USA: HSV Swift Marks Completion of SPS 2013 Mission

Military Sealift Command-charted vessel HSV Swift (HSV 2) arrived to Mayport, Fla., May 23 to officially mark the completion of the Southern Partnership Station (SPS) 2013 mission.

The 4th Fleet initiative, designed to strengthen civil and maritime services’ capabilities to respond to a variety of maritime missions, included teams of Riverine, Seabees, explosive ordnance disposal specialists, Marines and Navy Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) physical security specialists who worked closely with partners in Belize, Guatemala and Honduras to share knowledge and build interoperability.

More importantly, it allowed members of the U.S. services and partners nations to build friendships.

“It goes beyond our training,” Belizean coast guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Merlon Alvarez said. “When the Americans come, I feel as though we truly become a joint force and a family.”

The Swift left Mayport, Fla., in mid-February with its first stop in Belize. From there the SPS mission continued in Guatemala and Honduras.

U.S. Marine Corps and Seabee detachments remained in Honduras as the Swift successfully tested an Aerostat inflatable aircraft and Puma UAV that could possibly serve as future platforms to conduct Operation Martillo counter drug operations in the Caribbean Sea.

The Aerostat and Puma UAV are equipped with state-of-the-art radars, cameras and sensors that could prove to be useful in detecting Transnational Organized Crime (TOC) organizations attempting to smuggle drugs and other illicit materials (guns, people, drug money) in the maritime and littoral environments. The Aerostat and Puma UAV were testing in actual counter drug operations.

“Frankly, these platforms aren’t new to anybody, but it’s technology that we’re putting inside them and the application of these assets to a maritime environment, specifically the efforts of the Joint Interagency Task Force to combat the flow of drugs and other contraband by transnational organized crime, that’s new.” Rear Adm. Sinclair M. Harris, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, said.

Mission Commander, Cmdr. Bob Poling discussed the conclusion of a successful deployment.

“It’s difficult to quantify how truly successful this SPS was,” said Poling. “We were able to work closely with three partner nations to improve our abilities to work together and improve maritime security in the Central American and Caribbean regions. More importantly, the professional and personal interactions between U.S. service members and our partner-nation hosts added a level of understanding that cannot be cultivated any other way than to get dirty while working and playing together.”

Poling went on to say, “I think we’ve certainly made great strides in ensuring future operations between our nations happen smoothly.”

COMUSNAVSO/COMFOURTHFLT supports U.S. Southern Command joint and combined full-spectrum military operations by providing principally sea-based, forward presence to ensure freedom of maneuver in the maritime domain, to foster and sustain cooperative relationships with international partners and to fully exploit the sea as maneuver space in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.

Press Release, May 23, 2013