As the Royal Navy looks to scale down its Caribbean presence, the United States looks set to fill the void and is despatching nearly 500 military personnel, including a team from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for the “Tradewinds maritime interdiction exercise” slated for Antigua and Barbuda next month.
Tradewinds 2011 is a two-week “robust training cycle” that will involve the United States and 21 nations of the Caribbean, Central and South America.
At a Press conference, Major General John Croley, Commander of the US Marine Corps Forces South, who is leading the March 2-19 exercise, said the Caribbean would have nearly 600 personnel.
Barbados is expected to send 37 participants, comprising 12 military, 15 maritime and ten law enforcement.
The Americans will deploy the Coast Guard cutter Diligence, a 210-ft vessel, in the Antiguan waters.
Croley said the FBI unit would share techniques on topics ranging from crime scene investigation to gang-related activity.
“It is not only a collaboration but a synchronisation of our training. It’s a real challenge when you have so many nations together with the varying levels of skill sets, so you have to bring all of that together,” he said.
Croley said the US Southern Command had a very strong commitment to working with partner nations in the Caribbean.
“We will continue to do that. All nations over the last five to six years have been stressed by a level of economic investment in their security forces but we are here and will continue to look for innovative ways towards working with each other and [ensuring] the security of our collaborative force,” he said.
Flanked by Chargé d’Affaires, Dr Brent Hardt, Croley said the first week would focus on land training that will deal with marksmanship, martial arts, boat handling skills and communication operations.
In the second week, the focus exercise will lead up a maritime interdiction endgame.
Hardt said the focus of the United States was to build capacity within the region as the most effective way to enhance security and make sure that the various islands were capable of responding to any threat.
He said he would love to see more of an American presence in the region. “We are talking with our forces about how we can do that. I know that the Coast Guard (Caribbean) has been challenged in recent years because of some developmental issues . . . the number of Coast Guard vessels we have had in the region is not what we have anticipated but we will continue to look at the threats in the region and try to deploy our forces in a way that makes sense and complements what countries in the region are doing,” Hardt said.