KINGSTON – Civil military cooperation officer for the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), Major Basil Jarrett, has said potential recruits have been responding well to the islandwide recruitment drive now under way, but very few are advancing.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer recently, Major Jarrett said their failure to advance is largely due to their inability to achieve a passing grade in the mathematics and English tests that are administered. He said both tests are designed for potential recruits to demonstrate a grade nine mastery level.
“Surprisingly, even though the minimum level for the academic test is grade nine achievement, a lot of persons really fail, especially the boys. We find that they are doing really poorly in the maths and a lot don’t get past that hurdle,” he said. “However, there’s the opportunity to resit that test up to three times, but we’re seeing where boys are habitually failing in the maths portion of that test.
“Also, there’s no middle ground. So if you pass the English and not the maths, you have to come back and take it,” he explained.
Jarrett said between Monday and Tuesday last week about 1,500 applicants turned up in Port Maria, St Mary, for the military’s recruitment drive. However, only about 75 of them managed to pass the physical, medical and academic tests.
The recruitment drive in Montego Bay, St James, yielded similar results. Major Jarrett said of the 700 potential recruits who turned up, only 167 met the requirements of the JDF.
The recruitment drive is expected to continue this week.
Besides the academic requirement, Major Jarrett told the Observer that the JDF also has high standards as it relates to physical and medical requirements. He insisted that the military is not for the faint-hearted because it exposes people to a wide range of uncomfortable conditions.
“By that I mean persons have to stand around a lot; they have to march long distances with heavy loads on their backs. They are required to literally live off the land sometimes when they’re out there. For example, a part of the test at Newcastle (military camp) involves crawling under barbed wire with shots firing over your head — live rounds,” he explained. “You might be asked to climb up to a 20-foot height on a rope and come back down. You might be asked to jump out of a perfectly good aircraft.
“To be able to endure those conditions you have to be in the best, perfect health possible,” Jarrett continued.
He pointed out that one of the most frequent questions asked is why people who are flat-footed are excluded from joining the JDF. People also ask about the military’s issue with having a dental cavity, visible tattoos, piercings, immunodeficiency disorders, hernias, and spinal deformities such as scoliosis.
Jarrett said: “The real issue is that it is very painful for flat-footed persons to stand up for long periods. So we make it mandatory that if you don’t have that natural arch in your foot, you’re unable to join because the job requires that you stand and walk a lot.
“Another issue, too, is persons with curvature of the spine. Again the job requires that you travel with some loads of 35 up to 50 pounds on your back at a time, which can be excruciatingly painful for persons with any curvature on their spine,” he continued.
According to the civil military cooperation officer, there have been instances where recruits have gone to Newcastle for training and died because of ailments.
“Some had sickle cell or the trait,” he said. “I can’t speak to the medical specifics and I understand there are different variations of the disease, but from our past experience, persons with the sickle cell trait develop a number of conditions when they are put in high-altitude situations, and we have had situations where persons have died, so that’s an automatic exclusion.
“If you have a cavity, we ask you to get it fixed. Then there are some medical conditions you can’t get around; HIV, for example, we screen for that. Certain conditions that would compromise your immune system automatically would exclude you,” he said.
Jarrett further explained that when someone joins the JDF the institution is ultimately responsible for that person’s health care. So to lessen the burden on the JDF, they choose people who are in tip-top shape.
“We don’t want to knowingly take on someone who is going to be a burden on the health care system in the JDF. Yes, things will happen after you join, but it would not be wise to knowingly take someone and know that you would be responsible for their health care. If persons have a correctable medical condition, such as a hernia, we ask them to fix that as well, because once they become soldiers, the JDF is totally responsible for them,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jarrett said in order to survive 18 weeks of training at the military training camp in Newcastle, a recruit has to be at a certain fitness level.
Jarrett, however, maintained that young people should not be fearful of the requirements, but nourish the zeal they have had over the years.