US Navy concludes Southern Partnership Station 2018

US Navy photo of USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) off the coast of Ecuador during SPS18.

US Navy’s Commander Task Force (CTF) 48 has completed this year’s iteration of the Southern Partnership Station (SPS) 2018 deployment to Central and South America.

SPS is an annual series of US Navy deployments focused on subject matter expert exchanges (SMEE) with regional partner nation militaries and security forces. This year’s iteration of the mission saw specialized teams of US service members deployed as a series of adaptive force packages (AFP).

“Sharing knowledge, expertise and best practices side-by-side allows us to understand each other,” said Rear Adm. Sean Buck, commander of US Naval Forces Southern Command/US 4th Fleet (USNAVSO/FOURTHFLT). “These annual missions build trust between the US and our partner nations.”

SMEEs were conducted in the Caribbean, Central and South America from July to October, and focused on the fields of engineering, diving, explosive ordnance disposal, and medical.

Operations ashore included engagements in Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, and a water-well construction project in the rural, drought-stricken, Colombian region of La Guajira.

Units assigned to CTF-48 were comprised of amphibious dock-landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), Military Sealift Command’s expeditionary fast transport vessels USNS Spearhead (T-EPF 1) and USNS City of Bismarck (T-EPF 9).

Also included were military personnel from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 2, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit 2, CDS-40, US Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, and US Army’s 55th Signal Company.

According to Capt. Brian Diebold, who serves operationally as commander of CTF-48, and as Commander, Destroyer Squadron 40, the SPS mission demonstrated the CTF’s ability to conduct expeditionary operations ashore with a primarily sea-based command and control (C2) structure.

“Our team came together to successfully complete this mission,” said Diebold. “At some points during the mission, we had multiple engagements operating simultaneously across different countries. Our AFP leads were completely distributed on the ground, but C2 was conducted from the maritime environment.”

Missions like SPS-18 demonstrate the ability to sustain cooperative relationships with international partners, and according to Diebold, the relationships built during these engagements were well received by leaders of participating nations.

“During SPS, I had the opportunity to meet with senior military and government officials from the countries we worked with,” said Diebold. “They were impressed with the successful collaboration between our teams, and many of of them are looking forward to future engagements.”

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