MURCIELAGO TRAINING CAMP, Costa Rica --
While the USS Iwo Jima sat in the Atlantic waters of Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, a small detachment of Marines from Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Continuing Promise 2010 boarded CH-46 helicopters Aug. 22 to begin a seven-day subject-matter expert exchange with Costa Rican police officers and coastguardsmen at “El Murcielago” training camp on the Pacific coast of the country.
The seven-day exchange featured an array of classes and exercises designed to enhance both nations’ capabilities of conducting humanitarian and civic assistance type operations.
“A natural disaster can hit a Central American country like Costa Rica at any given moment,” said Lt. Col. Chris S. Richie, commanding officer of Special-Purpose MAGTF CP2010. “By conducting these types of exchanges, we better prepare ourselves to assist a populace in the aftermath of a hurricane, earthquake or any other type of natural disaster.”
The subject-matter expert exchange focused on non-lethal weapons techniques and crowd-control for rapid distribution of relief supplies, airborne relief operations and first-aid and litter.
For non-lethal weapons techniques, the Costa Rican police officers and coastguardsmen learned techniques from the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. During the seven-day exchange, they logged over 50 hours of MCMAP training..
For the airborne relief portion of the exchange, four CH-46 helicopters from Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 774 from Norfolk, Va. arrived at “El Murcielago” training camp to give all 105 Costa Rican police officers and coastguardsmen familiarization in take-offs and landings.
For many of the Costa Ricans, this was their first time flying.
“Being able to fly in a helicopter was by far the best part of the exchange,” said Kenneth Madrigal, a police officer from San Jose, Costa Rica. “It was very special for us to share in this exchange with Americans and more importantly to gain knowledge and practice with United States Marines.”
For the first-aid and litter portion of the training, Fleet-Marine Force Corpsmen gave the Costa Ricans both classroom and practical instruction on how to treat a variety of wounds and lesions inherent to disaster relief operations.
The Marine detachment consisted of 37 Marines and sailors mostly from A Company, 2nd Assault Amphibian Battalion from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C. and 105 Costa Rican police officers and coastguardsmen from various installations across the country.
“We learned a great deal from this exchange,” said Comandante Juan Calvo, commanding officer of the participating Costa Rican Police Force detachment. “Although Costa Rica does not have a military or wishes to have one, it’s always useful to learn from other nations, especially in terms of how the U.S. Marine Corps can use its logistical capabilities to achieve humanitarian objectives.”
The Marines aboard the USS Iwo Jima are currently deployed in support of Operation Continuing Promise 2010, a Navy-led humanitarian assistance and disaster-relief mission in the U.S. Southern Command’s area of operations.
During Operation Continuing Promise 2010, the Special-Purpose MAGTF has conducted operations in Haiti and completed a 10-day subject-matter expert exchange with Colombian Marines.
Countries for the Marines to further conduct subject-matter expert exchanges with include: Guatemala, Nicaragua and Suriname.