The Armed Forces
Jordan’s military shield consists of three branches–the Jordan Arab Army, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Coast Guard. Throughout the armed services, high training standards are the rule. Jordan has emphasized quality rather than quantity, and does not expand its forces more rapidly than its training and organizational capabilities permit. Jordan also has a highly efficient police force, border police and desert patrols who form the Public Security Force.
King Hussein among the soldiers of the Jordanian Arab Army. © Zohrab
One of the main benefits Jordan has reaped from its peace treaty with Israel is the removal of a hostile military danger on its western border. Jordan has thus been able to freeze the process of conscription, making the conversion to an all-volunteer army. In 1997, total spending by the armed forces amounted to US$ 424 million, or 5.9% of the country’s GNP. Of this total, around 85% is earmarked directly for salaries, care and training of soldiers.
Although the army has converted from a conscript to a professional force since the signing of peace with Israel, it offers enough benefits and services to keep the combined manpower of Jordan’s armed forces at about 88,000 active soldiers, not including reserves. Jordan’s Public Security Force includes approximately 25,000 persons, who primarily perform police duties. Jordan also has a Civil Defense Brigade, which includes the Kingdom’s firefighters and ambulance personnel, and an Intelligence Service. In addition, Jordan has a small coast guard to patrol its coastline on the Gulf of Aqaba.
Jordan’s army has suffered from a severe shortage of spare parts due to a cutoff of US aid after the Gulf War. Compared to international standards, the 12,600-man Royal Jordanian Air Force exhibits excellent squadron performance in attack and air-to-air combat missions. Like the army, however, the air force has been hampered by a shortage of spare parts and operating funds. Nonetheless, it is combat-ready and capable of flexible operations at every level of command.
To maintain high quality soldiers, the government provides extensive assistance for all members of the armed forces. All service members receive generous economic support, from complete family medical care and free housing to financial grants, interest-free loans and tax-free commissaries.
Women in the Army
In 1994, the Directorate of Women’s Affairs was established to safeguard the rights of women in the Jordanian Armed Forces and allow them to reach their full potential. Initiatives from the Directorate, headed by Princess Aisha, King Hussein’s daughter, have resulted in legislation lengthening maternity leave to 90 days and procuring equal rights to housing. The Directorate also has assisted military women by upgrading training requirements, providing better opportunities for advanced training needed for promotion, and by instituting job placement programs designed to match women’s skills and ambitions with an appropriate career path. The progressive initiatives of the Directorate of Women’s Affairs have served not only to advance the role of women, but also to upgrade the capabilities of the armed forces by maximizing the return from every soldier.
Princess Aisha training with fellow soldiers.© Maher Attar, Sygma
Further Services Rendered by the Armed Forces
UN Peacekeeping Missions: The Jordanian army has distinguished itself internationally by serving extensively in UN peacekeeping missions throughout the world.
Human Resource Management: Armed forces hospitals, workshops and academies provide participants with practical skills needed in a demanding job market. Each year workshops train hundreds of engineers, mechanics and doctors, in addition to scores of pharmacists.
Royal Endowment to Universities and Colleges: In 1996-97, the armed forces sponsored the education of 2102 university students and 1405 community and vocational college students. The vast majority of these were offspring of military servicemen.
The Armed Forces Department of Education: This department runs 19 schools, often in secluded and poor areas of Jordan, providing students with meals and shelter. Around 9600 students attended these schools in 1996-97. The department also contributes to the eradication of adult illiteracy through special programs from which about 600 adults graduate every year. In 1997, the military also operated four summer youth camps, which were attended by 592 young Jordanians.
Research and Development: The armed forces coordinate research with universities and scientific societies to assist in the development of Jordanian industries and infrastructure. Recently, the army has cooperated with the Royal Scientific Society in a project for harnessing wind energy to generate electricity. It has also worked with the University of Science and Technology to forward the development of the Badia region.
Infrastructure Construction: The military contributes to the construction of roads in rural areas, thereby relieving municipal and village councils of extra financial burdens. The armed forces assist the Ministry of Water and Irrigation and the Ministry of Agriculture in digging wells and constructing dams such as the Jilat Dam and the Swaqa Dam, the latter which has the capacity to hold 2.5 million cubic meters of water. Work is also being done to repair the Quwaira, Sultani and Bareeqa Dams. Also, the military provides expert engineering advice to the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs, to assist localities in construction projects.
Tree-Planting: Military involvement in the afforestation of large areas in Jordan has led to the annual planting of 250,000 trees throughout the country. Over 2.5 million trees have been planted in military camps in Jordan. Such afforestation programs have prevented the encroachment of desert and helped to restore Jordan’s green cover.
Military Medical Services: Approximately 1.6 million Jordanians, including government employees, military servicemen and their families, are covered by government health insurance and benefit from medical services provided by the military at the King Hussein Medical Center. This sophisticated medical facility accommodates Jordanians with health care services in specialized areas, such as cardiology and neurology, not yet available in either public or private sector hospitals in Jordan.
Wars and Catastrophes: The armed forces open blocked roads in the winter, supply tents and blankets to those affected by floods. During the Gulf War, the armed forces provided returnees and refugees with shelters and mobile hospitals. Their relief efforts extend internationally in times of famine and war, and they have recently provided assistance to Sudan, Somalia and Bosnia.