Well Done, Troops!
By Leading Seaman Courtney Castello
JDF Coast Guard
Members of the JDF who were deployed to Haiti, for over two months, as part of the Jamaican government's response to the earthquake-ravaged Caribbean isle are now home.
The troops were met by a welcome team comprising the Force Chaplain, Captain Denston Smalling and other members of his "wellness team". The Chaplain was available to provide ‘on the spot’ counseling and moral support for those who requested it.
Troops being welcomed by the Force Chaplain and his team
As the contingent arrived home, several kudos and sentiments are been echoed from all levels of the Jamaican society for a job well done. The Chief of Defence Staff Major General Stewart Saunders while speaking at the Annual Military Boxing Champions at Up Park Camp on 19 March 2010, issued his own congratulations to the troops for carrying out the mission in Haiti in a very commendable way.
The Contingent Commander Lieutenant Colonel Desmond Edwards seemed very upbeat but he said it was not just the joy of being home but “The men did an excellent job and am so proud of having commanded them… they operated under some really trying and testing circumstances,however, the Jamaican troops always bore in mind the Haitians’ state of mind and desperation. They carried out their duty with utmost professionalism and continued to treat the Haitians with dignity and respect”.
“They stuck to the task at hand with fervor and determination. They all earned my undying respect and I consider myself blessed to have commanded such an honorary bunch of committed soldiers,” he continued.
The deployment to Haiti was quite an experience for members of the contingent. Sapper George Fisher was the youngest member of the contingent, he gave a brief account of his ‘virgin’ overseas tour. He said that his deployment was a most challenging one especially as it regards sleeping arrangement but luckily for him he ‘got cooked meals for breakfast and supper’ which the troops from the first contingent were not privileged.
Fisher stated that he got a ‘culture shock’ in that he noticed that they mostly cultivated cash crops such as peas, sweet potatoes, corn and some sugar cane and rear just a few livestocks but what startled him was the fact that he only saw a few dogs and no cats at all. He later learnt that the feline creatures are quite the delicacy there!
Sapper Fisher celebrated his nineteenth birthday in Haiti on 12 March 2010.
Corporal Christopher Wauchope a seasoned veteran of 17 years service learnt much of the Haitian culture and said that food is the most important to the Haitian people. Now that he is home, Corporal Wauchope is looking forward to spending time with his family and some downtime to ‘recharge’.
Although all the troops are now pulled out, this is not the end of the JDF’s mission in Haiti. Lieutenant Colonel Edwards revealed that there is a chance of the JDF returning to Haiti in the long term but to play a different role, “not necessarily to handout aids but to help in the rebuilding process especially where housing is concerned”.
The first deployment of 194 troops returned to Jamaica between 11 and 16 February 2010. The second contingent consisting 162 troops included doctors, medics, engineers, infantry soldiers and logistics personnel.
The JDF group provided food supplies, medical care and disaster relief support under operation “Restore Comfort" aptly named based on the nature of the relief efforts conducted after the magnitude-7 earthquake devastated the island.
The troops returned to Jamaica between 17 and 21 March 2010.