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U.S. Marine Gen. Gary L. Thomas, assistant commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, and Ambassor Jean E. Manes, civilian deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command, speak with Colombian Army Brig. Gen. Juan Carlos Correa Consuegra, director of Exercises and Coalition Affairs, SOUTHCOM, during a visit to U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South, and SOUTHCOM, in Miami, Florida, Sept. 9.

Photo by Sgt. Marimar Morales

Marine Corps assistant commandant identifies opportunity for testing force design, readiness in SOUTHCOM region

14 Sep 2020 | Gunnery Sgt. Michael Cifuentes The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

One of the Marine Corps’ top generals said the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility presents the opportunity to “optimize the force.”

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Gary L. Thomas, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, added that the Marine Corps intends to return to global maritime campaigning, which has clear implications in the SOUTHCOM region consisting of Central America, South America and the Caribbean.

Gen. Thomas, along with Lt. Gen. George W. Smith Jr, the deputy commandant for Plans, Policies and Operations, visited U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South, a Miami-based component command to SOUTHCOM, September 9.

The two general officers came to discuss, in person, actions and implementations regarding the commandant of the Marine Corps’ force design restructure, the commandant’s planning guidance and about continuing operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gen. Thomas called on MARFORSOUTH to assist the Marine Corps in remaining a force in readiness that can operate in contested maritime domains, while also being able to support the nation as the crisis response force.

Select SOUTHCOM staff and MARFORSOUTH Marines provided the ACMC and his team with an in-depth depiction of the command’s area of responsibility, along with the region’s inherited threats and opportunities.

As a command, MARFORSOUTH provides guidance on the proper employment and support for Marine forces in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

Col. David Emmel, the MARFORSOUTH operations officer, said the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility presents unique opportunities for the Marine Corps’ implementation of the commandant’s force design and planning guidance.

“Our partners in Latin America continue to show an interest in working side-by-side with our Navy and Marine Corps team,” Emmel said.

“That partnership provides both our militaries the opportunity to train, enhance interoperability and grow as a multinational team in our shared neighborhood.” Col. David Emmel, MARFORSOUTH operations officer

For years, partner nations have successfully tested their interoperability with the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps team through multinational exercises such as UNITAS and by integrating with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command.

Since 2015, SPMAGTF-SC has deployed to the region in support of crisis response missions, all while working and training alongside partner nation navies and marine corps in amphibious, jungle and littoral environments. However, the Marine Corps has moved away from deploying SPMAGTFs into regions across the world.

Gen. Thomas said the commandant also desires the Marine Corps to play a greater role in the joint force to deter adversaries.

The MARFORSOUTH intelligence officer, Lt. Col. Diego Miranda, said the SOUTHCOM region is growing more important as external state actors’ activities threaten the security and stability of the region as they infringe on Latin America’s resources.

“These conditions provide the Marine Corps with opportunities to continue the partnership we’ve already forged. However, with the task force dissolving and not available for future deployments, the Corps can seize this opportunity to get realistic training with key partners close to home,” Emmel said.

As stated in the commandant of the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 concept, the Marine Corps will need to conduct experimentation of the future force in realistic maritime and littoral terrain. The Latin American and Caribbean region offers a training venue comparable to the Asian Pacific with partners who are ready to serve alongside us, Emmel added.