Tradewinds 2015: Training Program Promotes Regional Security and Cooperation Among Caribbean Partner Nations
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Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) Coast Guard Lieutenant Commander Aceion Prescott joined colleagues from the region and around the world for Phase II of the Tradewinds 2015 training exercise: a Search & Rescue (SAR) drill hosted by the crew of U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Paul Clark on June 21.
“It has been a very successful exercise. I believe we will continue to learn from each other. It’s been successful because the lessons we’ve learned will make Tradewinds 2016 even better and because the adaptability of each of the participants was impressive. It’s an important quality in an exercise and in real life.”
Adaptability was key amid the multinational training session, with participants hailing from 18 partner nations all over the world: among them, representatives of the Jamaica Defence Force – Coast Guard, the Belize Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Mexican Navy, the United States Navy, and the British Royal Navy. Regional Security System (RSS) members, comprised of nine Caribbean nations, traveled to St. Kitts to take part in several exercises, such as a simulated prison riot on June 3 at Her Majesty’s Prison in Basseterre, the capital.
As in previous years, Tradewinds 2015 began with a human rights discussion.
“There is a tie between human rights and your nation’s prosperity and legitimacy,” said U.S. Coast Guard Commander Tabitha Schiro, Tradewinds 2015 Phase One Maritime Leader. “There is a tie between human rights and your security force organization’s ability to do their job strategically, operationally, and tactically.”
The Commander led a group discussion about the importance of valuing other people’s human rights. “Human rights are really what we think separates us and our allies – all of you guys – from our enemies who don’t value human rights,” said Cmdr. Schiro.
Building relationships and enhancing stability
Tradewinds is a combined, joint U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)-sponsored exercise that provides an opportunity for participating partner nations to come together to enhance regional security. It began in 1984, and is designed to build relationships and enhance stability and interoperability throughout the Caribbean region. The exercise also strengthens the capacity of Caribbean nations to counter transnational crime, such as illicit drug trafficking, and respond to natural disasters, humanitarian crises, and land and maritime threats.
“It’s important for the partner nations to work together because in today’s environment no country does it alone,” said U.S. Marine Lieutenant Colonel David Hudak, commanding officer of the Special Purpose-Marine Air Ground Task Force, SOUTHCOM. “The countries face similar challenges and if they are working together they can be better in combating those challenges...[including] the trafficking of drugs, weapons, and human trafficking.”
To meet such challenges, the training was organized into different focus areas including human rights awareness, command and control, and military support for law enforcement; it consisted of basic instruction and field exercises which provided students the chance to test their new skills.
“It’s a three part exercise with Phase I being more of a planning exercise for humanitarian and disaster relief," said Lt. Col Hudak. “Phase II is a field training exercise with different training tracks ranging from maritime and dive, marksmanship, law enforcement and riverine training, and Phase III...we use to see what worked, what didn’t work, and decide what we can do better next time.”
These direct goals enhance participant expertise, but the indirect benefits of working with partner nations are crucial, too.
“I stress that the knowledge and skill that comes from this exercise is essential,” said Lieutenant Colonel Patrick E. Wallace, commander of SKNDF, during the opening ceremony at Camp Springfield, St. Kitts. “However, just as important is the strengthening of multi-national relationships.”
“Over the past 31 years, with Tradewinds, we train among each other but in different areas of the Caribbean so everyone will be on the same page,” said Sergeant Delroy Harris of the SKNDF.
Team building is a main objective of Tradewinds. When RSS nations deploy to assist a partner nation for an exercise, the nations must work together to achieve a collective goal. Eventually, these individual units become one body, said Lance Corporal Alexis Isaac, a member of the SKNDF. “It goes from being many small groups to one big one,” he said.
“Because of the training we receive with each other, we know how to operate with each other,” said Sgt. Harris. “With teamwork anything is possible,” said Sgt. Harris. “Once we work together we can achieve all things.”
Benefits for Belize
The Belize Defence Force hosted Phase II of Tradewinds 2015, which provided training to optimize partner nations to to plan and execute multinational operations, counter transnational organized crime, and provide better regional security throughout the Caribbean and Central America.
Belize reaped significant benefits by hosting the training program.
“We have the opportunity to put the most [amount of] Soldiers in this training and in the event of needing to deploy we have the most [amount of] Troops with this training,” said General David Jones, Commanding General of the Belize Defence Force. Also, “we have the ability to show the partner nations what we in the BDF do really well, and that is jungle warfare. We have the Jungle Warfare Training Center here in Belize, our instructors are excellent, and our end game is to have more partner nations come here and participate in our jungle training exercises.”
Fourteen participating nations attended the closing ceremony on June 24, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Multiple U.S. Military organizations supported Tradewinds 15, including SOUTHCOM, U.S. Marine Corps Forces South, Marine Forces Reserve, the Louisiana National Guard, and the U.S. Coast Guard.