Curaçao / Aruba Forward Operating Location On The Front Line Of The Fight Against Narcotrafficking

Curaçao / Aruba Forward Operating Location On The Front Line Of The Fight Against Narcotrafficking

By Geraldine Cook
November 04, 2019

The Curaçao/Aruba Forward Operating Location works with different agencies to counter transnational criminal organizations.

Partner nations and the United States are on constant alert in their common battle against drug trafficking. The Curaçao/Aruba Forward Operating Location (FOL), also known as Security Cooperation Location, is a tactical location, which allows U.S. and partner nations use of the airfields at Curaçao Hato International Airport and Aruba’s Reina Beatrix International Airport to support regional efforts to disrupt security threat networks.

The Curaçao/Aruba FOL is the result of a 10-year access security and defense cooperation agreement the United States and the Kingdom of the Netherlands signed in March 2000 and renewed in 2010. The Curaçao/Aruba FOL supports operations of Joint Interagency Task Force South (JIATF South) to detect, monitor, and track aircraft or vessels engaged in illicit drug trafficking that originate in South America and cross the Caribbean Sea to reach Mexico and the United States. The U.S. Air Force manages the Curaçao/Aruba FOL day-to-day activities providing 24/7 operational and logistics support for interagency cooperation in drug missions.

“Our mission is to provide forward airbase operations in support of JIATF South’s multinational aerial counter narcotics detection, monitoring, and tracking operations in the region,” said U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel James Sinclair, Curaçao/Aruba FOL’s commander. “We do work in an environment where we trust and work together with our partners and U.S. agencies. We have a robust relationship with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Curaçao, and Aruba’s government as well.”

The Curaçao/Aruba FOL coordinates all logistics requirements to help interdiction operations upon receiving information from JIATF South Command Center, located at the U.S. Naval Air Station in Key West, Florida. Their airfield hosts P-8, P-3C, and C-130 Hercules aircraft, among others, to ensure readiness to conduct surveillance flights to detect drug cartel vessels and aircraft.

“Transnational drug organizations have been pushing more of their drugs through the Pacific Ocean rather than the Caribbean, adjusting tactics, techniques, and procedures, looking for new routes,” said Lt. Col. Sinclair. “JIATF South constantly improves detection and exploitation methods to counter illicit traff

U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel James Sinclair, Curaçao/Aruba FOL’s commander (third from left) along with U.S. Air Force members and firefighters are ready 24/7 to support aerial counter drug missions. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

icking operations, working with partner nations and their capabilities in the fight against narcotrafficking organizations.”

Solid partnership

The Curaçao/Aruba FOL is comprised of units from Air Forces Southern’s 612th Theater Operations Group/Detachment 2 and 429th Expeditionary Operations Squadron. It also has a fire department team to support their daily activities.

Counter drug operations are carried out with the participation of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service, among other agencies, as well as the cooperation of the government of the Netherlands. As of September 2019, The Curaçao/Aruba FOL has provided logistics support to 95 counter narcotics missions and 18 non-drug related missions. They also joined missions in support of weather reconnaissance and responded to natural disasters.

“We build diplomacy with our neighbors to counter the threat of drugs in the region. Having an interagency relationship builds transparency and trust not only with other agencies within the U.S. government but also builds trust with our Latin American and Caribbean countries that are part of JIATF South,” said U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Popp, Curaçao/Aruba FOL’s director of Operations. “It shows we are working together as one team, one fight.”