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Marines Conduct Amphibious Assault Demonstrations during A-SPS 11

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS110215-04

From Amphibious Southern Partnership Station 2011 Public Affairs

COVENAS, Colombia (NNS) -- Marines with the Ground Combat Element, Security Cooperation Task Force (SCTF), conducted a subject matter expert exchange (SMEE) to welcome Colombian marines aboard Assault Amphibious Vehicles (AAV) and the USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), Jan. 31.

The SMEE took place off the coast of Covenas, Colombia, in support of Amphibious Southern Partnership Station 2011 (A-SPS11).

The A-SPS 11 mission is to conduct SMEEs with forces in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility, including Colombia, Guatemala, Belize and Jamaica, to strengthen cooperative partnerships among nations.

"Most of my Marines have not deployed, so this was a great experience for them," said 2nd Lt. Jon W. Riebe. "It was beneficial for them to learn how to conduct business with partner nations and that they have the ability to make a positive impact that reflects the Marine Corps as a whole."

While in Colombia, SCTF built strong bonds with the Colombian marines and conducted several SMEEs, including combat marksmanship, security tactics, motor transportation, patrolling and other vital areas to improve techniques, share knowledge and develop professional relationships with the Colombian marines.

"It was fun trying to communicate with Colombians," said Lance Cpl. Jesse J. Stafford. "I don't know any Spanish but with body language and such, we made it work and actually made some friends."

The amphibious assault demonstration showed off the Marine Corps' amphibious lineage and the flexibility of the AAV. Although many U.S. Marines have spent the last ten years engaged far from the sea, the Corps' amphibious capability combined with Navy's long reach, still plays a vital role in maintaining global security and building regional partnerships.

The AAV is a fully tracked, armored vehicle that has been the Marine Corps' amphibious troop transport vehicle for ship-to-shore operations for nearly 40 years.

"The exchange demonstrated the amphibious doctrine and tactics," said Riebe. "First, we familiarized them with the equipment, then took them out to sea and showed them what an amphibious landing would look like with infantry assault force embarked."

Presenting the AAVs and their abilities showed the Colombian marines an aspect of the U.S. Marine Corps that many have not seen.

"The Colombians seemed to enjoy the presentation," said Riebe. "They don't have the technology to be able to have access to these assets. But they were very interested in the capabilities of the vehicle and how it would be beneficial to their river tactics."

The Marine Corps is designed on the foundation of an amphibious capability that is an inherently flexible and lethal force that forces potential adversaries to defend larger areas than would be necessary with only a conventional force. From the inception of the Marine Corps, the relationship with the Navy has been integral to the mobility and success of the landing force. Although positioned as a fighting force, the Navy and Marine Corps team is also a powerful force for a variety of missions including humanitarian response.

"I had a blast," said Lance Cpl. Jaran W. Chesser. "After the actual exchange was over, we really got to experience their lifestyle. We tried coconuts right off the trees and learned that one Colombian marine actually learned English from rock music and a dictionary."

"Learning about the Colombian marines, what they do, how they do things, and their requirements in their military careers was pretty cool," said Chesser. "Overall, it was a great experience for all of us."

In the Commandant of the Marine Corps' Planning Guidance, he states that as the Corps will continue to focus on operations in Afghanistan, he would like to see the Corps expanding more into other aspects of the world and getting back out at sea.

The mission is unique, productive and a non-combat deployment, that allows the Corps to expand capabilities and enhance knowledge in areas other than Iraq and Afghanistan. In conjunction with enhancing security cooperation in the region, the SCTF and USS Gunston Hall are trained and ready to execute a multitude of humanitarian assistance missions.

"We are getting back into our amphibious roots and having a force ready 24/7," said Riebe.

A-SPS 11 is a United States Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM)-directed operation implemented by Commander, United States Naval Forces Southern Command (COMUSNAVSO), supported by United States Marine Corps Forces, South (MARFORSOUTH) and carried out by Commander, Destroyer Squadron Four Zero (CDS40), USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) and a Marine Corps Security Cooperation Task Force.

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