Lt. Col. Grace and Captain Sutton review a document at FPC.
Lt. Col. Grace and Captain Sutton review a document at FPC.
Major Ryan Smith of the RSS

Plans for successful Tradewinds 2018 on track for June


BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Four days of intense discussions, robust exchanges, creative thinking and sharing of best practices came to a close April 19 with the conclusion of the four-day Final Planning Conference (FPC) for Exercise Tradewinds 2018 (TW18).

The FPC was held at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort and brought together senior military and law enforcement personnel from 22 countries and 18 partner agencies to review and finalize plans for the annual security training. Phase I will be staged in St. Kitts and Nevis June 4-12, while Phase II is scheduled for the Bahamas June 13-21.

Head of the Local Organizing Committee, Capt. Kayode Sutton of the St. Kitts-Nevis Defence Force (SKNDF), said he was pleased with the high level of interactions between participants as well as the information sharing.

Maj. Ryan Smith, staff officer with responsibility for the Tradewinds Exercises within the Regional Security System (RSS), noted that his organization has lent support to the planning process in St. Kitts and Nevis. It is a service that it offers to member states hosting the annual training.

He described “the conference as successful” given the outcomes that were set before the meeting and what was actually achieved. Key accomplishments included the signing of a memorandum of understanding between partner nations and organizations, transportation of personnel, support equipment and resources, accommodations, crafting community relations projects and more.

Tradewinds has various components that cover water and underwater training, defusing explosives, house clearing, riot control, disaster recovery, emergency management, aerial support, cyber security and others. The interagency exercise is led by the U. S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) and most of the facilitators are from various agencies in the United States.

“I see that support as being invaluable,” Maj. Smith stated, noting that he and many others have benefited from multiple trainings hosted by international partners outside of his native Barbados. “They can bring a lot more resources to the table and they help to build our capacities and our competencies so that we can mitigate certain things within our environment effectively.”

USSOUTHCOM’s Exercise Branch Chief Lt. Col. Thomas Grace said there are several issues left to iron out, based on the feedback from the FPC participants. “The model for Tradewinds is ‘For the Region, By the Region,’ so without the interaction of the partner nations – the allies who are here – the exercise doesn’t happen,” he said. “That’s always the key to every exercise. There are obviously disagreements [because] there are different ways of doing things, but in the end, we can all come to a consensus and try to move the exercise forward for the betterment of the region.”

The U.S. Marine was confident that the outstanding issues will be resolved and the gaps filled before the start of the training in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Capt. Sutton said that the governments of the host nations and the United States commit serious manpower, equipment and financial resources to the annual training. As such, he encouraged the participants to continue to capitalize on all available learning and networking opportunities when TW18 begins in June.