MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, NC -- Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Southern Command 17 have begun training aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, March 8, 2017, to prepare for their upcoming deployment to Central America.
The task force, comprised of approximately 300 Marines from both active and reserve components, will deploy to Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras this summer to build upon security cooperation efforts and established relationships in the region.
"The mission has to do with helping our allies and partners in Central America keep the peace within their borders,” said Col. Michael V. Samarov, commander of SPMAGTF-SC 17.
To accomplish the mission, the Marines will participate in shoulder-to-shoulder training with partner militaries, and conduct infrastructure improvement projects.
“The ground combat element is going to be the primary interface with the partner militaries,” Samarov said. “The secondary interface is the logistics combat element, who will develop relationships with governments and local communities through their improvement projects.”
The unit also has an expeditionary capability for crisis response or contingency operations in the area. Last year, SPMAGTF-SC 16 provided humanitarian assistance to Haiti in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew at the request of the Haitian government.
“Nobody hopes for a crisis response situation, but should it happen, the Marines will be the first on the ground,” Samarov said. “I can't be more grateful to the Marines and sailors who did this last year. They set a high standard for us.”
“We are going to take the lessons they learned to improve how we assemble the unit, how we prepare our equipment and how we train,” added Samarov.
With a force consisting primarily of reserve Marines who regularly train in different locations around the country, it is critical they learn to train as a team here at Camp Lejeune.
“We are from all across the United States and now we need to come together as one,” said Sgt. Daniel Grant, a mortarman with SPMAGTF-SC 17. “We need to make sure our tactics are the same so that when we are training foreign militaries we are all on the same page.”
To build the necessary technical cohesion, the Marines have begun conducting a variety of different training evolutions on Camp Lejeune, including rifle ranges, underwater egress and counter improvised explosive device training. Additionally, the Marines will also attend advanced schools designed to hone the skills they will need to accomplish the mission.
“Next month, we are going up to Fort Story, Va., to train with the Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group to learn how to be foreign advisors,” Grant said. “Then we will come back to Camp Lejeune and train as a whole SPMAGTF.”
The ultimate goal is to get every Marine or sailor in SPMAGTF-SC 17, whether active or reserve, to the same proficiency level.
“I want to train ourselves to the point where no one can tell the difference between the active and reserve Marines,” Samarov said. “This is an opportunity for us to show the entire Marine Corps that we have a tremendous amount of capability within the reserves.”