Marines with the Corps' first rapid-response task force to be based in The first members of a waves of a new Marine rotational task force are deploying this week for Central America will begin deploying this week ahead of the set to arrive for the June start of the hurricane season.
The 280-person man unit will to be headquartered at Soto Cano air base, Honduras, officials with Marine Forces South said. Called Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force South, the unit will be tasked with a variety of missions ranging from humanitarian infrastructure projects to military partnership training in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility.
Upon arrival, about 180 Marines will remain in Soto Cano as the task force headquarters element, while the remaining 100 will be dispatched to locations throughout the region to work with local militaries, officials said in a news release.
The Marines will travel to El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala and elsewhere in Honduras in teams of 10 ten to 20 to conduct partner exercises and "train the trainer" programs, said Staff Sgt. Earnest Barnes, a MARFORSOUTH spokesman. This work is a continuation of a partnership training missionraining undertaken in the past by smaller Marines have been carrying out detachments throughout Central America.
Marine Gen. John Kelly, head commander of U.S. Southern Command, offered examples of what humanitarian missions Marines might undertake in Honduras and throughout the region.
"[Marine engineers] will drill wells and they will improve clinics and lay some roads out into this indigenous area that is not really well serviced and very isolated," Kelly told Marine Corps Times during a visit to Washington, D.C., earlier this month. "... We ask the government to come up with some more projects, let us scope them out, and then we send another group back in."
The unit will arrive ready for these types of missions with an equipment set that includes four CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters and a complement of engineering and logistics equipment.
Marines will travel around the region in the Spearhead, a Joint High Speed Vessel that is part of the Navy's new seabasing fleet. The task force is designed to reassemble quickly in response to a large emergency situation, officials said in the release.
In the event of a destructive hurricane, members of the task force SP-MAGTF South Marines will be at the ready to offer aid, Kelly said.
The Central America task force is structured differently than recently organized Marine crisis response forces for Africa and the Middle East in that it's designed to operate for only half the year. The troops composing the unit will return from the region in November, at the close of the hurricane season. And a new unit won't deploy until the following June.
While it's possible the task force might get slightly larger in the future, Kelly said he expected it to remain a temporary presence focused on humanitarian tasks.
"Given the opportunity to keep them down there forever, I wouldn't keep them," Kelly said. "... [The Central American governments] don't need them."