USAV Brandy Military Station was spotted off the coast of San Pedro on Tuesday, June 16th. The 53/10 meter special operation vessel entered Belizean waters on Saturday, June 13th (according to Port of Belize logs) on a special training mission. The USAV Brandy is part of the Exercise Tradewinds, a United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) sponsored training exercise held annually in the Caribbean. The vessel was seen at around 3:30PM attempting to pass the ‘Entrada San Pedro’ cut.
Exercise Tradewinds has two phases, Maritime and Land Operations. On board the vessel is a team of four officers and 36 other ranks from the Coast Guard, and three other ranks as supporting staff. The Maritime Phase took place in St. Kitts and Nevis from Saturday, May 30th to Thursday, June 9th. The Land Operations Phase are being held in Belize from Sunday, June 14th to Wednesday, June 24th. The aim of Exercise Tradewinds is to help Caribbean nations to be better able to counter land and maritime security threats such as human smuggling, and trafficking of illegal weapons and ammunition.
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Trade Winds 2015 – Diving the Caribbean Sea
Phase Two of the annual Trade Winds exercise is underway in Belize, as officers with various armed forces from across the region are taking part in a series of drills on land and at sea. This afternoon, off the coast of La Isla Bonita, a team of navy divers descended into the choppy waters beyond the reef. They dove for about fifteen minutes before resurfacing and returning to the island. Their mission was to carry out a specific objective to conduct what is called a half necklace search. Included in the operation were local coast guard divers. News Five’s Isani Cayetano joined the team today and has the following story.
Isani Cayetano, Reporting
As the Boston Whaler 370 heaves with undulating swells just outside the reef facing San Pedro, aft of the coast guard vessel a team of divers meticulously fits individual gear. Fins and tanks are well secured, goggles are also fastened. One by one, each frogman plunges into the cerulean depth of the Caribbean Sea. Their descent will take them down to about sixty feet. The composition of the group is varied and includes American, Canadian, Mexican and Belizean divers.
Charles Francisco, Coast Guard Diver
“We’re trying to achieve our work dives which is actually what we do, Vice-PADI which is a certification for maybe an open water or a recreational diver. What we do is work dives which is searching for whether it be bodies, whether it be a weapon thrown overboard or something like that.”
This training is part of the annual Trade Winds exercise which sees the participation of armed forces from across the region. Aboard the bobbing vessel, a dive master and another team of coast guard seamen are clocking the submersion. The maximum time underwater is fifteen minutes.
Lt. Joe Cormier, Fleet Dive Unit, Canadian Coast Guard
“Our concept of operation is basically to come here and we are basically teaching the partner nations to be a working diver. So basically we are teaching them the concept of team training and also from the concepts of dive physiology to equipment maintenance to different search and recovery techniques and so forth.”
One after another, the divers begin to break the surface, remaining afloat momentarily to properly decompress before being assisted onto the boat.
Lt. Joe Cormier
“So today basically we were going down there to do a half necklace search, so basically we gave them the scenarios. One of the Belizean supervisors we gave them the scenario and we get them to plan the actual dive and then he does his actual brief with his divers and tells them exactly what he needs to do underwater and then they carry on with their task.”
After swimming to the craft, each officer is hefted onboard and helped to remove their equipment. Back at the jetty a debriefing has been scheduled.
“They’re new to it so we are getting there, but we’re optimistic about it as well. The purpose behind Trade Winds is for partner nations to train together and work together as a team in the event that something in the future comes up and we have to work together that we have a standard already. We have standardized something and we have put something in writing and have laid a ground foundation for the future, just in case anything comes up.”
Coast Guard Instructor, Lieutenant Joe Cormier, emphasizes the importance of the collaborative effort as a means through which knowledge and expertise in maritime operations is conveyed.
Lt. Joe Cormier
“This is very important for us in regards to, not only do we get to work with all the different Caribbean nations but we get to basically compare our tactics, techniques and procedures and see how we can develop ours and get theirs, you know, to improve theirs as well, right.”
The sessions being conducted off the coast of Ambergris Caye is part of the second phase of Trade Winds 2015.
Lt. Joe Cormier
“Phase One was in St. Kitts. We were there for two weeks where we did the same thing and we had nine different nations, from Jamaica to Trinidad, Haiti and we were doing the same thing that we are doing here with the Belizeans and with the Mexicans.”
Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.