News: Joint USCG, Army TAFT deploys to Tradewinds 2014
ST. JOHN'S, Antigua and Barbuda - At a time when narcotic trafficking crosses all borders and spans international waters, no country’s law enforcement can stop the flow of illegal drugs and weapons alone. In 2013, more than 16 percent of all narcotics smuggled into the United States were brought in through the Caribbean.
In 2009, to counter the illicit narcotics trade throughout the Caribbean, bolster relationships and assist countries in stopping organized crime, U.S. President Barack Obama made a regional security agreement with partner nations called the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). Part of this initiative was the Secure Seas program.
Through the CBSI, the United States purchases interceptor-type small boats, trailers and trucks for maritime law-enforcement elements of the CBSI partner nations, and provides hands-on training to the boat engineers and operators, and maintenance support to keep the vessels operational.
The Technical Assistance Field Team (TAFT), attached to U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, is taking part in Tradewinds 2014, May 30 – June 10 here, to further the intent of the CBSI to increase the island nations’ self-sufficiency in small boat operations and maintenance, said U.S. Coast Guard Cmdr. Brian Winburn, officer in charge of the TAFT.
“The purpose of TAFT is to support the Secure Seas program and establish processes for the procurement, operation, and maintenance of the assets given to the nations,” said Winburn.
During Tradewinds, Winburn and his team are teaching small-boat operators about maintenance and upkeep of the U.S. purchased 33-foot Special Purpose Craft-Law Enforcement boats operated by several nations participating in Tradewinds including St. Vincent and Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, and Grenada.
The 12 TAFT personnel, nine U.S. Coast Guard members and three U.S. Army Soldiers, recognize the longer term impact on a boat’s overall lifespan when partner nations are trained on how to use and maintain the equipment, not just purchase it, a process that can take up to six months for some countries.
“The procurement processes for a lot of the coast guards can take up to six months…just to buy a part—preventative maintenance is something they generally don’t spend money on,” said U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Shawn Durgin, a machinery technician on the TAFT. “Our job is to teach them to anticipate parts before they break.”
“We teach them to troubleshoot,” said Durgin. “A lot of times if a battery went dead, they would just replace it, instead of repairing an electrical fault. We want them to become less dependent on foreign aid and more dependent on themselves.”
By teaching the nations about their own boat’s maintenance schedules, the TAFT can continue to train the foreign crews how to keep them in good operational condition.
“The TAFT is about getting into a country and basically working ourselves out of a job,” said Winburn.
With the TAFT’s personnel and skillset, all participating nations will grow together into a powerful force of international interoperability to halt the flow of drugs through the Caribbean.