300 Marines, Sailors Complete Groundwork in Establishing Latin American Task ForceJanuary 15, 2019 | :
by Monica Levitan
A small group of Marines and sailors have recently returned from a six-month deployment in Central America that could be the groundwork of a new multinational task force focusing on everything from natural disaster to security responses.
Three-hundred Marines and sailors with the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Southern Command were deployed to Honduras from June 2018 to November 2018. While in Honduras, the task force trained troops on basic infantry skills and conducted engineering projects regarding water mains, school construction and medical clinics, according to the Military Times.
Although this was the fourth consecutive deployment of a task force of this type during hurricane season, it was the first year that they integrated foreign nation officers into the command staff.
Those officers include Colombian naval infantry officer Lt. Col. Erick H. Del Rio, who served as the deputy commander of the task force, and a senior adviser in the Chilean navy and a liaison officer from the Honduran navy.
Officials hope that this task force is the stepping stones in establishing a Multinational Maritime Task Force that would merge strength, resources and responsibilities for future missions in that area from Latin American partners with the U.S. Marines.
The long-term goal for the U.S. Southern Command is for a permanent partnership with components both in the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean sides of the region, Col. Michael Oppenheim told the Military Times.
Last year at a media panel, Adm. Kurt W. Tidd, former head of the U.S. Southern Command, told news reporters that key challenges for the region were power competition with Russian and Chinese counterparts who attempt to purchase influence from major projects. Terrorist fundraising and the ongoing Venezuelan refugee crisis are also of concern, Tidd noted.
The main units that the task force consisted of were Combat Logistics Regiment 45 (CLR – 45) (Reserve command element) and Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 461 (HMH – 461) (Active duty ACE). Other reservists came from 33 locations across the the task force.
The foreign units involved with the task force include U.S. Chile, Colombia and Honduras and conducted work in Honduras, El Salvador, Belize and Guatemala.