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By Tech. Sgt. Brigette Waltermire
137th Special Operations Wing
Nine Airmen from the 137th Special Operations Wing participated in TRADEWINDS 23 Exercise, a multi-domain U.S. Southern Command exercise, for the first time July 15-27, 2023, in Guyana.
Oklahoma National Guard participants included eight tactical air control party specialists and a survival, evasion, resistance and escape instructor who were conducting training and operations at more than five different locations during the exercise.
TRADEWINDS is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored exercise designed to strengthen partnerships and interoperability, promote human rights, as well as increase all participants' training capacity and capability to mitigate, plan for and respond to crises and security threats.
“The participation of more than 1,500 service members this year exemplifies the shared commitment to one another as we strengthen our partnerships and remain united to share responsibilities as defenders of our common values,” said U.S. Army South Commanding General, Maj. Gen. William Thigpen. “TW23 is key to leveraging the capabilities of like-minded countries to reach common goals and strengthen regional stability.”
In total, nearly two-thirds of the U.S. service members participating were made up of Guard and Reserve troops. The Oklahoma Air National Guard attendees were based at a headquarters location in Georgetown, the Guyana Defence Force Jungle Amphibious Training School (JATS), Camp Seweyo and Camp Stephenson but also operated out of Air Base London and a shore base facility. In total, they worked alongside military partners from 18 nations throughout.
The TACPs helped ensure the success of significant events throughout the exercise, to include establishing communications for and participating in a joint and multinational wing exchange for over 90 jumpers from six nations; a helicopter medical evacuation; an anti-piracy training exercise; certification of 100 multinational troops in fast rope insertion and extraction system operations from a tower and helicopter; and three full mission profiles supporting the U.S. Army and five nations.
“We worked closely with our multinational and joint partners on tactics, techniques and procedures, and we were actually living with the GDF so we got to know more about their culture that way,” said Master Sgt. Fred Moreton, a tactical air control party specialist who was based at Camp Seweyo.
The Airmen assisted in training for four countries and the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. Their courses included tactical combat casualty care, conducted joint calls for fire, established the first published helicopter landing zone at the camp, as well as trained forces in small unit and close quarters battle tactics. They also established beyond-line-of-sight radio communications with Camp Stephenson and Georgetown for the first time for U.S. forces in over two years.
“The U.S. Southern Command deputy commander for mobilization and reserve affairs, Maj. Gen. Javier Reina, was on the call from Camp Stephenson, and I think we made an impression since he asked for information to document it in an official report,” said said 1st Lt. Christopher Vaughan, security cooperation operations officer with the 137th SOW who was at Camp Stephenson.
In addition to establishing radio communications with Camp Seweyo and Georgetown, the four Airmen stationed at Camp Stephenson executed three full mission profiles that included five nations and also conducted fast rope operations, tactical combat casualty care courses, radio PRC-152 training and arms qualifications.
“It was momentous for us not only because of the accomplishment of making comms, but doing it on the high frequency medium,” said Maj. Jeffrey Hansen, director of operations for the 137th Combat Training Flight. “That has become more uncommon due to the proliferation of satellite communications.”
Hansen worked with the Caribbean Task Force in Georgetown throughout the exercise. He partnered with Canadian Armed Forces members to instruct Guyana Defence Force officers in the operational planning process as well as help run Caribbean Task Force tabletop exercises.
“Working with our NATO allies from Canada to teach the OPP model was a great opportunity to introduce air ground integration concepts to the training,” Hansen said. “We were able to apply those concepts to the types of missions and responses the nations around the Caribbean community might encounter.”
The U.S. has been a committed partner with robust engagement in the region. The exercise helped improve interoperability with participating nations, to include 60 multinational students attending JATS. Students from Barbados, Belize, Brazil, Canada, France, Grenada, Guyana, Mexico, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago, and the U.S. all worked through courses learning jungle survival skills.
“This exercise has created opportunities for our Airmen to build skills and forge partnerships in an austere environment in multiple ways,” said Hansen. “As we continue to pivot toward agile combat employment, being able to practice applying those multi-capable skills in training will help them be better at it in real-world scenarios.”
The Tradewinds exercise has been held annually since 1984, only missing one year in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the goals of enhancing the collective ability of participating nations’ defense forces to counter regional threats and conduct humanitarian aid/disaster relief operations while developing strong relationships and reinforcing human rights awareness.