COVENAS, Colombia (NNS) -- COVENAS, Colombia - Sailors and Marines assigned to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (SPMAGTF) South debarked the future USS America (LHA 6) to begin a three-day bilateral exercise with the Colombian marines at the International Center for Amphibious Training located in Covenas, Colombia July 16.
Unlike other ships making their maiden voyage, the amphibious assault ship America embarked Marine units to immediately begin amphibious operations.
After only five days at sea, over 40 Marines and Hospital Corpsmen, attached to SPMAGTF South, boarded two MV-22 Osprey, assigned to the "Spartans" of Marine Operational and Test Evaluation Squadron (VMX) 22, beginning their transit to Covenas, Colombia to participate in training evolutions with the Colombian marine corps, or Infanteria de Marina de Colombia.
The engagement provided an opportunity for information exchanges and training with the partner nation of Colombia, enhancing interoperability and building on a partnership that fosters regional security in the U.S. Southern Command area of responsibility.
"The main purpose for the visit was to continue to develop the relationship between the Infanteria De Marina and the U.S. Marine Corps," said Marine Capt. Blaine Barby, SPMAGTF South ground combat element commander. "The Colombians have a significant marine corps, and Colombia is a significant partner in our counter-narcotic operations. It is absolutely critical that we maintain a good relationship between our [militaries]."
The U.S. Marine element split into four groups during the training, which encompassed information exchanges in medical combat casualties, improvised explosive devices (IED), hand-to-hand combat, and live-fire, small arms weapons shoots.
Simultaneously, training began in all four areas. At the medical training site, the groups exchanged lifesaving techniques, casualty evacuation and immobilization of wounds techniques. A PowerPoint presentation was used to inform Marines of Colombian medical battlefield capabilities and procedures.
According to 1st Sergeant Jose Cafiel, International Center for Amphibous Training senior medical instructor, Colombian marines have roughly one corpsman for every 1,000 marines. To help combat this shortage, every person within the Infanteria De Marina receives three weeks of combat medical training.
After the presentation was complete, Infanteria De Marina medical instructors and students began practical training and exchanging techniques. One area of training the Colombians were particularly interested in learning more about was casualty evacuation.
"We showed them several ways to evacuate a casualty," said Hospital Corpsman 1st Class (FMF/CAC) Clarence Perry. "They picked up on our techniques very well, and were eager to learn everything we showed them."
The Colombian marines also showed the corpsmen a few tricks to add to their toolboxes as well. Using two tree branches and the shirts off their backs, they made a stretcher sturdy enough to carry a person to safety.
"I think their improvisation is outstanding," said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class (FMF/SW/AW) James Johnson. "They don't have all of the supplies and support that we have, but they utilize all of their available recourses."
America is currently traveling through the U.S. Southern Command and U.S. 4th Fleet area of responsibility on her maiden transit, "America Visits the Americas". America is the first ship of its class, replacing the Tarawa-class of amphibious assault ships. As the next generation "big-deck" amphibious assault ship, America is optimized for aviation, capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the MV-22 Osprey and F-35B Joint Strik Fighter. The ship is scheduled to be ceremoniously commissioned Oct. 11 in San Francisco.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command / U.S. 4th Fleet and U.S. Marine Forces South support U.S. Southern Command's joint and combined military operations by employing maritime forces in cooperative maritime security operations in order to maintain access, enhance interoperability, and build enduring partnerships in order to enhance regional security and promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the Caribbean, Central and South American regions.