MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Leaders from U.S. Marine Corps Forces-South, and the Belize Defence Force visited II Marine Expeditionary Force and the School of Infantry–East as part of a three-day visit to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Oct. 20-22.
The purpose of the visit was to assess the capabilities of U.S. forces, discern opportunities for Belize forces to train alongside Marines, and sustain enduring partnerships between the two countries in their efforts to counter transnational organized crime.
“The training we’re doing with the Belize Defence Force right now is we have a security cooperation team of 25 Marines who are currently living in Belize,” said Brig. Gen. Eric M. Smith, the commander of MARFORSOUTH. “Our Marines are training a BDF company of troops in subjects such as land navigation and marksmanship skills.”
MARFORSOUTH recently deployed Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force –Southern Command, based out of Honduras, in June. SPMAGTF-SC is tasked with conducting security cooperation, providing training and support to partner nations for Countering Transnational Organized Crime and providing limited humanitarian assistance and disaster relief during the Atlantic hurricane season.
“Countering transnational organized crime is our effort to prevent bad people, bad things, from flowing up into our southern borders,” Smith said. “Belize has chosen to step up the fight on counter-drugs and CTOC and we’re willing to help them do that. It all plays into protecting the homeland.”
The BDF, led by Brig. Gen. David Jones, took initiative with CTOC this year through their planning and hosting of Exercise Tradewinds 2015, which was a pivoting point in the relationship between MARFORSOUTH and the BDF.
Over 400 participants took part in the field training exercise from Belize, MARFORSOUTH, Canada and 17 partner nations within the Caribbean. The objective was to enhance CTOC capabilities through partnership and promote interoperability among the nations. The event included training in jungle warfare and riverine skills, two areas of expertise and proficiency for the BDF.
“The strongest partnership we have in the fight against drugs and narcotics is with U.S. forces,” Jones said. “We want to play a larger role, and for us to do that, I need to better understand what our partners can provide and what we can bring to the table.”
Jones said the primary purpose of his visit was to gain a better understanding of the Marine Corps’ capabilities and how Belize’s unique training capabilities could benefit allied U.S. forces, enabling Belize to take on a bigger role within the Caribbean community.
“This isn’t us supporting Belize,” Smith said. “This is us supporting each other. So if we send Marines to learn about Riverine, or to train at the jungle training school in Belize, we’re going to get something out of that. Our Marines gain just as much as they give, so we’re hoping this is a true symbiotic relationship with the country of Belize.”