MIAMI — U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) recognized a team of subject-matter experts providing technical assistance to maritime-security forces in the Caribbean March 8 after the team earned a Department of Defense award for “excellence in maintenance training, advice, and assistance of foreign security forces.”
The Department of Defense presented the SOUTHCOM-based Technical Assistance Field Team (TAFT) with the 2017 Secretary of Defense Foreign Security Forces Maintenance Award for “outstanding achievement and excellence in all facets of maintenance mission support” during a ceremony in Salt Lake City Dec. 5.
TAFT’s technical expertise is one of various forms of security assistance the U.S. is providing to Caribbean nations as part of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) to help the region reduce illicit trafficking, improve public security, and promote social justice.
The 15-member TAFT is comprised of U.S. Coast Guard and Army engineers, technicians, specialists, and logisticians. It has been funded by the U.S. State Department since 2013 as part of a presidential priority.
The team has deployed to the Caribbean 48 times, spending more than 1,000 days assisting maritime forces in 13 nations. They’ve authored more than 1,200 maintenance procedure cards, conducted multiple classes for maritime interceptor fleets with different configurations, and assisted regional counterparts with upgrading systems and programs that track and forecast maintenance or manage supply inventories.
The assistance provided by TAFT has helped Caribbean coast guards and maritime-patrol units keep their fleets operationally available to disrupt illicit trafficking, conduct search and rescue, and support disaster response missions, as well as other coastal-security operations.
Eastern Caribbean coast guards supported by TAFT have increased their maritime patrols by 41 percent, boarding of suspect vessels by 182 percent, and seizure of suspect vessels by 68 percent since the team’s assistance began.
In 2016, the team was recognized by then Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson with the Secretary’s Unit Award for “unprecedented interagency collaboration” for CBSI and its support to coast guards in the Caribbean.