Marines and Sailors from U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South and U.S. Marine Forces Reserve participated alongside military and interagency partners from 22 nations in Belize and Mexico during a major multinational exercise 7-21 May.
Exercise TRADEWINDS is a multinational exercise sponsored by U.S. Southern Command and hosted by various countries in and around the Caribbean. This exercise focuses on building the capacity, knowledge, and expertise of participating nations in the Caribbean to better respond to security threats.
Participating for the first time in the field training portion of this exercise, Colombia supported TW22 by sending elements of the Colombian Marine Corps to participate in the riverine training events and elements of the Colombian Army to participate in the jungle training events. The riverine training took place along the Hondo River near Chetumal, Mexico and consisted of several key events to include small boat operations, maritime navigation, water survival, boat maintenance, beach landing, maritime interdiction, riverine patrolling, helocasting, heliborne latter extractions, and ship to shore movements.
“Exercises such as TRADEWINDS play a significant role in enhancing maritime security throughout the region and highlights the importance of working with our partners and allies..." Col. Brian Ecarius, MARFORSOUTH Director of Plans and Exercises
“The Colombian Marines displayed a high pedigree of rigor, professionalism, proficiency, and motivation. It is apparent they are extremely competent and thoroughly enjoy training with American and multinational partners,” said Master Sgt. Billy Ross, the Training Chief for Third Force Reconnaissance Company. “Having the Colombians here to train and exchange knowledge was extremely beneficial to all partners involved.”
Colombia is a regional leader in riverine operations and has much to teach military units from all over the world. They operate a Riverine Center of Excellence at their training facility in Turbo, Gulf of Uraba which is designed to be the premier riverine training center in the region to teach and exchange their expertise to partners. Additionally, Colombia is actively engaged in security missions within their country focused on counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, and counterinsurgency which contributes to their capabilities and effectiveness in riverine operations. This experience allows them to develop, refine, and validate new approaches to littoral operations helping to ensure regional security and stability.
“Their operations in and around the littorals have provided some fundamental insights on tactics, techniques, and procedures associated with riverine and littoral operations,” said Gunnery Sgt. Julio Castellanos, MARFORSOUTH engagement chief who spent three years in an exchange program with the Colombian Marine Corps. “There is so much they have taught us already and that we can continue to learn from them to advance our own capabilities and concepts.”
Photo by Sgt. Matthew Teutsch
U.S. Marines with 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company, 4th Marine division, along with Colombian Marines and Mexican Marines, ride aboard combat rubber raiding crafts during exercise Tradewinds 2022, at Bacalar lagoon, Mexico, May 10, 2022. TW22 is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored Caribbean-focused multi-dimensional exercise conducted in the ground, air, sea, and cyber domains, designed to provide participating nations opportunities to conduct joint, combined, and interagency training focused on increasing regional cooperation and interoperability in complex multinational security operations.
The U.S. and Colombian Marine Corps have a historic relationship that is strengthened through shared challenges, shared visions, and shared values. Each year the two forces conduct multiple subject matter expert exchanges that provide a venue to learn from each other on topics such as amphibious planning, expeditionary logistics, and leadership development. Littoral and expeditionary operations are a major focus of the two nations’ and facilitate increased interoperability and unity of effort.
TRADEWINDS is a key opportunity to expand upon this relationship and allow Colombia to continue its role in exporting security throughout the Western Hemisphere. Not only does it provide participating nations the opportunity to conduct combined, joint, and interagency training focused on complex multinational security operations, it enhances cooperation and interoperability throughout the region as well. Colombia and the U.S. have a lot to offer in this regard and the two nations are currently in discussions to increase participation and co-lead a training lane during TW23, hosted by Guyana.
“Exercises such as TRADEWINDS play a significant role in enhancing maritime security throughout the region and highlights the importance of working with our partners and allies to achieve common objectives and regional security,” said Col. Brian Ecarius, MARFORSOUTH Director of Plans and Exercises. “Latin America and the Caribbean are home to significant coastal and riverine environments making it a premiere location for maritime partnerships, experimentation, and the exchange of knowledge from subject matter experts in littoral operations.”