SOUTHCOM Participated with Partner Nations in Tradewinds 2015
By Dialogo June 30, 2015
Several Caribbean countries, as well as Mexico, Canada, and the United States, are participating in Phase II of the Tradewinds 2015 maritime Military training initiative coordinated by the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Belize. The goal of the program is to strengthen regional cooperation in complex, multinational security operations, including humanitarian and rescue missions.
Tradewinds is a joint and combined annual exercise that takes place at various locations in the Caribbean and involves the region's navies, maritime security corps, and Coast Guards.
“Tradewinds offers an opportunity to develop and strengthen our alliances and helps all participants protect their national security,” said U.S. Marine Corps General John F. Kelly, commander of SOUTHCOM.
Through Tradewinds and similar operations, SOUTHCOM helps strengthen interoperability in Caribbean countries and works with partner nations to develop responses to natural disasters and humanitarian crises, and to fight against transnational organized crime, said Javier Oliva Posada, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
The first phase of Tradewinds 2015, from May 30-June 9, began on the island of St. Kitts and Nevis and covered maritime security and disasters. Participants evaluated the mechanisms for response and coordination in the event of a catastrophe through theory, practice, and training simulations in security, allowing service members to improve their ability to respond.
The second, which culminated in Belize, took place from June 15-24 and focused on maritime and land operations. In particular, it focused on the exchange of knowledge and experiences to strengthen capabilities in weapons handling, sharpshooting techniques, security operations in riverside and rainforest environments, as well as Military support for law enforcement forces, the use of non-lethal arms, crime scene investigation, jungle survival skills, martial arts, maritime operations, and scuba diving skills.
During the exercises, officials use tools such as radar systems, go-fast boats, light weaponry (30mm machine guns), saltwater-resistant standard weapons, and special equipment to approach and board the type of boats traditionally used by organized crime and turbine artillery helicopters used to pursue vessels, according to Daniel Pou, an assistant analyst and researcher at the Latin American School of Social Sciences (FLACSO) in the Dominican Republic.
“I recently came from doing special duties, and I have only been in the military for a little over a year, [so the Tradewinds exercises are] something I always wanted to do,” said Private Victor Adana, an infantryman with the Belize Defence Force. “My favorite part was the close quarters battle training. A lot of it I had done before but never with so many other countries. In the beginning we all had so many ways of doing things and as the training went on we all seemed to adapt to one universal way, and that is something I’ll never forget.”
Exchanging knowledge and experience
Indeed, Tradewinds 2015 benefited from broad international participation. About 1,350 U.S. service members joined in the combined exercises; the U.S. Coast Guard, together with U.S. Navy units, have participated in training programs with Navies from partner nations for 31 years. Additionally, during the ground portion of the exercises, Marines from Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Southern Command (SPMAGTF-SC), 2d Law Enforcement Battalion, along with the Canadian Army, conducted subject matter expert exchanges with other partner nation militaries on techniques in marksmanship and weapons handling skills, security operations in jungle and riverine environments, military support to law enforcement, and command and control.
Other countries that participated in Tradewinds 2015 included the Caribbean countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, in addition to Mexico and the United Kingdom.
“It’s important for the partner nations to work together because in today’s environment no country does it alone,” said Lieutenant Colonel David Hudak, commanding officer of Special Purpose-Marine Air Ground Task Force, SOUTHCOM. “The countries face similar challenges and if they are working together the better they can be in combating those challenges and the major challenges in this region are the trafficking of drugs weapons and human trafficking.”
“The primary benefits to the navies are to work in a coordinated manner, establish confidence protocols in the exchange of information codes, getting to know other Naval forces, and developing technology applied to a military career, such that they can anticipate and, in the event of a crisis, react immediately and in an organized fashion,” Oliva Posada said.
The training also enables the Armed Forces from different nations to develop protocols that will give them more efficient and quicker responses, in addition to learning the different methods traffickers use to smuggle drug shipments from South America to major areas in Central America and the Caribbean.
Caribbean Basin Security Initiative
The Tradewinds exercises support the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), created in 2010, under which the United States donated $263 million in equipment and training against traffic in weapons and drugs in the region.
The U.S. government has worked in close cooperation with the region’s countries to cooperate on humanitarian and disaster assistance initiatives in recent years.
For example, after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, U.S. forces mobilized close to 20,000 troops as well as Coast Guard cutters, U.S. Navy ships, and dozens of aircraft to offer aid to Haiti, according to information from SOUTHCOM. During that mission, they delivered thousands of tons of food and water, and provided medical attention. SOUTHCOM worked with local and international authorities to meet the need over the long term.
And in September 2008, the U.S. government sent humanitarian aid to Haiti worth $19.5 million to assist victims of four weather-related disasters -- tropical storms Fay and Hanna, and hurricanes Gustav and Ike -- that left 328 dead and 114,000 homeless. Furthermore, a U.S. naval vessel, the USS Kearsarge, delivered to Haiti approximately 466 metric tons of emergency food, and approximately 5,867 liters of water.
“In the end, the training exercises among naval forces allow for greater cooperation to deal with new threats and lead to better public relations between allied countries in the region,” Oliva Posada said.