The Guyana Defence Force (GDF) is hosting the 38th iteration of Caribbean-focused exercise Tradewinds 2023 (TW23), July 15-28.
Twenty one countries and more than 1,500 service members are participating in TW23, training in the ground, air, and sea in various locations across Guyana, united under common values and to strengthen partnership for regional stability.
Tradewinds is a U.S. Southern Command- (SOUTHCOM) sponsored annual exercise designed to strengthen partnership and interoperability, promote human rights, as well as increase participants’ training capacity and capability to mitigate, plan for, and respond to regional crises and security threats.
GDF Major Jaime Castello, lead planner for TW23, spoke with Diálogo about the importance of the exercise for Guyana and for participant partner nations.
Diálogo: What is the main goal of TW23?
Guyana Defence Force Major Jaime Castello, lead planner for Tradewinds 2023: To promote regional security cooperation by involving security forces from partner nations, primarily from the Caribbean Basin, United States, Canada, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.
Diálogo: How important is it for the GDF to host TW23?
Maj. Castello: Hosting TW23 provides an opportunity for Guyana to ensure more local personnel benefit from information sharing and training with their counterparts from the U.S. and across the region. In the long term, these very activities serve to improve the effectiveness of not only the GDF but of the other disciplinary services involved. On the tourism front, Tradewinds helps to showcase Guyana as hundreds of partner nation nationals get to witness and enjoy the culture and Guyanese hospitality and cuisine.
Diálogo: How did the GDF prepare to host this exercise?
Maj. Castello: GDF’s preparation to host exercise TW23 began in early 2022 with military representatives from the U.S. and Guyana conducting several site surveys to check for adequate capacity for housing participants both locally and internationally during this multinational military exercise. Extensive planning and allocation of resources were needed to ensure the success of this activity. In this regard, the GDF established the TW23 Secretariat (including national stakeholders) which was responsible for planning and coordinating all activities. Then in April 2023, military representatives from the U.S. and several partner nations returned to Guyana for the Final Planning Conference. This provided the final check for facilities and locations to conduct the various training tracks, concerns to be resolved, and final preparation for the event’s execution.
Diálogo: SOUTHCOM sponsors this joint exercise in the Caribbean with partner nations. What is the importance of working with SOUTHCOM in this joint exercise?
Maj. Castello: The importance of working with SOUTHCOM in this joint exercise is to improve and build new relationships with regional partner nations; expand the competitive space; advance security, governance, and economic opportunity in our shared neighborhood, by integrating, aligning, and unifying our efforts with our partners for our collective success. Close relationships will build trust, facilitate our efforts to increase institutional capacity, counter threats, and respond rapidly and effectively to crises.
Diálogo: What capabilities does TW23 bring to participant partner nations?
Maj. Castello: TW23 provides participating partner nations with the opportunity to enhance their capabilities in conducting joint, combined, and interagency training focused on increasing regional cooperation in complex multinational security operations. Additionally, this exercise will enhance the collective ability of their defense forces and constabularies to counter transnational organized crime and conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) operations, while developing strong relationships and reinforcing human rights awareness.
The capabilities stem from the training tracks covered, some of the main ones are Women, Peace, and Security (WPS); drone; cyber; maritime; interagency; public order; jungle familiarization; and HADR. All of these training were led by specialized personnel from the different partner nations and were executed with high professionalism.
Diálogo: What is the importance of having GDF military personnel and U.S. military personnel in training exercises and in supporting the population in the area of health?
Maj. Castello: The importance of having GDF military personnel and U.S. military personnel in training exercises is to allow for better coordination, observation, and ability to counter threats, enhance communication, strengthen relationship, and share knowledge and skills. Both militaries can learn much from each other. Guyana’s terrain and tropical conditions provide a diversified experience for U.S. military personnel while the U.S. has experiences from various combat theaters. The health of any nation is essential and Tradewinds scenarios are generally developed from the host nation being in a state of crisis (natural or manmade), therefore the function of the security forces during such times is to ensure that essential services (including health) of the host nation remain functional.
Diálogo: Human rights and WPS programs are part of TW23. Why are these two topics important?
Maj. Castello: The importance of human rights and WPS as part of TW23 is for partner nations to be educated and understand their obligation to respect and protect human rights, and to report all suspected violations of fundamental human rights. The WPS program recognizes that women make up 50 percent of the population and the diverse roles women play as agents of change in preventing and resolving conflict, countering terrorism and violent extremism, as well as building post-conflict peace and stability in our hemisphere. They bring unique and necessary skills to security forces. We know that when we invest in a woman, she changes not only her own life, but also that of her family and community. Together, the respect for human rights and correctly applying gender considerations to military operations, ensure that civilian populations remain safe and protected, even during periods of conflict or instability.
Diálogo: How does TW23 help countries to synchronize to respond to natural disasters and security threats?
Maj. Castello: The overall objective of Tradewinds is to promote regional security cooperation. TW23 is focused on the traditional security training to respond to security type threats. Also, TW23 has two HADR components that involve national, regional, and international stakeholders in response to oil spill and flooding scenarios. TW 23 HADR exercises will definitely enhance Guyana’s capabilities in both areas.
Diálogo: How is interagency interoperability achieved in TW23?
Maj. Castello: There are many agencies involved in the planning, training, and execution of TW23 training tracks. Many of these agencies have specialized skills and responsibilities. TW23 allow for these agencies to function under a unified command structure to respond to crisis.