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Phase II of Tradewinds 2017 exercise in Caribbean ends

By Sgt. Olivia McDonald Marine Corps Forces South

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Phase II of Exercise Tradewinds 2017, sponsored by U.S. Southern Command, concluded with a ceremony in Chaguaramas, Trinidad and Tobago, June 17. 

For the last 33 years, Tradewinds has been an annual, combined, regionally-focused exercise conducted with the intent of increasing the interoperability of the participating nations and enhancing security in the Caribbean. This year’s iteration included 20 nations from throughout the Caribbean, Europe and the Americas. 

“Over the past 11 days, over 1,200 participants came together to take part in the Caribbean’s largest multinational exercise,” said U.S. Army Lt. Gen Joseph P. DiSalvo, the U.S. Southern Command military deputy commander. 

This year's exercise is split into three phases focusing on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, security-related issues, and a leadership seminar. Trinidad and Tobago hosted the second phase of the exercise, concentrating on security expertise. 

The U.S. Marines provided training and logistical support for the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force-led training exercises in Chaguaramas.

“The United States is interested in helping (partner nations) develop their capabilities because the safer the Caribbean waters are, the safer the United States is,” said U.S. Marine Maj. Bethany Peterson. “My Marines and I were there to, behind the scenes, provide logistics support for all the partner nation forces.”

The U.S. Marines participating in Phase II were responsible for providing the logistics aspects of the exercise such as transportation and food in order for the Caribbean and partner nations to focus solely on their training.

“We are all coming together and operating with each other, not autonomously,” said Jamaican Defence Force Lt. Blake Roper. “We have to learn to work with each other. I think this is important for building the country-to-county partnerships, but also helping in regional stability.”

This year, the U.S. service members took a step back from leading training and worked more behind the scenes while Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force leaders took the lead.

“They understand that just practicing training lanes is not going to give them the opportunity to rehearse chain of command and rehearse mission-type orders,” Peterson said. “Disseminating orders down the chain of command and actually executing, that’s not an easy thing to do with countries that may not even speak the same language.”

Despite cultural differences and language barriers, the partner nations came together and completed the missions in front of them. Training events included everything from raids on enemy-overtaken heliports and communications towers, to establishing vehicle check points and maritime or aerial insertions. 

“When things happen in the Caribbean or in the Americas, and other countries have to respond, it is not the first time we are talking, not the first time we are operating together,” Roper said. “It will be more of a smooth operation.”

The diversity of Tradewinds is not something found in many military exercises. Through the immersion of cultures and military techniques, each branch, no matter the country, leaves with a better understanding of each other and how they can operate more efficiently.

“My guys can go back understanding the cultures better within this region, I think that is important; but, I think they will go back knowing a little more about themselves,” Roper said. “We will take things back home that we can use to develop our own guys - different techniques in training, different things that maybe we haven’t thought about before but really does make sense in an operational environment.”

DiSalvo emphasized at the closing ceremony that through the exchange of ideas and knowledge partner nations are all able to improve their national and regional responsibilities: to be capable of assisting their neighbors and to stay united. 

“That is the goal of Tradewinds, bringing together regional partners to build upon the already strong relationship and, in so doing, [reinforce] the security of our shared home,” DiSalvo said.

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