1st Marine Expeditionary Force Civil Affairs Team partner with Belizean authorities

Friday, October 4th, 2013

Marines in Belize-5A team of four Marines from the United States Marine Corps and one Sailor from the US Navy are in Belize working with the residents, various organizations and law enforcement agencies. The main goal of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Civil Affairs Team is to reinforce their relationship with Belizean authorities through partnership and friendship. The US Marine team will be working in various areas of the country’s disaster plan and bridging the gap between the Belize Coast Guard and the community.

Marines in Belize-6The team comprises of personnel from the US Marine Forces South, which falls under the US Southern Command and a Hospital Corpsman (medic) from the Navy. Head of the team, Captain Sarah Culbertson explained that the exercise is one of partnerships between Belize and US. “We are going into the communities conducting partnered operations with various government agencies to make both parties better prepared to respond to humanitarian relief scenarios. We are working with all the civil components including the police department, the fire department and the schools – basically anyone who can be an important player in case of a disaster.”

While in Belize, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force Civil Affairs Team has partnered with the Belize National Coast Guard and the Belize Defense Force. The team is spending four weeks in three different areas; Ambergris Caye, San Ignacio Town and Punta Gorda Town.

One organization that is grateful for the US team currently in the country is the Belize National Coast Guard. Commander Elton Bennett, vice Commandant of the Belize National Coast Guard, said that the US team is partnering with them to open communication between the coast guard and the various communities they operate from.

Marines in Belize-8“We are looking at working in improving our relationship and presence with the communities of San Pedro Town and Caye Caulker. As a military entity we are a hard organization that operates with an iron fist and we are seeing the need for us to partner along with the civil community in order for them to have a better understanding of who we are and what do. Through the current exercise we are doing along with US Team we will be able to better co-relate to each other in the community,” said Commander Bennett. “This exercise will allow the US Marine Force to look at what we have, and what we have been doing for the past couple years and we will look at the recommendations they may have after their assignment is completed. We will then put in place a list of standard operational procedures which will guide us in order for us to exercise our civil military relations in San Pedro and Belize,” concluded Commander Bennett who took the opportunity to thank the US team for their assistance.

Marines in Belize-7According to Captain Culbertson, Belize is a priority for the US Southern Command and the two countries have shared a partnership for more than 20 years by working with the Belize Defense Force through the New Horizon Exercise among others. “Our team is the first active duty civil affairs team operating independently in Belize,” explained the Captain. “This is a two-way partnership between the US and Belize authorities and everyone stands to gain from this. We all stand to gain knowledge and expertise from this operation,” highlighted Culbertson.

Information gathered from the current exercise in Belize will be compiled and made available for sharing with other similar groups who need information or wish to follow-up with the ground-work completed so far.

On Ambergris Caye, the team has visited with various schools, government agencies, non-government organizations, local authorities and the media engaging them in their exercise.

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