An eight-member team home stationed more than 1,900 miles away has been an integral part of U.S. Army South's Task Force Red Wolf (TFRW) from day number one of exercise Beyond the Horizon 2016-Guatemala (BTH-2016).
Service members from Trinidad and Tobago arrived on April 2nd and dove into the deep end of operations, but since this was the first exercise of this nature that Trinidad and Tobago participated in, swimming wasn’t easy. “There were a few obstacles we need to overcome,” Major Sheldon Dougan, Regimental Staff Officer for Operations and Intelligence at the headquarters of the Trinidad and Tobago Regiment, the main ground-force element of the country’s Defence Force. “First and foremost was the culture shock, Americans do things differently than we do, but it didn’t stop there. We also needed to work with the Guatemalan Army, and they do things differently than the Americans. However, there is no better teacher than experience, and we adapted and overcame this obstacle rather quickly.”
Environmental differences comprised the second hurdle to overcome. TFRW has two forward operating bases (FOBs); one is on a mountain and is cool the majority of the time. The other is at a much lower elevation and is typically 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. “We split our team between the two FOBs,” said Maj. Dougan. “It didn’t matter where we were, it was either too cold or too humid, but like I said before, there is no better teacher than experience... We received a lot of support and guidance form the task force to overcome these challenges, but once we did, we kicked it into overdrive and never looked back.”
The team immersed themselves in as many segments of the exercise as possible with specific focus on food service, logistics, operations, and engineering. There was no stopping the team’s almost insatiable thirst for knowledge and experience. “We watched the task force service members carefully,” said Maj. Dougan. “We went out on as many missions as possible to work alongside the Soldiers, learning from them and taking notes. We also tried to spend as much time as possible at each duty section, they were all fair game and we were here to learn. It was a rush!”
Interpersonal conflict management was another aspect of the exercise that the team also paid close attention to. “We watched and learned that everyone has an effect on operations and mission success,” said Maj. Dougan. “We got to see different ways to deal with personality conflicts. This was important, because this happens in all services in every country.”
Security was one aspect of BTH 2016-Guatemala that was very rewarding for Trinidad and Tobago.
For me [it was rewarding] to assist with the coordination and running of security for the medical readiness exercise and training sites,” said Trinidad and Tobago Staff Sgt. Joel Allen, 1st Battalion Sergeant Major. “We were in charge of the personal security of more than 19,000 Guatemalans and several hundred U.S., Chilean and Canadian service members. This was most educational for me, I know that my fellow service members had their own experiences, and they will bring these lessons back home and teach our security force.”
During their 70-day stay in Guatemala, there was one aspect of the exercise that will stay with Maj. Dougan for some time to come and will be at the forefront of his report to his leadership. “It was great to be able to be a part of the exercise instead of just sitting back and watching,” he said. “We are going to take all this information back and add it to our standard operating procedures to help make our Military better and more efficient. I’m speaking for my entire team when I say, this was a great experience and I hope we get invited back.”