CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
U.S. Marines and Sailors with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command officially conclude their crisis response deployment during a closing ceremony at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, November 13.
Due to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SPMAGTF-SC’s mission to rapidly respond to assist Latin American and Caribbean partner nations with humanitarian assistance and disaster relief support was based from Camp Lejeune instead of being based from Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, like previous years.
“During our time being activated, we have kept a strict, efficient and purpose-driven planning process with our crisis action team,” said Col. Vincent Dawson, commanding officer of SPMAGTF-SC. “Whether it was scenario exercises during our certification process or the real-life hurricanes affecting the region, our team is always prepared to respond with assistance to partner nations.”
The SPMAGTF-SC is made up of mostly reserve Marines and Sailors from U.S. Marine Corps Forces Reserve who bring with them their professional expertise from their civilian jobs.
“Active or reserve component, our Marines and Sailors continue to be agile, while adjusting to an ever-changing environment,” said Dawson. “The reserves continue to bring unique skillsets to the fight due to their civilian occupations and experiences.”
The task force has continued the legacy of partnership within the region by safely forward deploying more than 60 Marines into the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility to participate in various engagements alongside partner nations.
“Active or reserve component, our Marines and Sailors continue to be agile, while adjusting to an ever-changing environment.” Col. Vincent Dawson, commanding officer of SPMAGTF-SC
Approximately 20 Marines forward deployed to Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, to integrate with Joint Task Force – Bravo of the U.S. Southern Command. The SPMAGTF-SC Marines partnered with JTF-Bravo in support of operations and exercises that ranged from subject matter expert exchanges with the Honduran military to civil affairs missions in local communities.
“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of our missions have shifted from conducting training events with our partner nations to assisting with COVID-19,” said Maj. Don Newberry, executive officer of SPMAGTF-SC. “Our team in Honduras assisted in the coordination and delivery of relief supplies to increase our Partner Nation’s capabilities to mitigate the risks associated with the virus.”
This includes COVID-19 response efforts, where the service members safely donated relief items to a hospital in Trujillo, Honduras. The donation delivery consisted of 3,000 disposable masks, 600 reusable masks, 60 kits for parents of newborns and five wheelchairs to Hospital Salvador Paredes.
The SPMAGTF-SC continued the enduring partnership between the U.S. and Honduras through information operations subject matter expert exchanges in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. These exchanges were the first time U.S. Marines have met with the Honduran agricultural civil military operations planners to share and pass on knowledge.
Additionally, a group of 10 Marines from SPMAGTF-SC teamed up with the U.S. Navy on a deployment aboard the Spearhead-class USNS Burlington (T-EPF 10) to provide the noncombatant vessel an embarked security team, providing force protection for the duration of their deployment.
“Getting Marines to sea is a priority of the commandant,” said Dawson. “After a deliberate planning effort, the SPMAGTF-SC was able to get Marines on ship to support a security mission vital to our naval efforts in the area of operations.”
The Unit Colors
Photo by Sgt. Andy Martinez
The task force also participated in COVID-19 virtual subject matter expert exchanges with eight partner nation countries and their service members: Argentina, Belize, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica and Panama. U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South and SPMAGTF-SC hosted the virtual classes in an effort to educate and learn more about COVID-19 transmission, prevention and ways to continue effective training during the pandemic.
Furthermore, the task force participated virtually in UNITAS LXI, the longest-running, multi-national maritime exercise in the world. Service members from the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Honduras arrived to Camp Lejeune in order to integrate into the SPMAGTF-SC staff and support maritime planning with a coalition of partners.
UNITAS LXI participation further enhanced multinational operational readiness, interoperability and security cooperation among the U.S. and partner nation forces.
This is the sixth consecutive year the SPMAGTF-SC has trained and operated in the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility, building off a history of strong partnerships in the region.
In 2016, following Hurricane Matthew, SPMAGTF-SC assisted in the delivery of more than 478,000 pounds of supplies during relief efforts in Haiti.
Again in 2017, following Hurricane Maria, SPMAGTF-SC formed the nucleus of Joint Task Force – Leeward Islands, which provided humanitarian aid and disaster response to the Caribbean.
In 2018, SPMAGTF-SC then assisted the Government of Guatemala’s response to the Fuego Volcano eruption by building more than 200 multi-family shelters and supporting facilities, which helped more than 4,000 people left without homes in the region.
In 2019, SPMAGTF-SC participated in and focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief rehearsals in Colombia.
The 2020 closing ceremony marks the final iteration of SPMAGTF-SC.
“Despite some shifts in our missions, our purpose always remained the same – to support the efforts of our partner nations,” said Newberry.
Visit the SPMAGTF-SC Feature Page at www.dvidshub.net/feature/SPMAGTFSouth
for more content from the deployment.