Woman raised by vendor in Jamaica creates military history in US

Janice Smith. Photo Credit:

A past student of Bog Walk Secondary School, now Enid Bennett High in St. Catherine, created history in the United States this month when she became the first African American woman to head the Military Sealift Command Atlantic (MSCLANT).

The promotion places the Jamaican native, Navy Captain Janice Smith, in control of the entire Atlantic regarding the execution of strategic sealift missions, the transportation and maintenance of military equipment, as well as logistics coordination.

She assumed leadership of MSCLANT during a change of command ceremony held at Naval Station Norfolk on Thursday, March 19.

That’s a massive feat for a woman born in Kingston and raised under financially tough circumstances at Morris Hall in the Harkers Hall area – not very far from Bog Walk in St. Catherine.

She grew up with her late grandmother, Iris Plummer, who sold goods in Linstead Market to make ends meet.

Her mother had left Jamaica in search of a better life for her family.

Smith, who migrated from Jamaica when she was a young adult, was on the island visiting relatives up to late last year. She also remains in contact with her alma mater – Enid Bennett High.

This is not the first time that Smith is grabbing the headlines.

In 2016, she also created history when she became the first immigrant of Jamaican descent to command a destroyer. At that time, she assumed leadership of the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Oscar Austin (DDG 79).

Smith is also one of only two active duty African American women within the US Navy Surface Warfare Community who are screened for Major Command.


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