PRICE BARRACKS, Belize - Kentucky National Guard Soldiers traveled out of the country to support Operation Tradewinds 22 in Belize Apr. 29-May 25.
Almost 40 Soldiers from Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment (HHD), 75th Troop Command, including six support Soldiers from other units, set up brigade-level operations to support 1,802 service members from 22 partner nations at the British Army Training Support Unit Belize at Price Barracks.
Almost 650 of the service members were from the United States, while the rest were from partner Caribbean nations such as Belize, Barbados, Jamaica, Mexico and Saint Lucia. Canada, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom also participated.
Tradewinds 2022 is a multinational exercise to expand the Caribbean region’s capability to mitigate, plan for and respond to crises and increase regional training capacity and interoperability. Other priorities included developing and refining standard operating procedures; enhancing the ability to defend exclusive economic zones; promoting human rights and adherence to shared international norms and values; fully integrating women into defense, peace and security missions; and increasing maritime domain awareness to deter illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities.
U.S. Southern Command sponsors the exercise and invites all participants through the approval of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Tradewinds has been held annually since 1984. It is conducted with partner nations to enhance the collective ability of their defense forces and constabularies to counter transnational organized crime and conduct humanitarian/disaster relief operations while strengthening relationships and reinforcing human rights awareness.
Training across partner nations included forensic diving training, coast guard operations, public order training, women in peace and security orientation, jungle operations training and infantry tactics.
Belize and Mexico co-hosted Tradewinds this year.
Belize is a valued and trusted nation with SOUTHCOM and Mexico is a partner with U.S. Northern Command. Since they share borders and interests in regional security, they both asked to host this year.
That meant that Soldiers of the 75th Troop Command had to support operations in two countries during one exercise. To do this, they began coordinating almost a year in advance.
“The Tradewinds exercise itself is really the culmination of more than a year of planning, coordination and reconnaissance by the 75th Troop Command staff, along with our joint, interagency and multinational partners,” said Col. Timothy Starke, brigade commander of the 75th Troop Command.
The Kentucky National Guard was not the only part-time force in Belize. Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Washington, D.C., all sent Guardsmen to the exercise.
Also included were the 348th Field Hospital, a U.S. Army Reserves medical unit, and active-duty special forces.
This is the second time the brigade has supported Tradewinds; the unit traveled to Guyana in 2021.
“Engaging in overseas deployment training is a great way for Kentucky National Guard units and Soldiers to have a strategic impact by contributing to security cooperation with our partner nations,” said Starke. “In the case of Tradewinds, men and women from the Kentucky Guard played direct roles in building trust, ensuring interoperability and increasing the capabilities of all participating nations, strengthening regional security in the SOUTHCOM area of responsibility.
“Over the last two years, the Soldiers of HHD, 75th Troop Command, have had incredible opportunities to train in and experience the people of Guyana and Belize, and for many of them, the experience was life-changing. They have ventured far outside of their comfort zones to execute complex missions alongside diverse teammates from different components, services, agencies and nations. And as anyone from SOUTHCOM will tell you, their performance has been truly exceptional.”
Through this experience, Soldiers of the 75th worked alongside several of the partner nations.
They worked closely with the Belize Defence Forces (BDF), who helped with communications across the training sites.
“I love to hear the stories of the Soldiers in the BDF of what they do, and how they joined,” said Staff Sgt. Jeff Page. “They next want to hear my story of how and why I joined. Then they ask how their kids can join the American service. What are the requirements, who do they talk to? They want a better life for their kids than they had.”
Spc. Nathaniel Sims also worked with the BDF in Belmopan, Belize, tracking personnel, monitoring radios, resupplying water and MREs, and tracking anyone receiving medical attention.
“It gives me a sense of purpose, knowing, doing, and executing the mission and having a learning experience afterwards,” said Sims.