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  • 19
  • Jun
  • 2017
U.S., Bahamas mutual support benefits region

By Cpl. Timothy R. Smithers, Defense Media Activity

NASSAU, Bahamas --

U.S. forces and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force continued to partner on Operation Marlin Spike to ensure maritime and regional security in Nassau, Bahamas, June 5-9, 2017.

In January of 2017 the RBDF and United States Northern Command commenced Operation Marlin Spike. This operation is a defined mission for the RBDF to deter illicit trafficking and poaching into and through the Bahamas with U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Coast Guard, Special Operations Command and Marine Forces North to communicate, train and protect the waterways of the Lucayan from a variety of illegal activities. 

“Marlin Spike is a strategic communication mission to deter illicit trafficking and illegal activity going through the Bahamas,” said Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Davis, senior defense official defense Attaché U.S. Embassy Nassau, Bahamas.

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force, established in 1980, is a military service for the defense of the Bahamas and is modeled after the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy. It is also capable of assisting with humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, assisting law enforcement agencies, search and rescue, marine navigation and more as required by the Government of Bahamas National Security Council.

The RBDF is comprised of 1,400 personnel, responsible for covering 100,000 square miles of ocean and 700 individual islands. Despite being so small The Defence Force has proven that, even with minimal persons, it is an effective force and highly capable force. Since the beginning of the operation the RBDF has seized more than 300 lbs. of marijuana, four illegal fishing vessels, arrested 110 poachers, detained 1,827 undocumented migrants and conducted 288 search and rescue cases.

The defense and security relationship between The Bahamas and the U.S. is a vital one because of their close proximity. Being only 50 miles off the coast of Florida it’s often referred to as the “third border” of the United States. 

This closeness means that the RBDF and USCG have a strong alliance and working history as well.

“The Royal Bahamas Defense Force provides us with subject matter experts that are on the Coast Guard ships,” said Lt. Cmdr. Aaron Mader coast guard liaison officer to the Bahamas and Turks and Cacaos Islands, “That gives us authority to react to vessels that are smuggling and conducting illicit activity in the area.”

Mobile training teams attached to MARFORNORTH assist the RBDF with training in the fields of intelligence, public affairs and littoral operations. They also train The Defence Force with weapons used by the U.S. and NATO to increase overall interoperability. 

“Marlin Spike has really been a catalyst for us to continue to build a relationship, that is so vital at this time, and we appreciate all the support we have received from the Northern Command,” said Commodore Tellis Bethel Commander, Royal Bahamas Defence Force. 

The local population is a crucial piece to the success of Operation Marlin Spike. Since the inception, The Defence Force has established a strong community outreach program, which includes a tip line to report criminal activity, as well as marketing products distributed to the various islands.

“To the Bahamian community, we need your support to guard our heritage. We certainly need that support from the Bahamian public and certainly we welcome it,” said Bethel.

The operation has given the RBDF focus, training, resources and partnerships that will drive it into the foreseeable future. “The RBDF is a trusted partner on our “third border” and our security partnership with them continues to grow,” said Dr. Ben Gochman, chief of engagements, USNORTHCOM.