Commodore Antonette Wemyss-Gorman will become Jamaica’s first woman Chief of Defence Staff next January. The 48-year-old pioneer servicewoman will succeed Lieutenant General Rocky Meade who will be retiring after 38 years in the army. Meade has served as head of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) since December 1, 2016.
A release from the Office of the Prime Minister said Wemyss-Gorman will be promoted to the rank of Rear Admiral for her appointment as army chief. She was among three senior officers of the JDF who were interviewed for the job by the Defence Board. The interviews for the post were conducted on Wednesday, Wemyss-Gorman told Jamaica Observer.
“I’m just another Jamaican who has an opportunity to serve the country,” she added. This is not the first time she is making JDF history as she was 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, according to Jamaica Observer.
Married with a 15-year-old son, Wemyss-Gorman is a career officer who has been a member of the army for 29 years. “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 Defense Board said in a release of her appointment.
Promoted to her current rank of Commodore in December 2019, Wemyss-Gorman also 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.
It added that 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 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 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 release added.
Olivia “Babsy” Grange, the minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport, welcomed Wemyss-Gorman’s appointment, saying it represented not only “a huge step for women and girls, but also for gender equality in the country,” Jamaica Observer reported.
“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 added.