The Dominican Republic’s Army, Navy, and Air Force recently conducted End of Year Joint Exercises that included simulated operations on the ground, air, and sea, including port security exercises against terrorist cells and drug-trafficking organizations.
“The Armed Forces must be prepared to conduct joint operations; one institution alone cannot fulfill this role,” Dominican Army Brigadier General Santo Domingo Guerrero Clase, the Ministry of Defense's Director of Planning and Operations, J-3, told Diálogo . “The goal is to increase our response capacity so that we can confront events that could endanger the continuance of our institutions and the maintenance of governance and democracy.”
The Ministry of Defense has been conducting similar exercises for 10 years, but the recent operation marked the first time the Army, Navy, and Air Force all engaged in joint training together. The National Directorate for Drug Control, which is the lead agency in the fight against drug trafficking and related offenses, was included in the training exercises that were held from November 16th-30th, Brig. Gen. Guerrero added.
Terrorism and drug trafficking
During the training mission, service members engaged in simulated exercises in which they battled a terrorist cell, protected a port, and dismantled a drug-trafficking operation. During the operation, the three branches of the Armed Forces deployed ground and air reconnaissance patrols at Isla Beata, Puerto en Medio, Cabo Pequeño, and Juancho. They also performed ground, sea, and air incursions to extract non-combatants in Barahona.
The Military conducted amphibious and security incursions at port facilities, employing commandos from the Dominican Navy, and air support in the form of a helicopter from the Dominican Air Force's (FAD) Special Forces Command. Inter-Agency Task Force units, Marines, and Navy surface forces conducted the interdictions with FAD support. Members of the Counterterrorism Special Commando Unit neutralized terrorist cells during an exercise that included the Marines’ 1st Battalion and FAD Special Forces.
Two hundred fifty-two service members from the Armed Forces participated in the training exercise, during which two Super Tucano AD29 planes, 15 ground transportation vehicles, a UH1H helicopter, a Navy patrol boat, two Coast Guard cutters, and three interceptors were deployed. While these and other training exercises allow Army, Air Force, and Navy service members to maintain their Military capabilities and operational skills, the joint mission gave service members the opportunity to improve communications among the Military branches.
During some of the exercises, “we noticed some failures in communications between one branch of the Military and another,” Brig. Gen. Guerrero explained. “However, the Dominican Republic’s Military commanders were able to make budgetary arrangements and adjustments to correct these anomalies.”
Maintaining optimal communications between all of the Armed Forces is crucial, according to Daniel Pou, associate analyst and researcher at the Latin American School of Social Sciences in the Dominican Republic. “Currently, 50 percent of all Military operations are dependent on the quality and efficacy of our communications.”
Military authorities are adapting to evolving threats and challenges. The 2015 joint training exercises focused on combating unconventional threats, such as terrorists. In previous years, similar operations were designed to prepare service members to engage in combat with a conventional Military force.
“The Armed Forces are changing the Military’s training curriculum and operations so we can confront what are known today as emerging threats: terrorism, drug trafficking ... human trafficking, environmental damage, and natural and man-made disasters,” Brig. Gen. Guerrero said. “We are filling different roles than those we had in the past.”
Preparing for terrorism, organized crime
In response to the November 13th terrorist attacks in Paris, in which Islamist extremists killed 129 people and wounded hundreds, the Special Airport and Aviation Security Corps in the Dominican Republic reinforced its security systems at air terminals. In addition to taking such precautions, it is important that security forces also train to confront terrorist threats, Pou explained. “The Armed Forces need to be on general alert and trained to react efficiently when faced with any threat of a crime.”
International terrorists could have the Dominican Republic in their sights as a target for attacks like the ones that occurred in the French capital, Rubén Moreta, a professor of sociology at the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo, told the Al Momento website on November 20th. “Fundamentalist Islamic groups do not exempt anyplace on the planet when making their demands using violent methods,” he said. “The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean paradise, an international tourist mecca that welcomes 5.5 million visitors a year, mostly from economically robust nations that al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other fundamentalist organizations believe are infidels and declared to be their enemy.”
Terrorism is not the only threat facing the Dominican Republic. Because of its geographic location, international drug-trafficking groups use the country as a transshipment point for illegal narcotics from South America intended for North America and Europe, Pou stated. Because of these threats, “it is essential to train the Armed Forces so they can be successful in the fight against terrorism and organized crime,” Brig. Gen. Guerrero stated.
To prepare to counter drug trafficking and other threats, the Dominican Republic's Military branches have not only conducted joint training exercises with each other but also with other countries. For example, in December, they took part in a joint training exercise with the United States Southern Command simulating the interdiction of a drug-trafficking vessel.
In February, the Dominican Military will host joint training operation Dunas 2016 with French Military service members. Like all joint training exercises, it will provide Dominican Military authorities the opportunity to evaluate the Military's progress, Brig. Gen. Guerrero said.