Photo Information

Several Caribbean soldiers and police officers demonstrate room clearing tactics they learned from the FBI during a distinguished visitor visit March 18. The FBI had conducted the room clearing training as part of exercise Tradewinds 2011.

Photo by Cpl. Tyler J. Hlavac

Exercise Tradewinds 2011 Comes to a Close

24 Mar 2011 | 2nd Lt. Dominic Pitrone

This year marked the 27th annual iteration of exercise Tradewinds.

Tradewinds 2011was a joint-combined, interagency exercise which involved U.S. personnel from the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force, National Guard, Joint-interagency Task Force-South, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and forces from: Antigua-Barbuda (host nation), Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Colombia, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.

The U.S. plans and participates in similar exercises across the world. The exercises are organized as a part of a larger theater security cooperation strategy intended to further U.S. national security goals while improving security and cooperation amongst nations in specific geographic regions.

Tradewinds is conducted in the Caribbean region and focuses on countering drug, arms and human trafficking.

The shared concern over illicit trafficking was echoed by many of the participating nations as they face the same issues at differing levels of intensity.

“For many years Panama has been facing a heavy drug trafficking problem,” said Alejandro Garuz, the Vice Minister of Public Security in Panama. “Because of our geographic location we are the first front that receives all the drugs from South America.”

Panama’s challenge directly affects the counter trafficking efforts of each of the countries in the region.

“To our south there are four drug producing nations and drug traffickers are obligated to use our coast in order to go up whether it be to central America or the Caribbean,” said Garuz. “It is not easy to fight drug traffickers. They have all of the money and technology they need at their disposal.”

Not all the countries in the region are equally prepared to face illicit trafficking, but necessity often results in innovation.

“Over 27 years of Tradewinds, we really like the progress we’ve made to an interagency, joint and combined type training venue providing law enforcement, maritime and ground training,” said Maj. Gen. John M. Croley, commander, Marine Forces South. “This supports most directly the mission of the defense forces we are supporting in the Caribbean.”

In a region like the Caribbean, where organized, resourceful and lucrative drug traffickers challenge security, law enforcement and military forces are learning to integrate and support each other. With multiple military services and law enforcement agencies participating, this concept is clearly seen in the Tradewinds training package.

“We clearly don’t have the resources in terms of human resource and depend solely on the police for issues of law and order,” said Dr. L. Errol Cort, the Minister of National Security and Labor in Antigua and Barbuda. “So we are utilizing our military not in the usual form of military exercise, but seeking to use the military to give that extra support to law enforcement as we carry out drug interdiction.“

This year many of the U.S. personnel involved in the training were from organizations that specialize in law enforcement on the land and sea. Members of the Coast Guard, Marine Corps and agents from the FBI and NCIS all facilitated the integrated training. The training covered such topics as close quarters combat, non-lethal weapons training, room clearing, vehicle searches, hazardous material training, martial arts training and intelligence gathering.

For the past 27 years, exercise Tradewinds has been bringing nations in the Caribbean together to share tactics, build relationships and discuss regional security challenges. Though the challenges may change from year to year, the intent will remain, according to Croley.

“The key things are regional cooperation and stability,” said Croley. “We want to ensure that our Caribbean partners have efficient security capabilities in this region.”