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    Marines with the SPMAGTF-SC end successful deployment

    SOTO CANO AIR BASE, HONDURAS

    11.04.2015

    Story by Sgt. Andy Orozco 

    U.S. Marine Corps Forces, South

    The Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Southern Command is returning to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune after an approximately six-month deployment to Central America.

    Working alongside Honduran military and government officials, the SPMAGTF-SC Marines completed construction projects in the Gracias a Dios region of Honduras and built partner nation capacity by training with host nation military forces.

    The construction projects consisted of three new elementary schools in Puerto Lempira and an airfield that was renovated and improved in Mocoron, both in Gracias a Dios, Honduras, among other small projects.

    “Renovating the airfield will help out the country a lot because having the capability to land C-130’s here… means that they’ll be able to land more supplies, such as aid material in the event of a natural disaster,” said 1st Lt. Tyler Martin, engineer detachment officer-in-charge for the SPMAGTF-SC airfield project. “We’ll not only be able to get the supplies that they need in, but personnel as well.”

    In order to strengthen the airfield enough to handle more passes, the Marines in Mocoron worked for approximately three months widening, compacting, leveling and spraying Operational Ready Dirt, which is a polymer soil stabilization agent, to further strengthen the soil of the airfield.

    “We widened the airfield to make it within standards, leveled it out, so that all the high and low points are evened out, and strengthened the soil on the top 1,000 feet,” said Martin, an Alexandria, Virginia native. “We cut out the weak soil and replaced it with more adequate soil and compacted it. Then, we added the Ops Dirt on top, which acted just like concrete.”

    The schools were completed by a detachment of approximately 50 Marines led by 1st Lt. Erin Mick, an engineer platoon commander with the SPMAGTF-SC. The team was able to complete all three schools in little more than three months.

    “We basically built three new schools from the ground up, which allowed students to move into a better learning environment,” said Mick.

    Additionally, the engineers were able to purify and provide fresh water to vulnerable populations in some of the most isolated areas of Honduras.

    While construction was going on in Mocoron and Puerto Lempira, the SPMAGTF-SC sent four security cooperation teams to each one of the four host nations. These Marines worked side-by-side with partner nation militaries in training programs tailored to each nations’ needs, so they may be better prepared to counter-transnational organized crime and other regional threats.

    “The purpose of the security cooperation teams here is to gain access and keep that access so that we can … build partner capacity, make our partners better, stronger and more able to do their job and to advise train and assist them to be able to do that,” said Maj. Brandon Cooley, operations officer for the SPMAGTF-SC.

    In Belize, the team focused on conducting military-to-military engagements with the Belizean Defence Force and Belizean Coast Guard which included patrolling, infantry tactics, physical training, martial arts, combat lifesaving and joint planning efforts.

    “My initial reaction to Belize was first noticing how generous all the people were, they were extremely welcoming and they wanted any and everything to do with our military experience,” said Capt. Steven Dally, the officer-in-charge for the SPMAGTF-SC Security Cooperation Team in Belize.

    Dally went on to say that some of his best moments were training the host nation in weaponry they weren’t familiar with.

    “Some of the highlights have been the machine gun ranges because the partner nation very rarely has the opportunity to shoot the M249 SAW or the M240B, they are very inexperienced when it comes to that type of weaponry,” said Dally. Dally explained that some of the members of the BDF got to shoot at night and employ machinegun tactics.

    In Honduras, where the Security Cooperation Team recently held a final graduation ceremony, the team stressed the importance of establishing a training institution, so that the Honduran Brigada de Infanteria Marina could teach new Honduran service members everything they learned from the Marines during the deployment.

    “We’ve done [training] events, which included a machine-gunners course, as well as a combat pilots’ course,” said Capt. Juan Diaz, the officer in charge for the SPMAGTF-SC Security Cooperation Team in Honduras. The Honduran SCT has also helped the Hondurans establish a Honduran Martial Arts Program and a combat marksmanship course.
    Diaz explained that even though our militaries may operate differently, they still established an unexpected amount of camaraderie.

    “While here, we learned how unique this country operates with their military,” said Diaz. “Some of the biggest highlights have been the level of camaraderie we have built with our Honduran counter parts, which was a pleasant and unexpected accomplishment; getting your partner nation to be friends with you while maintaining a professional relationship has really been the highlight of our deployment.”

    In Guatemala, the team based their training priorities on improving their ability to conduct riverine and littoral operations. The BIM’s location allows access to the Caribbean Sea, which they were able to use in their training. The Marines are providing guidance and training the BIM can use to fulfill their mission.

    “Our Marines have been conducting basic infantry skills with new [Guatemalan] recruits,” said Capt. Timothy Sakahara, the officer-in-charge for the SPMAGTF-SC Security Cooperation Team in Guatemala. “After their recruits would graduate their boot camp, they would go through our course, which taught them patrolling, urban operations, weapons handling, marksmanship, basic medical training, and swimming.”

    In El Salvador, the focus of the SCT was patrol operations, military leadership, combat orders, and planning operations.

    “I’m very glad we’ve been able to use our skills to help improve theirs,” said Capt. Owen Trotman, the officer-in-charge for the SPMAGTF-SC Security Cooperation Team in El Salvador. “When you’re teaching another country how to conduct operations, at the same time you’re learning how they do things, so it’s been good to learn how what we do the same and what we do differently.”

    Lt. Col. David T. Hudak, the commanding officer of the SPMAGF-SC, explained that the mission of the SPMAGTF-SC was successful during its deployment in each of the operations throughout Central America.

    “The mission of the SPMAGTF-SC was to conduct theater security cooperation and we were successful in doing so through the four security cooperation teams and the training that they conducted throughout this deployment,” said Hudak. “Additionally, we had three humanitarian civil assistance projects, school construction projects, in the Gracias a Dios region of Honduras, as well as an airfield reconstruction mission in Mocoron which, in the long term, will benefit the country.”

    All Marines with the SPMAGTF-SC are slated to return to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina by mid-November.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 11.04.2015
    Date Posted: 11.05.2015 14:35
    Story ID: 181036
    Location: SOTO CANO AIR BASE, HN 

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