Tradewinds 2014: A joint training effort
Posted by LTJG Katie Braynard, Tuesday, June 17, 2014
Written by Sgt. Chelsea Barber
The island of Antigua was abuzz with activity during a typically slow off-season. For six days beginning in early June, more than 100 members from the U.S. military, Royal Canadian Navy and military units from 11 Caribbean nations commuted daily across the island to conduct maritime training during the first phase of Tradewinds 2014.
Tradewinds is a joint and combined exercise designed to enhance the military and law enforcement capabilities of Caribbean partner nations in maritime security and disaster response training. The exercise provided five maritime training tracks and daily instruction took place at three Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force military installations on the island.
Instructors with the U.S. Coast Guard and Royal Canadian Navy conducted the training that included search diving methods, small boat handling skills, engineering, military law enforcement and operations center protocols. Participants from Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago to attend.
“The United States is one of many equal partners in the Caribbean, and United States Southern Command is interested as much in human rights, developing deep and lasting partnerships across a large range of issues, diplomacy, economic development and environmental matters as it is in military topics,” said U.S. Marine Gen. John F. Kelly, commander of U.S. Southern Command, the executive planning agency for the exercise. “Like the other nations participating in Tradewinds, we place a very high value on this training and the understanding and cooperation it fosters.”
Divers with the Royal Canadian Navy Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, worked with partner nations’ divers to assist in standardizing search procedures and techniques. Instructors initially determined diving abilities of each participant, as their experience levels ranged from one or two recent dives to more than 20 years of diving experience. Ultimately they focused on underwater large vessel search techniques to assist divers in locating limpet mines, a type of naval mine usually detonated with a fuse.
Leading Seaman Richard Nicholson, a diver with the Jamaican Defence Force, said that while they focused on detecting limpet mines, the search procedures can also assist him with locating illicit narcotics on vessels passing through Jamaican waters.
“We normally face threats like marijuana being bolted onto the keel of the vessel,” Nicholson said. “Even though this [search technique] specializes in the search of limpet mines, it works fine with whichever application and all situations.”
Nicholson trains divers and said even the instruction methods the Royal Canadian Navy divers used are something he can apply back home. He appreciated the opportunity to share knowledge and work with the U.S. and Canadian service members to enhance his skills.
“When I heard that I was going to be part of this exercise, I really looked forward to it as I’ve worked before with the United States Coast Guard and Navy,” said Nicholson. “I trained for four months at the [Naval Surface Warfare Center] in Panama City, Florida and it was a wonderful experience. Every time I get the opportunity to train with [the United States] I look forward to it and relish it.”
While divers improved upon search techniques, U.S. Coast Guardsmen worked with partner nations’ small boat coxswains to train on boat handling. U.S. Army Vessel New Orleans transported two Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement boats from Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines for use at Tradewinds. The Antigua and Barbuda Defense Force Coast Guard, St. Kitts and Nevis and Dominica also provided boats for training purposes.
Other training focused on pursuit techniques the partner nation participants can use when they suspect drug smugglers or human traffickers in their waters. The class started similarly to the diving track where the instructors work to get a feel for the abilities of the team they’re assigned to.
“You can tell pretty quickly where a student is as far as craft and skills go,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Justin Boes, a pursuit and tactical instructor at Coast Guard Station Key West, Florida. “We’ve told them, ‘Run your boat the way you would back home, but just tell me how you do it before you do it.’”
According to Boes, in past Tradewinds’ exercises, U.S. service members were more adamant about the partner nations adopting their procedures, but this year they altered teaching methods providing a more collaborative learning environment, providing examples of U.S. techniques and allowing the participants to take away from the training tactics that would work best for them back home.
“We’re not here to teach U.S. law or even U.S. practices; we’re here to give [them] what works for us,” Boes said.
The third maritime training track provided an overview of maritime law enforcement also taught by the U.S. Coast Guard. This training provided information on conducting safety sweeps, first aid, identifying improvised explosive devices and deterring drug smuggling by calculating volumetric displacement.
Midshipman Danielle Morley, a logistics officer with the Royal Bahamas Defence Force, participated in the this training during her time at Tradewinds. Since she works directly in a field pertaining to maritime law, she found the training to be completely relevant to her field.
“I really only did a maritime law workshop in my country and have done the basic midshipman boarding procedure course, so it’s just the bare minimum,” Morley said. “So this is the next step towards becoming the best.”
While the skill training is a valuable piece of what Tradewinds has to offer, at the end of each training day participants had opportunities to spend their free time together. They shared stories, laughs and forged new international friendships that would be difficult to recreate in another environment.
“I’ll tell you what,” said Leading Seaman Nicholson. “United States of America and Canada and the partnership with the Caribbean territories, it doesn’t get better than that.”