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Multinational Exercise to Test Interoperability in Caribbean

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 27, 2009 – An initiative aimed at boosting capacity among Central and South American security forces will get put to the test next week when 18 countries come together for a national security exercise in the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.

The United States and Great Britain will join 16 Caribbean countries during the 25th annual Tradewinds exercise that kicks off March 4 and runs through March 18.

Marine Corps Forces South will take the lead in the U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise focused on maritime interdiction and search-and-rescue operations with an emphasis on command and control.

Representatives of every military service, the Coast Guard, Joint Interagency Task Force South and the Drug Enforcement Agency will be among about 500 participants in Tradewinds 2009.

During the exercise, they’ll conduct boarding party operations training, evidence processing and hazardous material identification and handling during realistic scenarios in Nassau and the Dominican Republic, Marine Corps Staff Sgt. David Hercher of Marine Corps Forces South said.

As the participants rehearse critical skills, they’ll also help Southcom assess the effectiveness of its Enduring Friendship program. The program provides select partner nations with high-speed interceptor boats with extensive communication and surveillance capabilities, operation and maintenance training, and command and control systems, Southcom spokesman Jose Ruiz said.

By providing a common operating picture and improving maritime domain awareness and interoperability, the program builds or improves partner nations’ ability to detect and interdict illicit trafficking along their shores.

The Tradewinds exercise will offer one of the first opportunities for Enduring Friendship program participants to exercise the standardized equipment and training offered through the program, Ruiz said.

“The goals of Tradewinds 2009 are to better coordinate partner nations’ search-and-rescue and maritime interdiction operations, increase maritime domain awareness, and better coordinate end-game seizure of illicit-trafficking vessels that can be used to smuggle terrorists, weapons, explosives or narcotics,” said Marine Corps Maj. Landon Hutchens, exercise coordinator for U.S. Marine Corps Forces South.

“The U.S. and the Caribbean share common interests, and regional challenges require cooperative solutions,” Hutchens said. “Illicit trafficking is a threat faced by all nations in the region. We are all committed to building lasting partnerships that will enhance our ability to work effectively together.”

In addition to the United States and Great Britain, participants in the exercise are the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, St. Kitts-Neves, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad-Tobago.

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