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News | June 26, 2020

U.S. Marine task force holds opening ceremony for crisis response deployment

By 1st Lt. Heather Chairez Marine Corps Forces South

U.S. Marines and Sailors with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command held an opening ceremony to officially kick off the start of their crisis response deployment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, June 26.

The ceremony marks the sixth consecutive year the SPMAGTF-SC will serve as the crisis response force assigned to U.S. Southern Command. The task force is prepared and postured to deploy to the Latin American and the Caribbean region to work alongside partner nation militaries, enhancing combined crisis response efforts.

The SPMAGTF-SC completed all pre-deployment training while implementing personnel safety and social distancing during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The task force ensured they kept their focus on maintaining mission readiness while complying with Department of Defense Force Health Protection Guidance to preserve the health of the task force.

"The United States will always come to the playing field ready to assist with stabilizing any problem negatively impacting our partner nations..." Maj. Blake Hudgins, SPMAGTF-SC operations officer

"Our relationships with our partner nations does not stop due to a pandemic," said Col. Vincent Dawson, the commanding officer of SPMAGTF-SC. “If anything, this is a time to strengthen those bonds, learn from each other and gain knowledge.”

The pre-deployment training included events such as a command post exercise, a general exercise, a final certification exercise and crisis action team scenarios to help better prepare the Marines and Sailors for missions they must be prepared to carry out while serving in Latin America and the Caribbean.

“We have worked through multiple training scenarios based around natural disasters occurring in the Latin American and Caribbean region that allowed our crisis action team to conduct rapid response planning process," said Maj. Blake Hudgins, the operations officer for SPMAGTF-SC. "All elements of the SPMAGTF-SC fully understand the resources we have and how to employ those resources.”

The task force has a history of providing humanitarian aid and disaster relief support to the region. This is the sixth consecutive year that SPMAGTF-SC has trained to deploy to U.S. Southern Command’s area of responsibility.

In 2016 following Hurricane Matthew, SPMAGTF-SC assisted in the delivery of more than 478,000 pounds of supplies during relief efforts in Haiti.

This is similar to the support shown in 2018, when assisting the government of Guatemala’s response to the Volcano de Fuego eruption by building more than 200 multi-family shelters and supporting facilities, which helped more than 4,000 people left without homes.

"The United States will always come to the playing field ready to assist with stabilizing any problem negatively impacting our partner nations,” said Hudgins. “There’s no doubt in my mind that our command is an asset and ready to respond to crisis, if necessary.”