By Rear Adm. George Ballance
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command / U.S. 4th Fleet
As Southern Partnership Station 2014 comes to a close, I am struck by how much can be accomplished in a short period of time if you have the right people with the right skills and the right equipment in order to deliver them on station.
Security Cooperation – building partnerships, capabilities and capacity with our fellow navies in Central and South America – and finding opportunities for experimentation and testing – in essence, being a theater of innovation – are key missions of U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet.
We do this through annual exercises, like PANAMAX and UNITAS, and through our operations like Southern Partnership Station, Operation Martillo, Continuing Promise and experimentation with new technologies in theater.
For the Southern Partnership Station operation, supported by the Joint High Speed Vessel (JHSV), we bring Adaptive Force Packages (AFPs) – teams of skilled professionals and their
associated equipment which can be tailored to meet the specific needs of the mission at hand – to the shores of our partner nations to conduct training and engagements not otherwise easily done.
For Southern Partnership Station 2014, AFPs with subject matter experts in the fields of medicine, explosive ordinance disposal, construction, communications, and Navy and Marine Expeditionary Forces, were brought to our partner nations’ shores in order to work closely with their service members building capacity, improving capabilities and interoperability. In these engagements, we are not just the teachers, but students as well, as our partner navies teach our Sailors, Marines, soldiers and airmen about the challenges they face and the skills, tactics and techniques they have developed to deal with them.
In order to do this mission effectively, these AFPs need to be transported in a rapid and efficient manner from country to country to support operations on the ground in Central and South America.
Having a flexible and agile platform on which to deploy these forces while providing the capability to access shallow waters and perform maritime security operations in the littorals is essential to help us achieve our mission.
At U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command / U.S. 4th Fleet, we call on the JHSV to help us do just that.
The JHSV’s capability to reach up to 35-knots, its 20,000 sq. ft. mission bay and helicopter landing platform, as well as its roll-on/roll-off ramp, which is adaptable to even the most austere piers and quays found in Central and South America, allows us to deliver our forces and equipment much more rapidly and easily.
From June through September 2014, USNS Spearhead (JHSV-1), delivered Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit (CBMU) 202, Coastal Riverine Squadron 2 and 8th Marine Engineering Support Battalion, medical, communications and EOD teams, along with all of their equipment, to Belize, Colombia, Guatemala and Honduras as part of Southern Partnership Station (SPS) 2014.
The JHSV simply lowered its ramp and vehicles and gear were easily driven off the ship onto the piers.
Once on the ground, the deployed units conducted subject-matter expert and military-to-military exchanges, constructed and repaired facilities, conducted medical and dental exams and
procedures, tested water supplies and conducted other security and humanitarian-support operations, all of which support our efforts to build stronger relations with our partners in Central and South America.
In support of SPS, the JHSV has demonstrated that it has the size, speed, flexibility and maneuverability needed to support the wide range of operations in the U.S. Southern Command AOR.
I am excited to have such a ship at our disposal and look forward to continued cooperative efforts with Military Sealift Command in deploying Spearhead and her sister JHSVs in support of the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command mission.