Commander Janice Smith Breaks Barriers

Commander Janice Smith Breaks Barriers


Jamaica is known for shaping the world in many ways. Correspondingly, our sports, music, culture and brains have led disruptive and improving changes globally throughout history. Starting from the first slaves that decided that they were not taking the abuse without a fight; Jamaicans have changed the status quo regularly. This trend is the only thing about Jamaicans that can’t change and we now see it in the work and life of Captain Janice Smith. With this in mind, we salute Captain Smith as the newest commander of the Military Sealift Command Atlantic which is a component of the larger Military Sealift and TRANSCOM organizations.

Janice Smith
With this salute to Rear Admiral Wettlaufer Commander Smith reported that she had assumed command of Military Sealift Command Atlantic

You need to know that Commander Smith is the first person of colour to hold this position. In the same fashion, we compare this feat to the many other pioneers who put in the work and set the bar for everyone to follow. Pioneers like Rosa Parks, Katherine Goble, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, Maggie Lena Walker, and the list goes on.

When Good News Jamaica caught up with Commander Smith we were able to have a quick “reasoning” with this stalwart Jamaican woman from Morris Hall, St. Catherine. We decided to give you a sneak peek into the heart of Captain Smith by giving you access to her personal and powerful responses to our questions. Enjoy!

Captain Smith delivering her Change of command speech.

Interview with Captain Smith

Question: You created history on 20 March 2020 when you received this command.  Your name is synonymous with Rosa Parks, Katherine Goble, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, Maggie Lena Walker, and the list goes on. How does it feel to be etched in stone and steel as the first?

Question: The post is for 18 to 24 months, as much as you will have a plate filled with responsibility and stress, what type of things will you do during your free time? Ludo? Dominoes? Spades? What do you do to relax?

Response: My favourite thing to do is read, I truly enjoy losing myself in a good book.  I also love listening to my reggae music.  I am bad at spades and Loodie, I probably shouldn’t admit that (laugh) but I do consider myself good at dominoes; I have some really good memories of watching the guys play dominos at the local shop in Morris Hall and “out by Edward Piece” where I grew up.

From left to right: Captain Janice Smith: Commander of Military Sealift Command Atlantic (MSCLANT) Commander Timothy Phelps: Master of Ceremony and Operations Officer at Military Sealift Command Atlantic Rear Admiral Michael Wettlaufer: Commander of Military Sealift Command

Question: Your life is such an inspiration. What do you have to tell the ones that are looking at you as what is now possible? 

Captain Smith was not satisfied with only having that be her answer so she added the following to emphasize her feeling on putting in the work to realize success.

Captain Smith’s Advice for Others:

– Seize every and all opportunity to get an education. School is important!  This is how you get your foot in the door.

– Education alone does not guarantee success; you will have to put the work in.  However, it will open doors that were previously closed and it will create opportunities for you to excel.

– Give your very best effort to what you are doing at all times.  Do not be concerned about how menial your task or core may seem.  What may seem insignificant today could be the great opportunities of tomorrow.

– Treat everything in life as a stepping stone that will lead to something better or away from something that is not so good.

– Be confident and maintain a positive attitude.  Believe in yourself. Do not dwell on where you come from but focus on where you are going. 

– When you are told “No” work to get to “Yes”.

– Integrity is important so you must strive to do the right thing. When you make a mistake own it and learn from it. 

– Be kind and treat people with dignity and respect.

In this photo is Capt. Smith and her husband Julius Lyles along with and Rear Admiral Wettlaufer. (They are far apart in order to practice social distancing due to COVID-19)

Question: Your rise to this point has been nothing but remarkable. For us in Jamaica we look at you and say, ‘ Yeah man, Anodda one get tru.” knowing that it was not easy to get where you are now.  What was the hardest part of your journey when you look back? Also, what do you see as the hardest challenge coming up?

Question: When you look back at all the valleys that you had to cross in the dark, especially as a woman, what was that ‘thing’ that shaped you along your journey that gave you the strength to say, “Not today!”?

Snipet of Captain Smith’s Resume

Captain Smith completed two Seventh Fleet Deployments, six Fifth Fleet deployments and two Mediterranean deployments in support of Operation Desert Storm, Operation Desert Fox, Operation Southern Watch, Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Task Force East Africa Anti-terrorism tasking.  While assigned to USS NORMANDY in 2005, she deployed to Europe and Africa in support of Standing Maritime Group One NATO operations.   

Her Awards includes the Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (2), Navy Commendation Medal (5), Navy Achievement Medal (2) and various campaign, service, and unit awards.

The number of ships that reports to Military Sealift Command Atlantic vary base on operations.  Approximately 37 combat logistics, fleet support/special mission and combatant command support ships currently report to Military Sealift Command Atlantic.  

Being able to interview and learn about amazing people is my favourite part of my job. That being said, this opportunity to reason with Captain Janice Smith put a smile on my heart and provided extra fuel to my own determination to celebrate Jamaica and Jamaicans around the globe who are doing their little much in advancing the welfare of the whole human race. We salute you, Captain Janice Smith.

2 Responses

  1. The sky is the limit. Success doesn’t have no color. It is out there for who ever wants it. Go and get it. Congratulations friend.

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