LAS CALDERAS NAVAL BASE, Dominican Republic - Over the past two weeks, Soldiers from the Florida Army National Guard's 54th Security Force Assistance Brigade teamed up with allies from throughout the Caribbean as part of U.S. Southern Command's exercise Tradewinds to bolster Caribbean defense capacity and strengthen regional ties. For the Soldiers of the FLARNG 54th SFAB, this marked their first overseas unit mobilization in the unit's history.
Designed to train, advise and enable partner nation forces, the SFAB's existence is a recent phenomenon spurred from the growing need for highly skilled and specialized Soldiers to help build skills in regional security and humanitarian aid.
"We're seeing these SFABs filling a vital role and mission for the U.S. Army," said Lt. Col. Jerry Glass, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 54th SFAB. "In recent years there has been a need for Soldiers to assist our partner nations on many different levels in the form of teaching, assisting and coaching and the SFAB fills that role."
In its 35th year, Exercise Tradewinds 2019 is designed to build partner-nation defense capacity while focusing on increasing regional cooperation in complex multinational security operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.
"This exercise is amazing, we share our different ways to do the same things so we can improve," said Mexican Marine 1st Lt. Ivan Llerandi, Mexican Naval Academy instructor. "We can learn a little from (partner nations) and they can learn a little from us."
The SFAB, composed of Soldiers specializing in medical treatment, infantry tactics and other military occupations, trained the past eight months for these types of combat advisor missions. Soldiers participating in the operation underwent rigorous training geared toward tactics, practical instruction and cultural bridging.
"I like teaching, I have a good time sharing my knowledge and I have a great team," said Staff Sgt. David J. Winhoven, senior operations advisor, 3rd Battalion, 54th SFAB. "I work with like-minded people who are eager to do a good job and work together to train others."
For Soldiers of the SFAB, the opportunity to work with foreign militaries served a dual purpose of building partner nation capacity while also providing a chance to augment their training with real-world experience.
"It was a win-win for the SFAB, Southern Command and partner nations," said Glass. "Working hand-in-hand with coalition nations during Tradewinds has not only prepared our partners but has helped prepare us as we train for future advising missions around the world."