Units of the Honduran Naval Force benefited from a three-month training course from two Colombian Navy officers. Lieutenant Andrés Bayona Parra and Colombian Marine Corps First Sergeant Jorge Mario Valencia Taborda shared their knowledge with Honduran students at the Naval Training Center (CAN, in Spanish) of the Puerto Castilla Naval Base, in the Bay of Trujillo, Honduras, September 11-December 7, 2018.
The training, carried out as part of the Maritime Cooperation Agreement between Colombia and Honduras, seeks to increase Honduran service members’ capabilities in riverine and maritime operations. The courses also strengthened the bonds of friendship between both institutions.
The objective is to “train officers, noncommissioned officers, and troops in planning, conducting, and executing special operations,” Honduran Naval Force Lieutenant Alfonzo Bonilla García, director of CAN, told Diálogo. “[It’s] to raise their professional levels in the tactical and technical fields, in leading special troops, while using the art and science of combat.”
More than 200 students—officers and noncommissioned officers—took part in the training on topics such as intelligence, command, and sea and land operations. The training was divided into five theoretical and practical courses and one seminar, with almost 200 hours in total.
The Honduran units developed naval intelligence and counterintelligence capabilities, seeking to learn the processes for search, analysis, and information dissemination. The course also helped identify strategic, operational, and tactical levels in naval operations throughout the country.
The Marine Platoons course sought to help officers verify their troops’ training and capabilities to conduct naval operations. According to Lt. Bayona, students learned to consider factors such as mission, enemy, time, terrain, available troops, operational environment, and civil population. The objective, he told Diálogo, was to “carry out good planning and thereby complete the mission assigned by the leadership.”
The Urban Operations course taught the necessary tactics to operate in densely populated areas with obstacles, such as homes, businesses, or vehicles, and identify the required courses of action while taking people’s safety into account. Another course focused on jungle operations, where Honduran officers learned to develop offensive and defensive procedures against the enemy.
With the knowledge shared, the officers “can counter all those national and transnational threats, such as narcotrafficking, migrant trafficking, human trafficking, arms trafficking, and smuggling, among others,” said Lt. Bayona. “[They can also fight] the [networks] that use maritime, riverine, and coastal areas for transport. These areas are the Naval Force’s responsibility, and the networks affect the country’s maritime interests.”
Empowering the Naval Force
According to Honduran Naval Force Captain José Domingo Meza, director of the Honduran Armed Forces’ Public Affairs, the Colombian Navy training improves the preparation of the Naval Force. “Colombia has extensive experience in lake, land, and riverine environments, so receiving training from their experts will strengthen the [Honduran] Armed Forces considerably.”
Colombia’s support helps promote information exchange between the two nations, Capt. Meza added. Likewise, he said, the support strengthens binational relations to confront narcotrafficking and related crimes in the region together.
Lt. Bayona stressed the good disposition of the Honduran service members. “They are young, intelligent, and disciplined, eager to be better day by day,” he said. “[They have] innovative ideas to maintain and improve the Honduran Naval Force to project a naval power that can protect and guarantee the country’s maritime, riverine, and coastal interests.”
This is the second time the Colombian Navy teaches the same set of courses to Honduran officers. CAN received Colombian instructors in 2016 for the first time. For 2019, CAN requested a few courses, basic and advanced, in riverine operations and riverine gunner training, among others, that will be taught at the Colombian Marine Corps’ School of Riverine Combat.
“Scenarios are different [in Colombia],” Lt. Bonilla said. “That’s why I recommended that we get certified as instructors to create a course that would adapt to logistics means, scenarios, and types of conflict occurring here.”