Approximately 20 U.S. Marines with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command arrived to Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, July 31, 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the deployment to the region until now, allowing for a forward deployed team to integrate with Joint Task Force – Bravo of U.S. Southern Command, or JTF-Bravo.
“Marines are deploying to meet specific U.S. SOUTHCOM’s tasks outlined in the campaign plan order in the area of responsibility,” said Col. Vincent Dawson, the commanding officer of SPMAGTF-SC. “The SPMAGTF-SC is prepared for the unpredictability of COVID-19, new health policies and the restrictions during the deployment. We are honored to assist.”
Even with the challenges of the pandemic, the elements of the task force continued their training schedule and ensured that the lives and safety of the service members remained a priority.
“We are always ready and prepared to respond to a crisis in the area of responsibility when called forward,”Col. Vincent Dawson, SPMAGTF-SC commanding officer
“We have an enduring promise and are committed to support the efforts of partner nations in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean,” said Maj. Don Newberry, the executive officer of SPMAGTF-SC. “Despite the challenges associated with the pandemic, we continue to uphold our shared values and responsibility to increase partner nation’s institutional capacity in the region.”
The SPMAGTF-SC sent a forward liaison team of U.S. Marines to ensure there is a smooth transition onto Soto Cano Air Base, said Maj. Blake Hudgins, operations officer of SPMAGTF-SC.
The forward deployed team conducted various tasks, but the most important was establishing a continued partnership with JTF-Bravo.
“The Marines will be integrating with JTF-Bravo in order to augment the efforts in providing humanitarian assistance to partner nations as requested,” said Hudgins.
The pandemic has taken away many humanitarian support capabilities in the area of responsibility due to the ongoing travel restrictions. The SPMAGTF-SC civil affairs team will assist in filling the gap and ensure they provide the support with our partner nation’s COVID-19 response, said Newberry.
The task force’s main priorities will be to integrate with U.S. SOUTHCOM components, continue to strengthen relationships, and to provide logistics and communication support for the necessary follow-on missions, said Hudgins.
“The SPMAGTF-SC will be preparing to execute training exercises, if and when the countries begin to ease restrictions,” said Dawson. “We want to be prepared to get to work in our lines of effort.”
The SPMAGTF-SC Marines completed a 14-day restriction of movement, isolating themselves to ensure they do not contract the virus, as well as conducting another 14 days upon arrival in country. This is to ensure the task force is taking the appropriate mitigation measures to deploy a COVID-19-clean team into the area of responsibility. The safety of our service members and partners will remain a priority.
The remaining service members of the SPMAGTF-SC will continue to train and prepare for the unexpected on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The task force is on standby to rapidly respond and assist partner nations with a crisis response deployment throughout the Latin American and Caribbean region.
“We are always ready and prepared to respond to a crisis in the area of responsibility when called forward,” said Dawson.