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U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Carlo Brancato welcomes El Salvador Navy Lt. j.g. Max Antonio Orantes at Jacksonville, N.C., Oct. 13.

Photo by James Hall

Partner Nation service members arrive in North Carolina to integrate with task force

23 Oct 2020 | Courtesy Story Marine Corps Forces South

Service members from the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, and Honduras arrived at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, October 16, to integrate with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command.

The partner nations service members will join the SPMAGTF-SC for the next month to participate in exercise UNITAS, the longest-running, multi-national exercise in the world. UNITAS LXI will be conducted virtually in order to comply with COVID-19 precautions and safety measures.

“This will be a positive experience for every service member participating in the execution of UNITAS,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. David Cook, civil affairs officer with SPMAGTF-SC. “It will further build our relationship with these partner nations.”

UNITAS LXI will be focused on an exercise scenario that involves responding to a natural disaster occurring in the Latin America and Caribbean region.

The exercise will help the participating partner nations strengthen common planning processes, command and control similarities, and exchanges of information that lead to the common goal of being prepared to respond to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief situations. The integration of partner nations into the SPMAGTF-SC staff will further enhance multinational operational readiness, interoperability, and security cooperation amongst U.S. and partner nation naval forces.

The partner nation service members will complete a 14-day quarantine and provide a negative COVID-19 test result prior to being fully integrated with the SPMAGTF-SC Marines and Sailors.

“We know that the SPMAGTF-SC will learn a lot from our interactions with the partner nation service members...” U.S. Marine Corps Maj. David Cook, civil affairs officer with SPMAGTF-SC

“We have taken every measure necessary, and even additional measures, to ensure that our partners visiting are safe while also giving them the maximum opportunity to integrate within our SPMAGTF-SC,” said Cook.

The quarantine complies with the Department of Defense Force Health Protection guidance to preserve the health of the Marines and Sailors, and meets U.S. Southern Command’s requirements. The safety of our service members and partners nations will always remain a top priority for the SPMAGTF-SC, said Cook.

UNITAS planning and exercise execution will take place Oct. 26 through Nov. 11.

There are approximately 20 U.S. Marines with SPMAGTF-SC currently at Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras that have integrated with Joint Task Force – Bravo of U.S. Southern Command.

The task force remains at Camp Lejeune and serves as the crisis response force prepared to support to U.S. Southern Command. The task force is prepared and postured to deploy to the Latin American and the Caribbean region to work alongside partner nation militaries, enhancing combined crisis response efforts.

“We know that the SPMAGTF-SC will learn a lot from our interactions with the partner nation service members, and we hope to pass over some of our knowledge to them as well,” said Cook.