PRICE BARRACKS, Belize –
Kentucky National Guard Soldiers traveled out of the country to support Operation Tradewinds 22 in Belize between Aug. 29 through May 25, 2022.
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 servicemembers from 22 partner nations at the British Army Training Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) at Price Barracks.
Out of the 1,802 servicemembers, t 644 were from the United States while the rest were from partner Caribbean nations such as Belize, Barbados, Jamaica, Mexico, Saint Lucia and others. In addition, Canada, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom participated in the Caribbean event.
Tradewinds 2022 is a multinational exercise designed to expand the Caribbean region’s capability to mitigate, plan for and respond to crises; increase regional training capacity and interoperability; develop new and refine existing standard operating procedures (SOPs); enhance ability to defend exclusive economic zones (EEZ); and promote human rights and adherence to shared international norms and values; fully integrate women into defense, peace and security missions; and increase maritime domain awareness to deter illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities.
U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) sponsors the exercise and invites all participates through approval of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Tradewinds has been held annually since 1984 and is conducted in conjunction 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.
Usually held in only one country, Tradewinds 22 was a little unique due to COVID.
This year, Tradewinds was hosted by two nations; Belize and Mexico co-hosted the event.
Belize is a valued and trusted nation with SOUTHCOM but Mexico is a partner with U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM). Since they share borders and interests in regional security, they both requested to host this year.
For Soldiers of the 75th Troop Command, that meant they had to support operations in two countries during one exercise.
To do this task, they had to start 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.
“Our staff officers and NCOs spent countless hours, including numerous trips overseas, meticulously planning every administrative and logistical detail to ensure that the exercise would be successful.”
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; however, all of them fully relied on the 75th for housing, transportation, cyber, meals, fuel and arms-room support.
Also included were the 348th Field Hospital, a U.S. Army Reserves medical unit, and an assorted group of active-duty special forces units.
Each of these units synced with the 75th Troop Command to give an accurate count of personnel and their locations so that they could give SOUTHCOM an accurate picture of the exercise.
This is the second time that the brigade has supported Tradewinds; the unit traveled to Guyana in 2021.
These exercises build up the 75th Troop Command to be a brigade that can be flexible and build skills of their Soldiers.
“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.
Starke added, “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 all the various training sites.
Staff Sgt. Jeff Page, a maintenance NCO with 75th Troop Command, shares his experience working with the BDF.
“I love to hear the stories of the soldiers in the BDF of what they do, and how they joined,” said 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.”
By participating in this exercise, the partner nations get to learn better tactics and procedures to make their countries a better place for their families.
Spc. Nathaniel Sims also worked together with the BDF in Belmopan, Belize. This was his second year participating in Tradewinds.
Alongside two BDF members, Sims worked in the Tactical Action Center to track personnel training at Belmopan, 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.
Now that the 75th Troop Command is back home, they will head back to their units and civilian careers and take with them the training and experience they received during Tradewinds 22.
“As those Soldiers move on to other units across the state and return to their civilian occupations,” said Starke. “The Kentucky National Guard and the Commonwealth as a whole will benefit greatly from what they have learned and the missions they have accomplished.”