Tradewinds Exer­cise Begins in Bahamas

By Marine Corps Staff Sgt. A.C. Mink
Spe­cial to Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice

More than 400 U.S. ser­vice­mem­bers, as well as secu­ri­ty forces and offi­cials from the Caribbean nation and British Roy­al Marines, were on hand here yes­ter­day for the open­ing cer­e­monies of the 25th annu­al Tradewinds exer­cise.

“This exer­cise is yet anoth­er demon­stra­tion of the U.S. government’s com­mit­ment to the peace and secu­ri­ty of the Bahamas, the Caribbean region and the West­ern Hemi­sphere through a con­tin­u­ous pro­gram of coop­er­a­tion among all part­ner nations,” Tim­o­thy Zuni­ga-Brown, charge d’af­faires at the U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas, said in his open­ing remarks.

Tradewinds is a chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-direct­ed, U.S. South­ern Com­mand-spon­sored annu­al exer­cise designed to improve coop­er­a­tion and inter­op­er­abil­i­ty of part­ner nations in respond­ing to region­al secu­ri­ty threats.

“The Tradewinds exer­cise, now in its 25th year, has estab­lished itself as an essen­tial and dynam­ic col­lab­o­ra­tive frame­work for improv­ing coop­er­a­tion and inter­op­er­abil­i­ty among par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries to con­front head-on [the] grave secu­ri­ty chal­lenges in the Caribbean region,” Bahamas Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Min­is­ter O.A. “Tom­my” Turn­quest said.

Turn­quest thanked the U.S. gov­ern­ment and South­com for their sup­port through the Tradewinds exer­cise series and the Endur­ing Friend­ship pro­gram, through which the nation received four inter­cep­tor ves­sels to help its own secu­ri­ty efforts.

The pro­gram pro­vides high-speed inter­cep­tor boats with exten­sive com­mu­ni­ca­tion and sur­veil­lance suites, as well as a com­mand, con­trol and com­mu­ni­ca­tion pack­age that links U.S. Joint Inter­a­gency Task Force South with part­ner nations’ oper­a­tions cen­ters to track and coor­di­nate seizure of illic­it mar­itime traf­fic.

“The focus of this year’s activ­i­ties on mar­itime inter­dic­tion is crit­i­cal and time­ly, and is in line with our deter­mi­na­tion that every effort should be made to pre­vent a sig­nif­i­cant upsurge in drug traf­fick­ing in the Caribbean region,” Turn­quest said.

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Trent Black­son of Marine Corps Forces South, the exer­cise direc­tor, empha­sized the effect of the coop­er­a­tive effort.

“Exer­cise Tradewinds 2009 pro­vides an excel­lent oppor­tu­ni­ty for our forces to train togeth­er to counter the illic­it traf­fick­ing threat,” he said. “We have brought togeth­er a team of experts with wide-rang­ing skill sets to improve our col­lec­tive capa­bil­i­ty across the Caribbean Basin to stop the flow of ille­gal nar­cotics, weapons, explo­sives, ter­ror­ists and human traf­fick­ing.”

Giv­en those issues affect­ing mar­itime traf­fic, as well as the area’s vul­ner­a­bil­i­ty to nat­ur­al dis­as­ters such as hur­ri­canes, Turn­quest said he is “pleased with the focus on search-and-res­cue oper­a­tions, with empha­sis on com­mand and con­trol,” and that he’s “con­vinced the train­ing will pro­vide invalu­able exper­tise and expe­ri­ence for all par­tic­i­pants.”

Nations par­tic­i­pat­ing in Tradewinds 2009 include Bahamas, Bar­ba­dos, Belize, Domini­ca, Domini­can Repub­lic, Grena­da, Guyana, Haiti, Hon­duras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, St. Kitts-Neves, St. Lucia, St. Vin­cent and Grenadines, Suri­name, Trinidad-Toba­go, the Unit­ed King­dom and the Unit­ed States.

In addi­tion to ser­vice­mem­bers from the Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Army, Navy, Air Force and the Nation­al Guard, U.S. par­tic­i­pa­tion includes mem­bers of Joint Inter­a­gency Task Force South, Naval Crim­i­nal Inves­tiga­tive Ser­vice and the Drug Enforce­ment Admin­is­tra­tion.

Part­ner nations’ mar­itime secu­ri­ty forces, Roy­al Marine com­man­dos and per­son­nel from the Caribbean Region­al Secu­ri­ty Sys­tem also will par­tic­i­pate.

(Marine Corps Staff Sgt. A.C. Mink is deployed to Tradewinds 2009 from Marine Corps Air Sta­tion New Riv­er, N.C.)

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)