoir of talent, of tremendous human capital, of skills. It is the source of confidence for many; it is indeed in many respects the organisation of last resort for the society. It has managed to maintain a high standard; it is an integrous organisation.
The Jamaican people love, value and cherish the Jamaica Defence Force. The men and women who have passed through the defense force have all by and large gone on to make significant contributions to the society in whatever capacity they may choose to serve; whether they served their time in the army or they go out into other fields.
This is an asset for us as Jamaican that we have this incredible organisation that trains and develop human capital. You are now being recruited into this organisation in a special way but as the Chief of Staff said that is going to be the only thing special for the next couple of weeks while you train.
The government of Jamaica wants to leverage the incredible training skills of the Jamaica Defence Force to use that to spread right across Jamaica to get our young men and women who are seeking to develop themselves, who are looking for an alternative to the life that they now lead. We want to use the Jamaica Defence Force to increase the opportunities for our young men and women.
In other countries they have utilized a system of national service. Some countries require their young people to spend two years training. Recently I visited Israel and they have a system of national service where all their young people between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three I believe are required to spend two years in the army.
Many other countries do this. South Korea is one of them, Switzerland is one of them and the results of that are amazing for those societies; discipline, orderliness, the spread of skills and a society where people are bonded together.
We note that in those societies crime and social disorder is low but productivity and order and discipline and lawfulness is high. That may not be the only reason. National service can’t be said to be the only reason why these societies succeed but it is surely a part of the reason for their success.
I am not here proposing that all Jamaicans at some point in time would have to serve one year or two years in the army. That proposal has been made but the proposition is that the army because it has this incredible capacity to train and mold young minds and young talent that we should find a way to leverage that, to extend it and expand it.
Normally the intake of the army for the year would be between three hundred and four hundred. The intention is to have four batches of recruits, two hundred and fifty at a time. That would mean that the army would be increasing its intake per year to a thousand. That number is only chosen because of resources.
Were more resources available, not just financial resources but the training resources; if more resources were available then we would extend the opportunity because you standing here went through a very rigorous selection process and you were successful. There were many others who wanted to come in and indeed I happen to know moving around the country that there are many other young persons like yourself who want to come in and join this organisation but we’re going to start with what we can manage.
You are the first of this new modality of recruiting, a national service corp. You will serve one year as national service corps members. You will go through all the training as a soldier. After the one year you will be equipped with the necessary life skills. You will be equipped with the ability to solve problems, to manage stress, to lead healthy lifestyles and you’ll be given the ability, the opportunity to learn skills. You could then choose to advance a career in the army or you may choose to leave and take up another career but having gone through this national service, your possibilities are endless. You would be far more employable than if you had not gone through this programme.
We want to give as many Jamaican youngsters this opportunity, but you are the first to benefit and I thought it important to come here today and address you. The success of the programme depends on you. You are going to make this programme successful for the others who will follow.
How you take onto training, how you take onto national service, how you maintain the discipline and high standards of the army, how you maintain the spirit of the army and how you give back to the society; this will determine whether or not the programme is a success. And as I look around I see eager young men, ready and willing to serve, ready and willing to take advantage of the opportunity you’re given.
I’m expecting that you will make the most of the programme and I’m expecting that the programme will be a success for other young men and women to come in and benefit. I wish you well and I wish you all great success.