CHIRIQUI GRANDE, Panama --
A three-man civil affairs team from Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, N.C., is currently underway in the U.S. Southern Command’s area of responsibility in support of Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force Continuing Promise 2010.
Staff Sgt. Ian F. Llera of Avon, Conn., Sgt. William D. Aynes of Johnstown, Colo., and Cpl. Matthew W. Faus of Reading, Pa., who all serve with II Marine Expeditionary Force 10th Marines Civil Affairs Detachment, embarked on the USS Iwo Jima to carry out civil-military operations in Haiti, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Panama, Nicaragua, Guyana and Suriname.
Civil Affairs Marines like Llera, Aynes and Faus specialize in civil-military operations in order to establish, maintain, or influence relations between military forces, governmental and non-governmental civilian organizations and the local population. This type of work is needed to facilitate military and civic humanitarian operations.
“Throughout Latin America and the Caribbean we’ve been conducting civil-military operations by speaking with the local people,” said Llera. “We find out what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong and what we can do better in the future.”
Throughout CP10 the civil affairs Marines have attached to both Navy and civilian medical teams at different medical sites, to see what kind of impact their efforts have made on the communities and regions visited.
“We’ve stopped in many places that are in dire need of assistance,” said Llera. “The Navy and civilian medical teams have done an extraordinary job during CP10, but we can always come up with more ways to help these communities during future humanitarian missions.”
By speaking with community leaders, ordinary citizens and traveling beyond medical sites into remote villages and other communities, the civil affairs team has gathered information on issues such as hygiene, parasites and water decontamination that can be further addressed during subsequent humanitarian missions.
“From the information we gather, we formulate reports and submit them to Special-Purpose MAGTF commanders, which will later serve commanders of upcoming missions,” said Aynes. “It’s rewarding to take part in something that can serve to improve an operation and ultimately bring more aid to these communities.”
Aside from assessing the day-to-day impact of current CP10 operations and contributing to future humanitarian missions, the Marine civil affairs team is also prepared to conduct civil-military operations in the event of a natural disaster or other crisis to strike the region.
“During humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in the aftermath of a natural disaster we’d be the first wave in,” said Aynes. “This is where we’d come in and be the eyes and ears for the commanders and then communicate with them the extent of the disaster and our assessment of which communities and to what extent they require our assistance.”
CP10 was launched with the objective to bring humanitarian civic assistance and be able to immediately respond to a natural disaster if called upon by the afflicted nation and SouthCom.
In the event of being employed in the aftermath of a natural disaster, the civil affairs team would promptly establish liaison with civil and military agencies and establish a Civil Military Operations Center to link CP10 commanders with embassy personnel, public officials and other reconstruction teams and disaster relief efforts.
“During CP10 we have focused our attention on evaluating host nation infrastructure and identifying and anticipating the needs of the indigenous populations in case we must return to one of the already visited countries,” said Llera.