'I'm just another Jamaican who has an opportunity to serve the country,' says incoming chief of defence staff Antonette Wemyss-GormanFriday, September 24, 2021
Commodore Antonette Wemyss-Gorman's phone rang of the hook yesterday after news emerged late Wednesday night that she will be appointed chief of defence staff next January.
The appointment will result in Wemyss-Gorman being promoted to the rank of rear admiral, replacing Lieutenant General Rocky Meade who has served as head of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) since December 1, 2016.
However, the even larger accomplishment for Wemyss-Gorman is that she will be the first woman to lead the near 60-year-old JDF. And, while creating JDF history is not new to Wemyss-Gorman — she was the the first female officer to attain a Flag rank (a naval officer above the rank of captain who is entitled to display a flag indicating his or her rank) — the 48-year-old pioneer servicewoman exhibited a level of modesty when contacted by the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
“I'm just another Jamaican who has an opportunity to serve the country,” Wemyss-Gorman said, her voice betraying fatigue, most likely due to the number of calls she had fielded throughout the day.
The only other comment she offered was that the interviews for the post were conducted Wednesday.
In its release of the appointment, the JDF Defence Board said that Wemyss-Gorman was among three officers interviewed for the job and will be officially sworn in January 2022.
Her impending promotion to the rank of rear admiral is in keeping with top appointments from the Coast Guard.
The Defence Board said Wemyss-Gorman is a career officer whose 29 years of service has been characterised by notable achievement and exceptional service to the JDF.
“She has performed at the strategic level of command within her technical area of expertise and in other domains, both internal and external to the JDF. She holds a master's degree with distinction in national security and strategic studies from The University of the West Indies,” the board said.
Noting that she was promoted to her current rank in December 2019, the board said Wemyss-Gorman assumed the post of force executive officer in January 2020 and currently provides strategic guidance to the force in support of the transformational vision of the chief of defence staff.
“She has also led the strategic defence review, which outlines the vision and goals of the force up to 2037,” the board said, adding that, as the force executive officer, she formulates and directs force policies while coordinating all the staff branches.
“Commodore Wemyss-Gorman has held various command appointments across the force and is responsible for the establishment of the Caribbean Military Maritime Training Centre and the Maritime Air and Cyber Command, which includes the JDF Coast Guard, the JDF Air Wing and Special Forces. Other notable appointments, external to the JDF, include a secondment to the Ministry of Transport and Works as deputy director for marine transport, appointments to the Fisheries Advisory Board and the National COVID-19 Response Advisory Committee,” the Defence Board said.
“In addition, she represented the JDF and Jamaica at various local and international fora on matters of regional security, blue economy, transnational organised crime, women in peace and security amongst other defence matters,” the board said, adding that she is married and mother of a 15-year-old son.
The board also thanked Lieutenant General Meade “for his exceptional service to country and his visionary leadership of the JDF” and pointed out that he has served the defence force for 38 years.
Meade will be proceeding on pre-retirement leave.
Yesterday, Olivia “Babsy” Grange, the minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport, welcomed Wemyss-Gorman's appointment and described it as “another great leap for women in Jamaica”.
She said the incoming chief of defence staff is a “very competent high achiever who has given exceptional service to the Jamaica Defence Force and to the country, and is a great choice for the top post”.
Added Grange: “I note, too, that she has realised her dream at the relatively young age of 48. This is not surprising, since during her time as a career officer she excelled in establishing the Caribbean Military Maritime Training Centre and the Maritime Air and Cyber Command, which includes the JDF Coast Guard, the JDF Air Wing and Special Forces.”
Grange said the appointment represented not only “a huge step for women and girls, but also for gender equality in the country”. Additionally, it will inspire women and girls across Jamaica, and “men and boys should also celebrate this tremendous achievement as we continue to fashion a country where there are no barriers to what our people can achieve”.
The minister also commended Meade, describing him as a “fine officer and leader”.
The Opposition People's National Party also congratulated Wemyss-Gorman.
“We welcome this historic achievement of your elevation to head Jamaica's armed forces. We thank you for the exceptional service that you have provided to this great nation and we look forward to your tenure as chief of defence staff,” PNP President Mark Golding said in a news release.
He also extended gratitude to Lieutenant General Meade for his career of service in the nation's military.