News | Oct. 31, 2018

CTF-48 Completes Southern Partnership Station 2018

By Petty Officer 1st Class Grant Ammon

Commander Task Force (CTF) 48 completed a successful Southern Partnership Station (SPS) 2018 deployment to the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility, Oct. 24.

SPS is an annual series of U.S. Navy deployments focused on subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE) with regional partner nation militaries and security forces. This year’s iteration of the mission saw specialized teams of U.S. service members deployed as a series of adaptive force packages (AFP). 

“Sharing knowledge, expertise and best practices side-by-side allows us to understand each other,” said Rear Adm. Sean Buck, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet (USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT). “These annual missions build trust between the U.S. and our partner nations.”

Understanding builds cooperative relationships in order to sustain unity, security and stability in the region, added Buck. 

SMEEs were conducted in the Caribbean, Central and South America from July to October, and focused on the fields of engineering, diving, explosive ordnance disposal, and medical. 

Operations ashore included engagements in Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, and a water-well construction project in the rural, drought-stricken, Colombian region of La Guajira.

According to Capt. Brian Diebold, who serves operationally as commander of CTF-48, and as Commander, Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 40, the SPS mission demonstrated the CTF’s ability to conduct expeditionary operations ashore with a primarily sea-based command and control (C2) structure. 

“Our team came together to successfully complete this mission,” said Diebold. “At some points during the mission, we had multiple engagements operating simultaneously across different countries. Our AFP leads were completely distributed on the ground, but C2 was conducted from the maritime environment.” 
Missions like SPS-18 demonstrate the ability to sustain cooperative relationships with international partners, and according to Diebold, the relationships built during these engagements were well received by leaders of participating nations.

“During SPS, I had the opportunity to meet with senior military and government officials from the countries we worked with,” said Diebold. “They were impressed with the successful collaboration between our teams, and many of of them are looking forward to future engagements.”

Noting the success of the mission’s water-well drilling project, which will serve Colombia’s indigenous population of Wayuu people, Diebold sees SPS-18 as both successful and rewarding. 

“Southern Partnership Station 2018 has enjoyed an almost unmatched level of success,” said Diebold. “The engagements we participated in were rewarding both personally and professionally.” 

“It seems like something straight forward for our engineers to create a well, but for the Wayuu people living the La Guajira region, this well will bring water and life to their community for years to come,” added Diebold. 

CDS-40 plays a key role in executing the Nation's Maritime Strategy by providing dedicated tactical support to naval operations in USSOUTHCOM's area of responsibility. The squadron fosters unity and cooperation between the United States and its Caribbean, Central and South American partner nations.

Units assigned to CTF-48 were comprised of amphibious dock-landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), Military Sealift Command's expeditionary fast transport vessels USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1) and USNS City of Bismarck (T-EPF 9), and included military personnel from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), Navy Public Affairs Support Element (NPASE), Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 2, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2, CDS-40, U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED), and U.S. Army’s 55th Signal Company.

USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT supports USSOUTHCOM's joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain. 

Collectively, the commands work to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space to enhance regional security. These joint efforts aim to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions. 

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