Sgt. Heather Brewer
BELMOPAN, BELIZE — Marines from the recently organized Security Cooperation Marine Air-Ground Task Force, which is currently deployed to the U.S. Southern Command area of focus, arrived in Belize, Nov. 23. While there, they will work as part of Southern Partnership Station-Amphib 2009. Participating in the Theater Security Cooperation event are Marines and Sailors from Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines; 8th Communication Battalion; engineers from 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force Headquarters Group; and a fly-in Dental Echelon from Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, N.C.
The detachment has a myriad of projects they are involved with in Belize, according to Capt. Jason R. Dempsey, the Belize detachment officer-in-charge.
"The ground combat element has been conducting military-to-military training with the Belize Defense Force. Their cross training with the BDF included basic and urban patrolling, setting up entry and exit control points, heavy weapons implementation, combat lifesaving training, and basic hand-to-hand tactics through the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program," said Dempsey. "The logistics combat element was able to provide an assortment of humanitarian projects for the Garden City Primary School. They were able to repaint all seven buildings of the school and pour three sidewalks and a lunch pad.
Additionally, they installed ceiling fans, which had been donated before the Marines' arrival. The detachment also has Navy dental personnel who are providing oral care for the children of the school plus their parents if they want."
With any luck, the effects of the work being done for the community by the Marines and Sailors will be long lasting.
"As a native of Belize, I feel that our work has great benefits to the people here because half the time, proper dental care gets put on the back burner due to costs," said Petty Officer 3rd Class Carlston Daniels, a hospital corpsman with 2nd Dental Battalion. "Hopefully, this will make a positive impression on the people of Belize."
Maj. Gen. Cornell A. Wilson, Jr., commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces South, echoed Daniels' hopes during a visit to the work sites in Belize.
"Having a presence here means that the people of Belize have an opportunity to interact with U.S. Marines on a personal level. When we provide them with the things they need, it builds a positive image for us," said Wilson. "The military-to-military training events we are participating in also have a significant impact on our relationship with Belizeans because it shows that we are truly partners. When we have the chance to share our similar experiences, it shows them that we are not that different from them."
"I am delighted that we can share military training with the BDF and provide humanitarian assistance. This is a very exciting time for both of our countries - we can learn a lot from one another," he added.
In addition to the training the GCE Marines are providing to the BDF, they are receiving training from them as well.
"The guys from the BDF are doing great and picking up the techniques we are teaching them very well," said Cpl. Travis Zimmerman, a team leader with Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines. "They are going to be doing jungle warfare classes for us to teach us about their army and how they do things. We haven't really had a lot of chances to learn about jungle warfare, so we are looking forward to it."
Even with the heavy schedule and amount of physical labor, the Marines and Sailors have performed admirably, according to Dempsey.
"The detachment has done an incredible job of representing the U.S. through the variety of operations being conducted here," he said. "The detachment was able to build long lasting relationships with the BDF and the people of Belmopan. Those relationships will last long after we depart."
The SCMAGTF is working under the direction of Mayport-based Destroyer Squadron 40 embarked aboard USS Wasp during a three-month deployment to build interoperability and cooperation between U.S. and partner nation naval forces through a variety of exercises as part of Southern Partnership Station-Amphib 2009.