SOTO CANO AIR BASE, Honduras --
Along the northern coast of Honduras, a unique partnership exists between the Honduran Navy trainers of the Centro de Adiestramiento Naval (Naval Training Center) and U.S. Marine Corps Security Cooperation Team trainers as they work to provide basic skills to new members of the Honduran Navy.
In an effort to enhance the Counter-Transnational Organized Crime land and sea interdiction capabilities of the Honduran Navy, the training teams are focusing on human rights, water skills, squad level maneuvers, tactics, planning and firing techniques.
"Currently, drug trafficking operations in the country are the cause of 85 percent of the generated violence and, also, Honduras is a key point for aerial and maritime transportation of drugs from South America to Central and North America," said Honduran Navy Capt. José Herrera. "It is beneficial for the navy forces to reduce the illicit drug trafficking in our sea space and to minimize the illegal operations of organized crime groups in the critical locations in the country, such as the Northern coast and rural and urban areas."
The program the CAN is implementing provides the Honduran Navy the first consolidated training program for its young Navy service members. This allows different units to train under a consolidated course versus non-standardized training at multiple locations that had been taking place.
"This training will provide a much-needed common baseline skill level for new officers and junior enlisted in the Honduran Naval Infantry," said U.S. Marine 1st Lt. David Lemelin, Security Cooperation Team officer in charge. "The course material focuses on critical infantry tasks with emphasis on the environment and missions sets unique to the Hondurans, to include patrolling, local security, human rights and amphibious operations."
Over the course of six weeks, the trainees focused on honing their knowledge of troop movements at a tactical squad level as well as how those squads support a larger operation, with the overall goal of enabling them to operate cohesively. Additionally, they are challenged physically daily, typically starting with a 5 a.m. physical fitness session and incorporating basic and intermediate swimming training into the curriculum.
Prior to this course, each Honduran Naval base conducted its own training for new troops, leaving room for inconsistencies in skill sets and knowledge.
The main focus of the Marines is to help the Hondurans develop their course syllabus, and evolve it to fit their needs as they identify them.
"Those who have completed this mission in my country should be aware of the purpose that we want to accomplish with the U.S. Marine Corps - to have a better operational level to combat the illegal operations that affect the safety of this country," said Herrera. "The students who complete the course need to gain technical and tactical knowledge to maintain the integrity of the operations at hand and to do them efficiently, maintaining a proper use of force and respect to human rights."
The U.S. Marines are a part of a regular training rotation, supporting counter-narcotic forces in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. Each country requests tailored training teams to integrate with their forces, helping teach a variety of subjects to include close quarters maneuvers, operational planning, urban terrain navigation, basic fire techniques and basic and advanced infantry maneuvers and techniques.
"If someone had to take away only one thing from this mission, it would be that we are helping build an institution that is intended to give the Honduran Naval Infantry a solid, unified training experience and identity for the first time in history," said Lemelin.