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Colombian, US troops conduct week-long joint, humanitarian assistance training

01 October 2019
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US Marines participate in the 21 June SPMAGTF-SC opening ceremony at Soto Cano Air Base outside of Comayagua, Honduras. Members of the task force are now in Colombia for a week of humanitarian assistance training. Source: IHS Markit/Ashley Roque

US military forces have deployed to Colombia for a week of humanitarian assistance training that is being billed as a step towards establishing a Combined Task Force (CTF) in the region.

Between 30 September and 5 October, members of a US Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force-Southern Command (SPMAGTF-SC) are at Base de Entrenamiento de Infantería de Marina in Coveñas, Colombia, for humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR) rehearsals and "subject matter expert exchanges", the US Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) recently announced.

"The evolution is designed to train each navy and marine corps to conduct civil and joint operations through the execution of humanitarian assistance, communications, and air operations in order to increase interoperability and capability between participating civil, naval and marine forces," USSOUTHCOM wrote in a 25 September announcement.

"They will help validate interoperability amongst the two countries' marine corps and ultimately the development of a standing CTF postured to respond to HA/DR events throughout the region," it continued.

Over the past five hurricane seasons, from June through November, the Pentagon has deployed a SPMAGTF-SC to Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. There, nearly 300 marines and sailors train local forces and help with potential disaster relief efforts. Although they are mainly tasked with providing crisis response support - including support in 2018 when the Fuego volcano erupted outside of Guatemala's capital - they also participate in an array of military-to-military training events and work on engineering projects, such as building school additions in local communities.

Additionally, the SPMAGTF-SC works alongside military personal from around South America in a bid to strengthen these partnerships and build a formal multinational maritime task force in the region.

"We hope in the future we [will] have more Colombian marines joined with the SPMAGTF[-SC] to work together with the engineers, work together with the mobile training team.

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