MAY 17, 2017, CAMP LEJEUNE, North Carolina – Marine security cooperation training teams with the Ground Combat Element, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Southern Command, completed their final evaluation for the Marine Advisor Course during General Exercise 2 at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, May 1-4.
The Marines and sailors will deploy next month to Belize, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to conduct security cooperation training with foreign security forces in the region.
The final evaluation, which was supervised by instructors from the Marine Corps Security Cooperation Group, assessed each team’s ability to instruct role players in a variety of military training events including basic marksmanship, the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program, first aid, urban combat and patrolling techniques.
“We have two evaluators per team who are seeing if they hit each one of these events in a satisfactory manner,” said Capt. Darby O. Mee, a regional desk officer with Southern Command Coordination, Liaison, and Assessment Team, MCSCG. “We are looking for things like how they engage in the native language or how they overcome a lack of great interpreter resources.”
The 29-day course is designed to challenge the Marines and sailors to teach, coach and advise foreign security forces while maintaining cultural awareness of the region they will be working in.
“They have to understand the culture of the area they are going into and also the culture of their military,” Mee said. “It’s not just how well they can teach marksmanship, but also how well they can relate that to their specific audience.”
The MCSCG instructors injected a sense of realism throughout the training by using Spanish-speaking role players familiar with the military and the countries the Marines will be working in.
“We have excellent role players,” said Staff Sgt. Nicholas D. Deleeuw, the staff noncommissioned officer in charge with the Guatemala Detachment, Security Cooperation Training Team, SPMAGTF-SC. “They’ve all had training and I think it is pretty accurate to what we will see when we get to Guatemala.”
Interacting with the role players has also made the Marines aware they are going to learn as much from their partner nation counterparts as they will teach them.
“We’re looking forward to working with them and teach them our tactics,” Deleeuw said. “I think we’ll get just as much out of it from them as well.”
The training serves as a rehearsal to prepare the Marines for their deployment, and is a reality check for some.
“This training has definitely opened our eyes to how we can improve,” Deleeuw said. “We don’t have a native Spanish speaker on our team, so this has been great for realizing where we are with our Spanish and how to overcome that. We will be instructing individuals who have a basic understanding of the knowledge, but not being able to explain the more intricate techniques can be frustrating.”
To further prepare them, the instructors threw the Marines into training scenarios they might see during the deployment.
“Every scenario the team will see during this rehearsal is a scenario that a team has seen down range,” said Lt. Col. John F. Vazquez, officer in charge with the Coordination, Liaison, and Assessment Training Section for Northern and Southern Command, MCSCG. “For example, not all of the Marines for the partner nations will speak Spanish. They may speak a different native language because of the region they are in.”
Despite the difficulty of the training, the Marines surmounted each obstacle in order to be certified by MCSCG to deploy.
“The Marines who make up the majority of the SPMAGTF are Reserve Marines,” Vazquez said. “The caliber of the Reserve Marines who come to work and do this stuff is pretty incredible. They really embrace the mission and are genuinely excited to execute the mission. They’ll make lasting friendships with our partner nations in Central America.”
By Sgt. Ian Leones, II Marine Expeditionary Force